China has completed the first sea trial voyage of its latest domestically manufactured drone ship, the communist government’s media reported last week, and experts say elements of its design look suspiciously familiar.
The autonomous surface vessel has a displacement of approximately 200 metric tons and a maximum speed of over 20 knots, the state-run China Global Television Network reported.
“The voyage results are almost identical to what we expected. Next, we will conduct collision avoidance tests for the drone ship and further examine the vessel’s performance,” the project’s on-site leader said, according to Global Times.
The ship can operate in waters with conditions that go up to level 5 in the World Meteorological Organization’s sea state code, CGTN reported.
“Level 5” refers to situations where waves are between 2.5 and 4 meters in height and waters are rough.
Chinese authorities started developing the vessel in 2015 to deploy a highly advanced, autonomous ship that produces less noise than traditional vessels, CGTN reported.
If the ship enters into service, it could help expand and bolster Chinese naval capabilities, allowing the People’s Liberation Army to carry out new naval warfare tactics.
Of major importance: While the vessel is new to China, experts have pointed out critical detail that show its styles of construction are not all that new to the sea, according to The Jerusalem Post:
The vessel’s frame resembles the United States’ stealth Zumwalt-class destroyers, and it has with trimaran outriggers similar to those on the American Sea-Hunter drone ship, the Post reported. So, the new Chinese ship looks like a “hybrid” of two ships already deployed by the U.S. Navy, as the South China Morning Post described it.
PRC’s AI drone vessel takes maiden voyage, passes first sea trial; vessel appears to be a hybrid of the US destroyer Zumwalt and its Sea Hunter drone ship https://t.co/ELaSPfyRWJ
— Kevin McCauley (@knmccauley1) June 12, 2022
China is no stranger to stealing American military secrets, including aircraft designs, through cyber espionage as well as the recruitment and bribery of individuals working closely with U.S. military projects.
The new Chinese ship was developed by the Chinese company Beikun Intelligence, according to The Jerusalem Post.
“At present, the unmanned boat is sailing autonomously in relatively open waters, and there is still some distance to go before it reaches the goal of high-speed autonomous navigation,” Beikun head Mu Hiafang told Chinese media, the Post reported.
All parts of the vessel are made in China, Mu told Chinese media, according to the South China Morning Post.
China, in recent years, has modernized its military technology, notably naval technology, at a significant pace.
Part of the Chinese government’s strategy to establish itself as a world power has been working gradually towards a naval force capable of operating in the “far seas,” according to Michael D. Swaine, a senior fellow with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
While China has modernized its fleet in an attempt to secure a dominant foothold on near seas, America’s naval capabilities have been aging, as the Navy warned for years, according to Forbes.
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