Chinese Navy Seizes a USNS Bowditch Drone Glider

In one of the stranger escalations of tensions between the US and the Chinese, a Chinese naval vessel seized one of USNS Bowditch drone gliders. USNS Bowditch is an oceanographic survey vessel which operates with a mix of civilian and military crew members. The Chinese ship, a Dalang-III class submarine rescue vessel, put a small boat in the water which intercepted the drone and took it back to the Chinese ship, which then left the area. The incident took place about 50 nautical miles northwest of Subic Bay, in international waters in the South China Sea. The US has issued a formal protest and demanded the return of the glider.

The drone glider is an autonomous underwater vehicle, (AUV), typically around 6 feet long, which uses changes in buoyancy and trim to propel itself through the water.  Press reports have described the drone as either a Slocum glider or a Seaglider, which are variants on the same glider type.  These sorts of drones are widely used by oceanographic institutions and commercial operations. See also our post from 2013, Underwater Gliders Gather Data to Help Predict Hurricanes.

The video below demonstrates the operation of a glider drone.

Glider flying through the ocean – Slocum / Seaglider / Spray

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2 Responses to Chinese Navy Seizes a USNS Bowditch Drone Glider

  1. This is some Chinese Captain being a “hero” encouraged by there being an already weak U.S. President in his final lame duck days. Now that we are, it appears, going back to a “two-china” policy or better still recognizing Taiwan as an Independent Republic, which it actually is, there is considerable concern boarding on panic in the Peoples Republic of China. When the new U.S. Ambassador-designate to the PRC is in place diplomacy, which the Chinese invented, will take place and things may well work out all round because that is what diplomacy achieves.

    Good Watch.

  2. Rick Spilman says:

    Spare me. This childish act by the Chinese is widely thought to be a response to the Trump’s loose cannon antics with Taiwan. Trump’s ignorance and stupidity are being returned to us.