14:36 GMT +315 October 2019
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    Chinese dredging vessels in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, photographed by a USN surveillance aircraft in 2015

    Chinese Navy Expands Submarine Detection Testing in the South China Sea

    © REUTERS / U.S. Navy/Handout
    Asia & Pacific
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    The Chinese navy will conduct a massive experiment with underwater drones equipped with "real-time data transmission technology," in hopes of building up Beijing’s capacity to detect hostile submarines in the South China Sea.

    Beijing wants to accelerate the development of underwater monitoring technology, the South China Morning Post report said, in response to US President Donald Trump’s sanctioning the US Navy to conduct more freedom-of-navigation operations.

    Twelve undersea "gliders" positioned in undisclosed locations in the South China Sea will transmit data back to control centers, SCMP noted. The unmanned sea drones will cruise around for a month to gather data on water temperature, salinity, cleanliness, oxygen levels and sea current velocity, a Chinese Academy of Sciences official told the Post.

    If the tests achieve the expected results it will "definitely" be a "breakthrough,' said Yin Jingwei, a dean at Harbin Engineering University. “Real-time data transmission” has proven “extremely difficult for underwater gliders,” Yin added.

    Beijing has successfully installed military assets and new capabilities throughout the disputed South China Sea in recent years as it aims at full-on hegemony in the strategic body of water. "New missile shelters, radio/communications facilities, and other infrastructure are going in on the Fiery Cross, Mischief and Subi Reefs," in the Spratly archipelago, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative.

    Satellite imagery taken in May showed the deployment of a new Y-8X maritime patrol aircraft, armed with a seven-meter long Magnetic Anomaly Detector for picking up magnetic signatures from submarine hulls, on Hainan Island. Stationing the sub-hunting aircraft at the Lingshui Air Base on the island offers the Chinese navy close proximity for monitoring submarine activity in the South China Sea. 

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    drone, PLA Navy, South China Sea
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