China Shows Unmanned Submarine Designs Equipped With Torpedo Launchers

China Shows Unmanned Submarine Designs Equipped With Torpedo Launchers

China once made the world go crazy when it showed the HSU-001 underwater drone (unmanned submarine), in the National Day military parade of the People's Republic of China on October 1, 2019. Apart from the HSU-001 specifications, which until now have been completely mysterious, the size of this unmanned submarine relatively large in its class. 

However, unlike the HSU-001, China again demonstrated its unmanned submarine design at the 2023 NAVDEX (Naval Defense & Maritime Security Exhibition) in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Although only limited to the design shown in the video display. At first glance, China's XLUUV (Extra Large Uncrewed Underwater Vehicles) design at NAVDEX is similar to the US Navy's Boeing Orca.

But there is a distinct twist from the Chinese XLUUV, namely the presence of four forward torpedo tubes, implying the XLUUV capability for an offensive role, something so far absent in US and western XLUUV designs.

China has at least developed five XLUUV designs for naval needs, however, the development of all of them is shrouded in secrecy. And it was only at the NAVDEX 2023 defense exhibition that the Chinese revealed their designs for the first time. calls the XLUUV design shown at NAVDEX 2023 a type of submarine killer.

The visuals used by the Chinese shipbuilding organization CSSC 705 Institute are significant. They show the XLUUV is broadly in line with several vehicles previously only observable on satellite images scanning the Chinese region.

The Chinese XLUUV design in NAVDEX 2023 has a flank array consistent structure with flank array sonars. Even more remarkably, this was combined with doors for four torpedo tubes in the forward position, implying XLUUV capability for anti-surface and/or anti-submarine missions.

Several XLUUV designs also feature flank array sonar, notably the French Oceanic Underwater Drone Demonstrator and South Korea's ASWUUV (Anti-submarine Warfare Unmanned Underwater Vehicle). But the Chinese design was the first to incorporate it with a torpedo launch capability.

Arming autonomous underwater vehicles with weapons that require target identification, such as torpedoes, is not easy in reality, and can increase the risk of mis-targeting and unforeseen incidents. Underwater vehicles like this are realistically uncontrollable by humans. They had to be autonomous, so the decision to fire the torpedoes had to be automatic as well.

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