Part of the Slayar Islands in South Sulawesi province, Indonesia. It was reported that a local fisherman found a “missile-like” glider off Slayar Island in December 2020.
Javed Hazara | iStock | Getty Images
SINGAPORE – An underwater reconnaissance drone was found deep in Indonesian sovereign waters last month of Chinese origin, according to defense analyst firm Guinness.
The “missile-like” object with wings has been identified as a Haiyi self-made underwater glider or “naval wing,” Kelvin Wong, the Janes’ lead unmanned systems analyst, said in a Sunday note.
A local fisherman reportedly found the paraglider off Slayar Island in Indonesia’s South Sulawesi province, before delivering it to the Indonesian Navy. Wong said this was the third identical underwater glider to be found in Indonesian waters in two years.
It is not known where and why the drone was originally deployed, the analyst said, but the site found was “separate from international waterways and very far from the maritime claims neighboring China.”
Wong noted that there are no known Chinese scientific surveys in or around Indonesian waters that used these gliders in 2020. He said that the underwater drones used in the last known operation in December 2019 have all been successfully recovered.
The analyst said that underwater gliders are commonly used to conduct scientific research into the underwater environment, such as gathering data on chlorophyll and oxygen levels, as well as water temperature.
Such data, he added, is also useful for naval operations, particularly in submarine and anti-submarine warfare.
“Superior knowledge of area waters can enable submarines to operate more quietly and reduce the probability of detection,” said Wong.
“Conversely, intimate knowledge of these underwater properties can assist (anti-submarine warfare) personnel in hunting down potentially hostile submarines.”
Wong explained that China has a “clearly enforced military-civilian integration policy” to use available knowledge and technologies in the civilian and commercial spheres to achieve military advantages. As a result, the Chinese military is likely to take advantage of the “dual-use nature” of information collected by underwater gliders.
Wong noted that the most recent underwater gliders found by the Indonesians were near strategic waterways and choke points. The analyst said he indicated that the data collected could be used by China to enhance the ability of its submarines and surface fighters to operate in those waters.
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