Vietnam has significantly accelerated the expansion of its outposts in the Spratly Islands over the last six months, creating almost as much new land as it had in the previous two years combined and putting Hanoi on pace for a record year of island building in 2024.

Since AMTI’s last update in November of 2023, Vietnam has created 692 new acres of land across a total of 10 features, compared to 404 acres created in the first 11 months of 2023 and 342 acres in 2022. This brings the total of Vietnam’s overall dredging and landfill (including both landfill and harbor/channel dredging) in disputed areas of the South China Sea to approximately 2,360 acres—roughly half of China’s 4,650 acres. This is a major change from just three years ago, when the total amount of Vietnamese dredging and landfill was just 329 acres—less than one-tenth of China’s total.

The scale of Vietnam’s activity can also be seen in a look at the largest outposts in the Spratly Islands by land area. While China’s “big three” outposts (Mischief, Subi, and Fiery Cross reefs) remain the largest, the next four largest outposts are all newly expanded Vietnamese reefs.

Reef by Reef

Barque Canada Reef remains Vietnam’s largest outpost, nearly doubling over the last six months from 238 to 412 acres.

The feature now measures 4,318 meters in length, which makes it the only Vietnamese outpost so far with the potential to host a 3,000-meter runway like those that China has at Fiery Cross, Mischief, and Subi Reefs. Currently, Vietnam’s only airstrip in the Spratly Islands is a 1,300-meter runway on the eponymous Spratly Island. While that runway is large enough for most Vietnamese military aircraft, a 3,000-meter runway would be required for larger military transport, surveillance, or bomber aircraft to take off and land.

Other features have also undergone significant landfill since November: 102 acres of new land have been created at Discovery Great Reef, 52 acres at South Reef, 41 acres at Namyit Island, and 37 acres at Pearson Reef.

Dredging activities at Pearson have expanded beyond the main outpost in the northeast to new areas on the southern end of the reef, creating new land around preexisting pillbox structures and wider channels for ships to pass through.

Vietnam has continued implementing a mix of cutter-suction and clamshell dredging to complete these expansions, with the former being used heavily at large areas of landfill such as Barque Canada Reef.


Along with the accelerated landfill, Vietnam has begun preliminary construction of some new facilities across its outposts. Notable developments include the completion of a boat ramp on Namyit Island and the construction of a new harbor at Central Reef.

Trenches and coastal defense emplacements typical of Vietnam’s Spratly outposts can be seen underway at several features. And temporary helipads have appeared across many of the expanding features, including Discovery Great Reef, Ladd Reef, Tennent Reef, and South Reef.