Chinese military creates AI submarines to challenge ‘strategic advantage’ of Western naval powers
China is developing autonomous robotic submarines that will challenge the supposed post-World War II advantageous positions established by Western naval powers in strategic waters, including South China Sea and western Pacific Ocean.
“Yes, we are doing it,” Lin Yang, marine technology equipment director at the Shenyang Institute of Automation, Chinese Academy of Sciences confirmed, as reported by South China Morning Post last Sunday, July 22. The institute, located in Liaoning province, is home to underwater robots production of the Chinese military.
The project is part of China’s plan to boost its naval prowess with the help of artificial intelligence (AI) technology. Lin described the “Extra Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicles” (XLUUVs) development as a “countermeasure” against similar developments being made by the United States.
The U.S. military struck a deal with Lockheed Martin and Boeing last year for two prototype XLUUVs by 2020. The U.S. navy will choose between Lockheed Martin’s Orca and Boeing’s prototype based on its XLUUV Echo Voyager, in producing nine watercraft.
Lin did not expand on the technical specifications of the upcoming Chinese AI submarines because the information was allegedly “sensitive,” the report stated. He also gave a comment on why there are no news regarding the XLUUV development, saying, “It will be announced sooner or later, but not now.”
One unnamed researcher involved in a separate project noted, however, that the AI submarines will not be nuclear-armed. Furthermore, the researcher pointed out that the upcoming XLUUVs are economically advantageous for China because they can be “produced and operated on a large scale at a relatively low cost.”
Robotic submarines are designed to accomplish its mission without human intervention. Because of this, submarines that rely on AI are tasked to make decisions on their own, including changing course and depth to avoid being detected, identifying civilians and military vessels and choosing the best path to reach their appointed positions.
The XLUUVs in development can gather intelligence, deploy mines and strategically place themselves to ambush enemy targets, the report said. They can also work alongside manned submarines as scout or decoy to locate enemy target’s location. Moreover, the AI submarines can “ram into a high-value target” if needed.
Aside from developing the AI submarines which are slated for deployment in 2020, Chinese military researchers are also developing an AI-assisted support system to aid submarine commanders. Kate Matriano/JB
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