Satellite imagery reveals mystery ‘supergun’ in Chinese desert

IHS Janes 360 – by Sean O’Connor

Satellite imagery has revealed two unusually large artillery pieces, measuring about 80 ft and 110 ft respectively, at a test centre for armour and artillery northwest of Baotou in China.

The two pieces, which are horizontally mounted, are mounted on a concrete pad that appeared between September 2010 and December 2011, when the two pieces were first captured by satellite imagery. Images provided by Astrium confirmed that the objects were still in place in July 2013.

The 2011 imagery clearly depicts a series of what appear to be targets in front of the 110 ft piece, suggesting some kind of penetration testing for high-velocity projectiles.

China has historically shown interest in large calibre, long-range artillery. It experimented with the Xianfeng ‘supergun’ in the 1970s as part of Project 640 anti-ballistic missile programme. Approximately 85 ft long, Xianfeng may be the smaller of the two objects retained for experimental use after its cancellation in 1980.

In the 1990s it was revealed that China had built a long-range ‘supergun’ technology testbed similar to the Iraqi Project Babylon supergun designed by Gerald Bull. IHS Jane’s Land Warfare Platforms: Artillery & Air Defence notes that Bull was heavily involved in designing long-range Chinese artillery systems for Norinco in the 1980s.

The larger Baotou artillery piece outwardly resembles the Project Babylon ‘supergun’, which was theoretically capable of extreme-range artillery barrages or of targeting orbiting satellites. Bull’s ‘Baby Babylon’ testbed measured 150 ft in length, compared with the 105 ft-long larger piece at Baotou.


Although the Baotou pieces appear similar in design to the Bull ‘supergun’ concept, it seems unlikely that they are intended for long-range artillery barrages or anti-satellite operations given China’s extensive long-term development of ballistic missiles for both of these missions.

Alternatively, the devices could also be railgun prototypes, although this appears unlikely as there is no significant external power routed to the test pad and a lack of environmental protection. The other possibility is that China is simply reusing the legacy systems from its long-range artillery programmes from the 1970s and 1990s as part of a projectile test range – a view that is supported by the presence of what appears to be ‘used’ targets on the northwest side of the pad.

8 thoughts on “Satellite imagery reveals mystery ‘supergun’ in Chinese desert

  1. Does this indicate that China has mobile rammers and loaders as there is no sign of hoists or a rammer there and the shells for a 110ft piece would be enormous, on a par to the old battleship shells from HMS Rodney or the old US battleships that had even bigger calibre guns.

    China like Russia recycles old ballistic missiles with a nuclear seek and destroy satellite to take out enemy satellites, it puts the satellite into a nearby orbit to the target satellite, it then moves itself to the proximity to the enemy satellite and ka-blooey, no more enemy satellite and being a nuclear explosion, there is little up there that can defend itself.

  2. I think our stretch eyed friends have been drinking too much rice wine?? Maybe alittle too many WWII movies?? Maybe they dove off the German cliffs and recovered the guns of Navarone???

  3. How does one even know these pictures are what they say they are? This all looks like air conditioning equipment or some kind of construction site to me from this distance.

    Unless there are eyes on the ground, no one really knows for certain. Especially when the photo above speculates by using the word “Possible” in the description of what appears uncertain to even be a Xianfeng Cannon.
    . . .

      1. Geeze oidvet, that sounds like something that people that know me would say I would say. Good one oldvet 🙂 yep good one oldvet. Yes oldvet, how do we even know that that is where they say it is. If our govt./military is so concerned about it to talk about it it then it must not be all that important, otherwise they would do something about it. It seems that talk is cheap when it come to isreal, north korea, china , etc. as we in america seems to know all this about these foreign countries but we do not do anything. Apparently – like you said – how do we know that that is even china and not isreal or is this right here in amerika. 🙂

    1. Right.
      Where are the lat long numbers?
      This story is crap.
      A. it makes no sense
      B. it gives no provable facts
      C. It speculates within the data presented
      D. WHO THE F recovers used target blocks and stacks them?

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