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U.S. says Chinese warship seized Navy underwater drone

WASHINGTON >> A Chinese warship seized a U.S. Navy unmanned underwater glider that was collecting unclassified scientific data in the South China Sea, and the U.S. is demanding its return, the Pentagon said Friday.

Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said that the U.S. has issued a formal diplomatic complaint over Thursday’s incident, but he was not aware of any response yet. The Chinese Embassy said it had no immediate comment.

According to Davis, the USNS Bowditch, a civilian U.S. Navy oceanographic survey ship operated by the military’s Sealift Command, was recovering two of the unmanned gliders about 50 nautical miles northwest of Subic Bay near the Philippines when the Chinese ship approached. He said the Dalang Class Chinese ship, which does rescue and recovery missions, sent out a small boat that then took one of the Navy gliders.

He said the Chinese ship acknowledged radio messages from the U.S. ship, but did not respond to demands the glider be returned.

The Navy drone is a glider, about 10 feet long and less than two feet wide, that can be programmed and moves automatically through the water collecting data on temperature, salinity, and other scientific facts used for sonar operations.

“It is ours. It’s clearly marked as ours. We would like it back, and we would like this not to happen again,” Davis told reporters.

Davis said the USNS Bowditch was stopped in the water when the Chinese ship approached. The two vessels were within about 500 yards of each other. He said the USNS Bowditch carries some small arms, but no shots were fired.

As the Chinese ship left with the drone, the Pentagon said, its only radio response to the U.S. vessel was, “We are returning to normal operations.”

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  • obama’s too busy drawing red lines against an imagined (fake) russian hack into the presidential elections to take on a real china theft of american property.

    by the way, all this rhetoric against russia for suspected, but no evidence of (fake), hacking, but, no explorations by the white house into clinton’s felony mishandling of classified information?

      • “classified data” or not – i’m thinking of the millions of dollars worth of technology that the costs of which the Chinese DO NOT HAVE TO BEAR in designing and testing. all they have to do is reverse engineer the dumb thing and voila – they got a new piece of technology to throw back at us. they get smarter, we get dumber – and poorer! go figure…..! and who’s to trust any information coming from our government via any media outlet now-a-days…!

      • probably too late for that now…peoples’ lives may now be endangered by the destruction. it could turn out to be spun as a voluntary act of espionage and violence by the Chinese – who knows? only our government does for this course of action. and it’s only our tax payer money being used – not theirs.

  • The Chinese will probably return the drone after they’ve got to study what kind of information it was picking up so close to a Chinese ship.

    My guess is that the drones were there to record the sonar signature of the Chinese ship. Two drones can triangulate the position of the Chinese ship and accurately pinpoint what the signature of the ship sounds like.

    The sharp Chinese captain was able to detect and made the right decision to pick up the drones.

    I suspect that the Chinese will be deploying their own drones soon near the entrance to the naval base to record the sonar signatures of ships as they enter and leave the bay. And the drones that they deploy will be able to switch into a swimming mode and swim back to their naval “rescue” vessel when called.

  • It is old technology. If we want to listen to their subs, there are better methods. One question in international law: is for an unmanned craft clearly belonging to another nation, is this theft or piracy? In any event it is primitive behavior by a people who pride themselves on being sophisticated.

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