Taiping Island, also known as Itu Aba Island and by various other names, is the largest of the naturally occurring Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. The island is elliptical in shape being 1.4 kilometres (0.87 mi) in length and 0.4 kilometres (0.25 mi) in width, with an area of 46 hectares (110 acres). The Taiping Island Airport is the most prominent artificial feature on the island.
Woody Island largest in South China Sea but part of the Paracel Islands and not Spratly Islands, has a major military airstrip, navy harbors and a town with thousands of residents
Woody Island is the largest of the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea. The island has an artificial harbor capable of docking vessels of 5,000 tonnes. It was 2.13 square kilometers in size. The Yongxing Island Airport was completed in July 1990, with a 2,700-metre runway that is capable of handling any fourth generation fighter aircraft of the PLA Naval Air Force such as the Chengdu J-10AH, Shenyang J-11BH,Xian JH-7A, or SukhSukhoi Su-30MK2.
At the end of 2014, a set of aerial photos show that the size of disputed Woody Island (aka Yongxing Dao) in the South China Sea has increased by 40% since 2013, due to China’s land reclamation projects on the largest of the Paracel Islands. Rocky island, located northeast of the island, has now merged with Woody island. The airstrip in the island’s airport has increased its length from 2700 meters to 3000 meters and is expected to accommodate heavy carriers. China has built up significant infrastructure on Woody Island, which it calls Yongxing and which it administers under the Hainan provincial government, including building banks, post offices, grocery shops, hospitals and small department stores catering to the 1,500 residents on the island.
In late August 2013, the ROC government announced that it would spend US$112 million on upgrading the island’s airstrip, and constructing a dock capable of allowing its 3,000-ton Coast Guard cutters to dock, due to be completed by 2016. The Taiping Island Airport features an airstrip which caters for C-130 transport planes of the ROC Air Force, with one sortie arriving every two months; there are no re-fueling facilities. Depending on sources, the runway is 1150 or 1200 metres long, 30 metres wide, and has a large hard-standing area capable of accommodating two C-130 aircraft; there have been a number of plans to lengthen the runway.
Runway dimensions vary from
* 245 meters (804 ft) long and 8 meters (26 ft) wide in smaller general aviation airports
* 5,500 meters (18,045 ft) long and 80 meters (262 ft) wide at large international airports built to accommodate the largest jets
* huge 11,917 meters × 274 meters (39,098 ft × 899 ft) lake bed runway 17/35 at Edwards Air Force Base in California – a landing site for the retired Space Shuttle.
The US Gerald Ford super aircraft carrier has a 330 meter long runway and has special electromagnetic launchers and arresting gear. Jets are sped up and slowed down on the smaller runway.
China is currently reclaiming land on at least nine reefs —
1. Fiery Cross
2. Johnson South
8. Eldad Reef
Fiery Cross reef has a runway that is 3300 meters long and 300 meters wide. Fiery Cross reef was reported on November 23, 2014 that the size of the reef had reached to 1.37 square km and it could become larger.
Fiery Cross reef harbor can accommodate China’s largest naval vessels and an airstrip long enough (~3,300 meters) for most combat and support aircraft in the People’s Liberation Army, Navy and Air Force. In addition to enabling force projection within the nearby seas, Fiery Cross will significantly reduce the time required for PLA/N aircraft and ships to reach the Malacca Straits in the event of a blockade of this major trade artery. It can also accomodate a submarine base.
Subi Reef shown in those new satellite images is estimated to be 1.4 square kilometers [140 hectares or 349 acres or 0.54 square miles], three times larger in size than it appeared in images reported on March 10.
Subi Reef is a donut shape that has outer dimensions that are about 4000 meters wide by 4000 meters long. The inner harbor is about 2500 meters wide.
Not all of the reef islands are getting airports. They are getting multi-story buildings, gun emplacements, radar stations and other military facilities.
SOURCES – War is Boring, Wikipedia, Want china Times, Janes, CSIS (Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative)