Thursday, January 16, 2020

China Discovers Underwater Spy Drones In Its Waters

The secretive world of naval underwater surveys rarely breaks the surface. Now recent events are briefly shining a light into the darkness. In the Adriatic a Croatian fishing vessel caught one of the U.S. Navy’s undersea sensor systems last week. That mysterious object has largely been explained. Meanwhile, China has held an award ceremony for fishermen who alerted authorities after discovering similar devices in their nets. The devices may have been operating in international waters, but still in China’s back yard as they see it. We can infer that some of these devices may also belong to the U.S. Navy.

The Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs) found by China are generally small, but they can gather important intelligence. This example was discovered in 2012. Few are reported in the media.

China has been holding the annual awards ceremonies since 2016. This year 11 fishermen were rewarded for handing over unidentified underwater vehicles which they had found. The number of devices was not reported, but in 2018 nine were handed over.
The vehicles themselves are not being displayed, but are reported to include ones of foreign origin. By implication, this means that they are operated by other navies in or near Chinese waters. If so, their role is likely to be intelligence gathering. The information they collect could include measuring the depth, noise, salinity and currents. This seemingly mundane data could provide submariners with a tactical advantage in future operations, making them better informed about local conditions. Which is why navies invest so much in these activities. And why they are often conducted discretely, or even covertly.

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