Chinese vehicles, tents, boats: Satellite images show China’s attempt to capture Pangong Lake’s Finger Four

High-resolution satellite images acquired from Planet Labs by India Today and analysed by military satellite imagery expert Col Vinayak Bhat (Retd), suggest that the Chinese army could be occupying the crucial ridgelines on top of Finger Four, overlooking the forward Indian positions.

NEW DELHI: The rising Chinese deployment in Pangong Tso area of Ladakh has been recognised as the biggest concern by the top brass of Indian armed forces. The point of confrontation where two sides are at an eyeball to eyeball situation is Finger Four of the Pangong lake area.

High-resolution satellite images acquired from Planet Labs by India Today and analysed by military satellite imagery expert Col Vinayak Bhat (Retd), suggest that the Chinese army could be occupying the crucial ridgelines on top of Finger Four, overlooking the forward Indian positions.

The imagery shows that the Chinese troops could be using small puff tents to get hold of the top position at the Finger Four ridgelines. (Satellite image provided by Planet Labs)

Chinese Vehicles, Tents, Boats and Puff Tents

Chinese vehicles, tents and boats have been seen in the satellite images covering the eastern part of the Finger Four and Finger Eight. But the latest imagery reviewed by India Today shows a worrying sign. The imagery shows that the Chinese troops could be using small puff tents to get hold of the top position at the Finger Four ridgelines.

“Although there are no large tents on the on the lower ridgeline of Finger Four, newly built brown dugouts are visible which could be hiding puff tents used by the PLA” Col Bhat pointed out.

The identifiable tracks leading to these high positions lead towards the Chinese side. The occupation of the mountain top is considered to be most critical in mountain warfare as these positions give an advantage of a better line of sight over one’s opponent.

These dugouts are fortified with stonewalls which according to Col Bhat “could have been built using rolling stones”. The upper ridgeline of Finger Four has green and white tents which are also likely to be occupied by the Chinese.

Satellite image: Planet Labs/ Annotation by Col Vinayak Bhat (Retd) for India Today
Satellite image: Planet Labs/ Annotation by Col Vinayak Bhat (Retd) for India Today
Satellite image: Planet Labs/ Annotation by Col Vinayak Bhat (Retd) for India Today
Satellite image: Planet Labs/ Annotation by Col Vinayak Bhat (Retd) for India Today

Beyond Finger Four

About 10 km of the area covering Finger Four to Finger Six looks heavily militarized in these images which also show moving vehicles in the northern part. The build-up between Finger 4 to Finger 8 is visibly more intensive compared to the Galwan valley build up before the incident of June 15.

The size of some of the tents which could also be the possible Chinese storage appears to be larger than what has been seen in images from other areas. “There are a large number of Chinese tents between Finger Four and Finger Five, where revetments can be seen,” said Col Bhat.

These revetments around the camps could be used as defence structures during the shelling. According to Col Bhat, all the Chinese tents are covered by “pink colour tarpaulins” and hence the Chinese assets beyond these pink structures remain hidden. Vehicular movement along Chinese motorable tracks in the upwards area adjoining figure four and five are also visible in these images.

Satellite image: Planet Labs/ Annotation by Col Vinayak Bhat (Retd) for India Today
Satellite image: Planet Labs/ Annotation by Col Vinayak Bhat (Retd) for India Today
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