[ABSTRACT] ThePrint, an Indian newpaper based in New Delhi, analyses how a Chinese survey ship (accused of operating without notifying its position in January 2021), is suspected to collect data that can be used for military purposes – especially to expand China’s submarine capabilities.
• A Chinese government survey ship, the Xiang Yang Hong 03, is currently operating in the Indian Ocean and carrying out a search pattern west of Sumatra, the latest satellite and open source intelligence (OSINT) has revealed. This same vessel was last week accused of ‘running dark’, i.e., operating without broadcasting its position, in Indonesian territorial waters.
• China’s Xiang Yang Hong, but also others survey ships, are suspected of operating underwater gliders in the Indian Ocean to map the sea bed.
THREE KEY POINTS:
1• » “The suspicion is that, as well as conducting civilian research, these ships may be gathering information for naval planners — currents, bathymetry, salinity of the water — which are all relevant to submarine warfare,” H.I. Sutton, defence and OSINT analyst told ThePrint. He added that hydrographic data is civilian-defence agnostic, which means that it can be used for both civilian and military purposes.“The eastern Indian Ocean is likely to be of particular interest to the Chinese Navy as they expand their submarine capabilities. The data from these surveys may help submarines navigate, or improve their chances of remaining undetected,” Sutton said.
2• In an article published on NavalNews, Sutton wrote that some of the survey activities, nearer to Indonesia and the Andaman and Nicobar islands, could relate to finding the US Navy’s reputed ‘fish hook’ sensor networks.Sutton said that four of the Xiang Yang Hong (‘Facing the Red Sun’) research ships have been particularly active over the past two years — Xiang Yang Hong 01, 03, 06 and 19.
3• The ships are operated by the State Oceanic Administration (SOA). In December 2019, Xiang Yang Hong 06 deployed at least 12 underwater gliders in the Indian Ocean. These long-endurance uncrewed underwater vehicles (UUVs) gather data on currents and the water properties.Incidentally, the gliders deployed were of the Sea Wing (Haiyi) type, which is the same model found in the Indonesian waters.
– SOURCE: Snehesh Alex Philip, « Satellite catches Chinese survey ship mapping seabed in eastern Indian Ocean », ThePrint, 22 January, 2021.
– René-Eric Dagorn – SciencesPo Paris – Euro-American Campus in Reims