China's first 200 ton-class unmanned surface vessel carries out its first autonomous sea trial in Zhoushan, East China's Zhejiang Province on June 7, 2022. (Photo/Screenshot from China Central Television)
China has made significant breakthroughs in the development of unmanned ships, as drone vessels are now not only undergoing testing but also seeing practical deployment, the country's national broadcaster said in a recent report, with experts saying on Monday that China is in the first tier in unmanned ship technologies.
Unmanned ships can carry out missions like autonomous patrol, reconnaissance, detection as well as search and rescue independently or in cooperation with others, China Central Television (CCTV) reported on Sunday.
Faster and more maneuverable than traditional vessels, drone ships are like loyal wingmen at sea that can accompany warships and be ready to carry out combat missions round-the-clock, CCTV said.
According to the report, China has developed a number of unmanned vessels, including the L30 unmanned patrol boat that was displayed at the Airshow China 2022. Equipped with payloads including radar and electro-optical systems, it has a speed of over 35 knots and a range of 220 nautical miles. It can adapt to the sea state 4 and carry out various missions including patrol, monitoring, antiterrorism, criminal crackdown as well as search and rescue.
Dubbed the country's first seaborne drone carrier and capable of autonomous navigation and remote control, the Zhu Hai Yun comprehensive ocean survey ship can carry more than 50 unmanned systems in the air, at sea surface and underwater.
China has deployed a type of obstacle breacher drone vessel in amphibious landing exercises several times. The unmanned boat can be carried by landing ships and released upon approaching beachheads, and that is when the drone vessel will open up a passage for the landing troops by scattering explosives and breaching obstacles.
China has also developed the JARI multi-purpose unmanned combat vessel, which only has a length of 15 meters and a displacement of 20 tons, but is capable of conducting air defense, anti-ship and anti-submarine missions thanks to a phased array radar system, vertical-launched missiles and torpedoes.
China's first 200 ton-class unmanned surface vessel carried out its first dynamic collision avoidance test in Zhoushan, East China's Zhejiang Province in October 2022. Equipped with dynamic data awareness systems, the drone ship is expected to conduct autonomous navigation test at far sea soon, CCTV reported.
Unmanned vessels, including those sailing at the surface and underwater, can carry out reconnaissance and attack missions just like aerial drones, which have already demonstrated their capabilities in real combat, Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Monday.
They can also form into swarms and hit hostile vessels heavily, Song said.
Drones in the air, at sea and on the ground are all major development directions in modern warfare, Song said, noting that China is in the first tier around the world when it comes to unmanned technologies.