China’s New Super Submarine Drone Revealed
Both the US Navy and the British Navy are in pursuit Oversized Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (XLUUV). These unmanned submarines are widely seen as an important part of tomorrow’s fleet. And the early ones may have a big advantage.
It should come as no surprise that the Chinese Navy (PLAN) also appears to have a corresponding program. However, to date, no details have been revealed.
Satellite imagery of the Sanya Naval Base on Hainan Island in the South China Sea reveals two XLUUVs. The two vehicles were in existence from March 2021 to April 2021, but have only now been revealed. Arrangement indicates an exam or test. Sanya is part of a series of important naval bases in the region and is home to operational submarines. The quay where her new XLUUV was seen is near a mini-submarine that China previously based.
High resolution images taken by Maxar Technologies’ satellites are available in Google Earth. Google Earth is one of the oldest open source intelligence (OSINT) tools in defense. With the emergence of near-daily satellite passes from other sources, it can be overlooked, but it can be rewarding to see the latest updates.
Oversized Unmanned Underwater Vehicle
Preliminary evaluation indicates that the two black objects are XLUUV (Extra-Large Uncrewed Underwater Vehicles). These are too small for a normal submarine and too big for a swimmer carrier (SDV).
The two submarines are of different sizes and appear to have very different designs. This suggests competitive testing of various prototypes or demonstrators.
The first XLUUV is about 16 meters (52 feet) long and 2 meters (6.4 feet) wide. It has a streamlined bow. The tail appears to have two propellers (screws) placed side by side. This is interesting because it may indicate a link to HSU-001 LDUUV.
(Large displacement unmanned underwater vehicle). HSU-001 is First published in public It was deployed in September 2019 and is believed to be in the PLAN, but few details have been revealed since then. However, the new vehicle is more than doubled in size.
The new submersible is very similar in size to the US Navy’s Orca XLUUV. Developed by Boeing, the system is considered the first to work in this field. But the first, her Orca, was just named her April, and it looks like PLAN has had a prototype in the water since before her 2021.
The other, XLUUV, is a seemingly simpler form. Much slimmer, but longer, about 18 meters (59 feet).This design is reminiscent of Lockheed Martin rival For the US Navy’s Orca XLUUV program.
XLUUV is widely seen as a key naval technology that could shape future conflicts. Like existing medium-sized UUVs, it can perform ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) missions. However, the larger size has a much longer range. It also enables other roles such as offensive minelaying, anti-submarine warfare, and transport.
As with the nature of intelligence, new vehicles could be anything but XLUUV. However, whatever they are, they may be of interest and relevance to defense analysts.
China has been building and modernizing its navy over the past two decades. This includes many advanced underwater vehicles, some of which have never been publicly recognized. This is a reminder of China’s growing naval power and ambitions. And being able to build new features in relative secrecy.
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