New Chinese Underwater Drone – What Could it Possibly Be For?

China has announced it conducted secret naval drills using submarine drones in the Taiwan Strait even as the self-governing island reasserts its sovereignty and wants to safeguard its free and democratic system.

CSSC booth at NAVDEX 2023

Extra large uncrewed underwater vehicles (XLUUVs) are quickly becoming a major trend in naval warfare. Leading navies have initiated programs to develop and explore these. Currently, the U.S. Navy and Royal Navy appear to be in the lead, both in experimentation and in orders. (Naval News)

But China too has been working on this capability. China has at least five designs in the water, many more than any other navy. But their development has been shrouded in secrecy. Until now.

The latest from the NAVDEX 2023 defense exposition in Abu Dhabi, UAE reveals details of the CCP’s designs for the first time. It indicates that some of China’s uncrewed underwater vehicles may be submarine killers.

And according to South China Morning Post, Beijing has recently declassified a report on the development of drone submarines, a project it had started in 2010. While many countries are developing or already developed unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs), the timing of China’s announcement is interesting.

China has developed underwater drones capable of identifying, tracking, and attacking an enemy submarine without human interference, reported South China Morning Post. The development of the drones was part of a secret project, details of which were declassified last week.

Under this program, which was funded by the Chinese military, UUVs were being tested in the Taiwan Strait way back in 2010. 

These were one of the first attempts by the country “to simulate the tracking and sinking of a submarine with the complete absence of humans in an open environment”, Professor Liang Guolong, of the Chinese submarine research institute, Harbin Engineering University, was quoted as saying by SCMP.