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(Source: Google and FAS)
The Chinese military may likely become the latest enemy of Google Earth

Google Maps and Google Earth users now have the ability to see a new high-tech Chinese nuclear ballistic missile submarine which can reportedly fire intercontinental ballistic missiles, according to Hans Kristensen, a nuclear weapons analyst for the Federation of American Scientists.

Kristensen found the Jin-class, or Type 094, nuclear submarine's image after it was taken by the Quickbird commercial satellite late last year.  The Jin-class is the successor to the Xia-class submarine, "the unsuccessful Xia-class (Type 092) of a single boat built in the early 1980s," Kristensen wrote.

The Jin-class submarine was photographed while moored at the Xiaopingdao Submarine Base.

Using an image of the Xia-class submarine -- taken in 2005 -- Kristensen was able to point out some of the differences between the Xia- and Jin-class submarines.  The Jin-class submarine is at least 35 feet longer than the Xia-class, mainly because of an "extended mid-section" responsible for housing missile launch tubes.  The images do not conclusively determine whether the Jin-class mid-section has 12 or 16 tubes.

China expects to build as many as five Jin-class submarines in the next few years.  China currently relies on land-based nuclear missile technology, but the new submarines add an additional tool to the military's arsenal.

Images and technical information about the submarine can be found on Kristensen's Strategic Security Blog.

This may cause the Chinese military to become the latest organization to show concerns over what Google Earth can reveal to users.  The U.S. government and Indian military are both worried about the high-level quality of satellite imagery which is available to users.  A spy chief also predicted curbs on satellite photos may be needed for programs like Google Earth.





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