China is deploying a network of underwater gliders to help it track the movement and activities of foreign submarines in the disputed South China Sea.
While China says it has sovereignty over the whole South China Sea, the US and some of its allies have been conducting ship, air and submarine patrols in the area claiming freedom of navigation.
A government research vessel dropped several underwater gliders in the South China Sea earlier this month to improve collection of deep-sea data for its submarine fleet operation, Xinhua reported on Saturday.
The move comes soon after the US President Donald Trump’s reported approval of a plan to give the United States Navy more freedom to carry out patrols in the South China Sea. China’s undersea gliders, equipped with real-time transmission technology, could track the movement of foreign submarines and ships in addition to providing data to improve the navigation of its own submarine fleet.
Yu Jiancheng, chief scientist of the expedition commissioned by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said the 12 Haiyi (or “Sea Wing”) autonomous underwater vehicles would roam for one month and collect detailed information in the ocean on a host of topics including temperature, salinity, the cleanness of water, oxygen level and the speed and direction of sea currents.
“The data is being transmitted back to a land-based laboratory in real time,” meaning the information is sent out the moment it is collected under the water, Yu was quoted by Xinhua.