US' $800 million unmanned underwater project clearly targets China

China Military Online
Huang Panyue
US sailors lower an unmanned underwater vehicle into the sea

BEIJING, Aug. 8 (ChinaMil) -- The Defense Department of the US has awarded a nearly $800 million contract to research and develop underwater drones, Stars and Stripes reported on Monday. The news unveiled the ‘tip of the iceberg’ of the US huge unmanned underwater system program.

However, Chinese experts said that the US unmanned underwater system will be widely used in intelligence, reconnaissance, anti-torpedo, anti-submarine, hydrological investigation and other fields to enhance its asymmetric advantages, and its intentions toward China are also quite clear.

In May, the US Navy released a summary of its “Strategic Roadmap for Unmanned Systems”, in which the department stated that the use of drones will “provide access to areas denied to manned platforms, provide better situational awareness and increase capabilities with greater range and persistence”, according to Stars and Stripes.

In response, an anonymous Chinese military expert said that it is very clear that the current development of unmanned underwater system of the US is obviously targeting China. In particular, the description of “the areas denied to manned platforms” in the summary section largely refers to China. In addition, some equipment also targets the Chinese Navy.

For example, the Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Continuous Trail Unmanned Vehicle (ACTUV) developed by the Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is mainly used to deal with the threat of quiet diesel-electric submarines. ACTUV is equipped with various sensors with a three-month battery life. Most of China’s submarines are diesel-electric and ACTUV poses a great threat to future operations of such submarines.

Experts believe that the South China Sea is an important area for the deployment and use of the US Navy’s unmanned underwater systems. Over the years, the US has frequently deployed “underwater gliders” in the South China Sea. This kind of unmanned underwater system gains propensity by modulating the net buoyancy and attitude angle. Its energy consumption is minimal with a small amount of energy consumed when adjusting the net buoyancy and attitude angle. With such high level of efficiency and long battery life, it is difficult to detect “underwater gliders” with existing anti-submarine methods.

It is very likely that the US can master more of the hydrological situation of the South China Sea than most coastal countries by using these “underwater gliders" and other unmanned underwater systems to investigate the hydrological situation of the South China Sea. This is of great significance for US naval operations, especially in anti-submarine and anti-mine operations. Therefore, China must remain highly vigilant.

Disclaimer: The authors are Li Qiang and Liu Yang from the Global Times. The article is translated from Chinese into English and edited by the China Military online.


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