On Thursday, defense analyst HI Sutton said China had deployed a fleet of underwater drones in the Indian Ocean called the Sea Wing (Haiyi) glider. The drones will reportedly run and make observations for naval intelligence purposes for months on end.
“These sea gliders, which the Chinese are deploying en masse, are a type of Uncrewed Underwater Vehicle (UUV) which were launched in mid-December 2019 and recovered in February after making over 3,400 observations,” HI Sutton wrote in Forbes magazine.
“HI Sutton mentioned in his report that these gliders are similar to those deployed by the US Navy, one of which was seized by Beijing in 2016 to ensure “safe passing ship navigation.” It may be surprising that China is now deploying these types of UUV en masse in the Indian Ocean, citing government sources, “Taken at face value. The Sea Wing of an Arctic ice breaker has also been deployed by China.
In December last year, it added, events indicated that 14 would be employed in the Indian Ocean mission, but only 12 would be included. Such gliders are unable to glide with large wings that can fly for long periods of time, adding that they are not quick or agile, but are used for long-range missions.
Conductivity, temperature, depth (CTD) sensors, as well as turbulence meter, turbidimeter, chlorophyll sensor, dissolved oxygen sensor, nitrate, and other biochemical sensors can be borne by Sea Wing, according to manufacturer sources. Acoustic sensors such as ADCP (acoustic Doppler current profile), underwater acoustic contact, and hydrophones may also be carried on board.
In addition, it claimed that these Chinese gliders put in the Indian Ocean reportedly collected oceanographic data, which, however, “sounds innocuous,” is usually collected for naval intelligence purposes.