Wired’s Danger Room blog highlights these peculiar structures in the Xinjiang desert, near the city of Kashgar. According to Wired, even an ex-CIA analyst is stumped about what they might be.
Thomson, who served in the CIA from 1972 to 1985 and as a consultant to the National Intelligence Council until 1996, has made something of a second career finding odd stuff in public satellite imagery. He discovered these giant grids etched into the Chinese desert in 2011, and a suspected underground missile bunker in Iran in 2008. When the Israeli Air Force destroyed a mysterious facility in Syria the year before, Thomson put together an 812-page dossier on the so-called “Box on the Euphrates.” Old analyst habits die hard, it seems.
But even this old analyst is having trouble ID’ing the objects he found in the overhead images of Kashgar. “I haven’t the faintest clue what it might be — but it’s extensive, the structures are pretty big and funny-looking, and it went up in what I’d call an incredible hurry,” he emails.
Though some countries request that satellite imagery providers censor or blur sensitive installations (a point overlooked by Apple Maps, much to the Taiwanese military’s chagrin), China does not seem to be one of them.
Any ideas about what the structures could be? Leave your suggestions in the comments.
Update #1: Stefan Geens admonishes us all (okay, me) for being so gullible as to believe a “retired analyst with an overactive imagination and no on-the-ground knowledge of the area”.
Gees continues, “Here’s what a little context can tell you:”
In May 2010, Kashgar was selected as a special economic zone by the Chinese government, which means that, just like Shenzhen and other places before it, it is in for a wild ride on a scale not often seen outside China. I’d be surprised if there wasn’t anything massive being built in Kashgar right now. Kashgar’s economy is growing at around 15-20% per year, and it is perfectly placed for cross-border trade with the central Asian republics.
The complex in question is conveniently being built just to the northeast of the very modern Kashgar airport, very close to a reservoir which I drove by on an excursion to nearby ruins (also marked on the map). The railway from Urumuqi to Kashgar veers into Kashgar just south of the reservoir, and would be perfectly positioned for an offshoot into the industrial zone. This complex is not at the far edge of some small desert town; it is located on prime real estate near transportation hubs in a rapidly expanding trading and manufacturing center that was once a major waypoint on the Silk Road. It would be the absolutely worst place to build a secret base.
Anybody with a visa for China can fly, drive or train it to Kashgar. There are no restrictions to travelers into the region, unlike in Tibet. In fact, landing at the airport, I had a wonderful view of the slopes on which this complex is now being built. Fly into Kashgar on one of many daily scheduled flights and you’d know right away how work is progressing.