Military watchers across the internet were provided with a rare sight after photos circulated this week that appear to show a Chinese submarine using an underground base on Hainan Island on the South China Sea.The satellite image from American imaging company Planet Labs, first posted on the social media accounts of Radio Free Asia, shows what appears to be a Type 093 nuclear-powered attack submarine entering a tunnel to an underground berth on Yulin Naval Base.
It immediately drew comparisons to what might be seen in a spy movie, with one Twitter user just posting the words “Bond, James Bond” in reaction to the photo. Others made reference to the fictional Nautilus, from Jules Verne’s novel “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”
Drew Thompson, a former United States Defense Department official now at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, says the shot of the submarine is a rare occurrence.
“That’s unusual that a commercial satellite would be overhead at just the right time” on a cloudless day, he said.
What’s not unusual is the Chinese underground base. It’s how Beijing conceals a lot of its military hardware, from submarines to missile systems based far inland, Thompson said.
“The Chinese have tremendous experience building underground facilities,” Thompson said. “It’s in keeping with their strategic culture.”