Considered one of the most strategically important unincorporated US island outposts in the world, Wake Island is also among the most restricted territories claimed by the US (also claimed by the Marshall Islands), given it remains a key American military outpost located about halfway between Hawaii and Japan.
It has historically served as a vital staging ground for US aircraft operating in the Western Pacific and as a remote line of defense, and is more recently witnessing military build-up as part of the US Navy's “pivot toward the Pacific” — especially given rising US-China tensions and the controversial presence of two US supercarriers in the disputed South China Sea.
Fresh satellite imagery republished by The Drive shows significant expansion to facilities, including to the airfield, which has a nearly 10,000 foot runway. Military publications have previously note that "Wake is the only 10,000-foot runway for a 4,000-mile stretch of Pacific Ocean."
The report details that images "The War Zone obtained from Planet Labs dated June 25th, 2020 shows that substantial improvements to the base have occurred recently. Based on archival satellite imagery, the major expansions to the airfield began early this year and are still underway today."
Advanced American bombers routinely land and operate from Wake Island, supporting operations in the South Pacific.
America's remote outpost deep in the Pacific, situated roughly between Japan and Hawaii, Wake Island serves as a reserve airfield should American airpower have to fallback from the far reaches of Western Pacific during a peer state conflict. pic.twitter.com/XdvGBaQu6s— Indo-Pacific News (@IndoPac_Info) July 8, 2020
"Beyond its clear logistical utility, acting as a major hub where there isn’t another for thousands of miles, it sits outside the range of China’s and North Korea’s medium-range ballistic missiles, and largely at the end, if not entirely out of range, of their intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs)," a separate report noted.
"Guam, which is situated about 1,500 miles further west, is well within the range of these weapons."
The new satellite images shows the large eastern apron area's big expansion, as well as an enlarged secondary apron area on the west end on the runway. The runway itself has been completely rebuilt. pic.twitter.com/7MOT0BBWJ1— Indo-Pacific News (@IndoPac_Info) July 8, 2020
But Wake Island would be out of reach in any rapid conflict with either China or North Korea, which would target nearer bases up to and including Guam with long-range cruise missiles.
Thus Wake Island would be considered a first line fall-back position in any hot war with major US enemies in Asia. Conscious of this, it appears the Pentagon is busy rapidly improving the remote atoll.