China Deployed 12 Underwater Drones In Indian Ocean

Feb 16, 2009
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China Deployed 12 Underwater Drones In Indian Ocean

The Sea Wing (Haiyi) bear a striking resemblance to the Littoral Battlespace Sensing-Glider (LBS-G) used by the U.S. Navy. On December 15, 2016, China obtained a U.S. Navy LBS-G in international waters in the South China Sea. The glider was in the process of being recovered by USNS Bowditch when a small boat from a Chinese vessel which had been shadowing the Navy vessel plucked it from the water. After a diplomatic spat the glider was returned to a U.S. Navy warship.

The Sea Wing isn’t a case of reverse engineering however. It was reported in Chinese sources in September 2016, months before the U.S. Navy incident. But the American type is a clear influence and they are generally equivalent.

The Chinese gliders were reportedly gathering oceanography data. Sensors measured seawater temperature, salinity, turbidity, chlorophyll and oxygen levels. This information was transmitted back to the mother ship via the aerial in the tail. Although the aerial points directly backwards, it swings up above the surface as the glider noses down for another dive.

This is the sort of information which sounds innocuous but is commonly gathered for naval intelligence purposes. In particular it is relevant to submarine warfare. For example salinity levels can affect the distance that a submarine can be heard from. And it may be possible to detect submarines if they disturb chlorophyll.

For its part, China continues to report finding foreign UUVs off its coast. If Chinese fishing vessel catches a glider they are to hand it over to the government. Presumably the same fate did not befall any of the Chinese gliders.

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