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China’s Navy Captures Unmanned U.S. Navy Vehicle in South China Sea

China’s Navy Captures Unmanned U.S. Navy Vehicle in South China Sea

Captured the vehicle in international waters.


Reports have come in that China’s navy has captured an unmanned, underwater U.S. Navy vehicle in international waters in the South China Sea.

CNBC reported:

A Chinese Navy warship has seized an underwater drone deployed by an American oceanographic vessel in international waters in the South China Sea, triggering a formal demarche from the United States and a demand for its return, a U.S. defense official told Reuters on Friday.

The incident — the first of its kind in recent memory — took place on Dec. 15 northwest of Subic Bay just as the USNS Bowditch, an oceanographic survey ship, was about to retrieve the unmanned, underwater vehicle (UUV), the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The UUV was lawfully conducting a military survey in the waters of the South China Sea,” the official said.

“It’s a sovereign immune vessel, clearly marked in English not to be removed from the water – that it was U.S. property.”

The official also said that the vehicle belonged to “an unclassified program to collect oceanographic data, including salinity, temperature and clarity of the water” which helps “unform U.S. military sonar data.”

The Bowditch asked the Chinese vessel to return the drone, but sailed away even though the crew confirmed they received the American’s message.

We will update when more information becomes available.


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They are already playing New Kid on the Block with Trump, and he has not even been sworn in. I suppose this is retaliation for him taking that call from Taiwan.

Hey, look — there’s still time for President Obama to do one more groveling international apology tour.

clintack : apology hell, he will surrender, he’s a pansy ass POS

Well, there goes another perfectly good Red Line down the tubes.

After President Obama ignores this incident, President Trump should simply deduct the cost of drone vessel from our Chinese debt. Looks like about a $trillion or so in value to me.

The Russians made them do it.

Why don’t they put self destructs on reusable drones like this?

If the UUV melts down and spews radioactive material all over the place the Chinese will think twice about doing it again.

Plus we keep any secrets secret.

You can be sure the left will blame this on the phone call from Taiwan – “if only he had been smart enough to not answer, this wouldn’t happen”.

Obama will apologize and tell them they can keep it and then say, “Is there anything you’d like before I go on my vacation to Hawaii?”

Obama doesn’t want to appear to be influencing the upcoming Electoral College vote, so he’s going to sit this one out. John Kerry is retiring to the den to listen to James Taylor’s Greatest Hits…on vinyl.

The message sent to get them to give it back was obviously not clear enough. It was exactly for this type of situation that they created the term, “Fire one across their bows.”

But I would bet that the current rules of engagement in those waters do not allow any such action. If I lose the bet, then the Captain should be court martialed for dereliction but it’s more likely the weakness that allowed them to get away with this came from higher up.

China: “Hmmm. We’ve stumbled across an American vessel in international waters. What would happen if we just took it? Is there any record of how Obama responds when a naval ship is seized? What? Just a sternly worded letter?!? Even when the vessel is manned?!? Ha! Take it then! We will likely survive the letter.”

Obama will do as much as Bush did when China forced an American military plane complete with crew to the ground.


    Considerably different circumstances. The USN EP-3 in question was struck by a Chinese J-8 making close passes in a game of ‘chicken’ with the observation aircraft in order to discourage the US from flying surveillance missions in the area. It was an accident, followed by the EP-3 making an emergency landing on a nearby Chinese military base. The Chinese didn’t want to admit fault, held onto the crew as hostages (well, we used a more polite term), and only returned the aircraft in pieces after W wrote them a nice apology letter. (paraphrased) We’re sorry your pilot did stupid s**t and got himself killed, we’re sorry we had to land our bent plane on your super-secret base, we’re sorry you’re such enormous jerks that you can’t man up and admit your screwup, etc…

    This is plain and simple theft, carried out by the PRN in order to discourage our activities in the area and to get a look at the widgets we’re using. An appropriate response would include shots across the bow and boarding parties to reclaim our stolen property.

      “It was an accident”

      Not in my book. This was far worse than stealing an underwater drone. Bush did nothing, and the Chinese have continued, emboldened by the Bush administration.

      “Pentagon sources are convinced that the EP-3E incident was not an accident.”

      11 days. China held our crew hostage for 11 days.

      Your “paraphrasing” is at considerable odds with the actual text.

      The “Letter”

      Dear Mr. Minister:
      On behalf of the United States government, I now outline steps to resolve this issue.
      Both President Bush and Secretary of State Powell have expressed their sincere regret over your missing pilot and aircraft. Please convey to the Chinese people and to the family of pilot Wang Wei that we are very sorry for their loss.
      Although the full picture of what transpired is still unclear, according to our information, our severely crippled aircraft made an emergency landing after following international emergency procedures. We are very sorry the entering of China’s airspace and the landing did not have verbal clearance, but very pleased the crew landed safely. We appreciate China’s efforts to see to the well-being of our crew.
      In view of the tragic incident and based on my discussions with your representative, we have agreed to the following actions:
      Both sides agree to hold a meeting to discuss the incident. My government understands and expects that our aircrew will be permitted to depart China as soon as possible.
      The meeting would start April 18, 2001.
      The meeting agenda would include discussion of the causes of the incident, possible recommendations whereby such collisions could be avoided in the future, development of a plan for prompt return of the EP-3 aircraft, and other related issues. We acknowledge your government’s intention to raise U.S. reconnaissance missions near China in the meeting.
      Joseph W. Prueher

        tom swift in reply to Barry. | December 17, 2016 at 12:34 am

        Nice, simple-minded interpretation.

        It always looked like a setup to me … and actually, a fairly obvious one, though maybe not to the Chinese. How to get some American observers onto a base which the US could see from space, but showed some interesting structures which could use a bit of scrutiny by human eyeballs? How about an excuse … a fake “accident”, say? Shoot down this jerk Chinese hotdog pilot, make sure he’s “lost at sea”, then fly the US plane, with carefully prepped “damage”, to the Chinese base—blowing off Chinese attempts to forbid them, citing an “emergency”—and giving them a nice sample of obsolete spy equipment to oogle. While there, the American spies—the fake aircrew—will see whatever they can see. If it isn’t much, no great cost was expended—it’d all be a bit tough on the Chinese pilot, but, well, tough. Grovel a bit to the Chinese; as a culture obsessed with “face”, it rarely occurs to them that a little self-abnegation is bait they can’t resist, and they’ll swallow the whole fakeout without question. The only annoying part—admitting that it was all a plant would ruin the whole thing. Bush would have to take the heat for a “failure” in perpetuity. Obama would never do such a thing. But Bush wasn’t such a tiny man as Obama.

        Well, just a theory. But at least it has the virtue of not being simple-minded.

Of course it’s a test, by the Chinese and Democrats. Chinese want to see what the outgoing President is going to do, Democrats want to see how much of a mess they can leave the incoming President with. The liberals are screaming for a change in the election while at the same time creating bullshit to throw at President Trump and ask why he isn’t doing anything. Go to his twitter page and look at the vile filth thrown at him about sleeping with his daughter, mental hospitals, Aleppo and Russian hacking. I think it’s ugly and I’ve been in some serious shit holes in the world.

Free State Paul | December 16, 2016 at 2:37 pm

Look on the bright side.

In a couple of years, the Navy will be able to save money by buying cheap Chinese underwater drone knock-offs at WalMart.

Humphrey's Executor | December 16, 2016 at 5:08 pm

Piracy on the high seas.

Jokes on them, the Russians already hacked it.

“USNS Bowditch, an oceanographic survey ship…”

Just keep in mind that a United States Naval Ship (USNS) is not a combatant. They have civilian merchant marine crews and in the case of these survey ships or hydrographic research ships they may have civilian research scientists as well as uniformed NOAA personnel. There are seven uniformed services, but only five armed services. NOAA and the USPHS wear what look like USN uniforms (just look at any Surgeon General’s official photo), but they aren’t armed. But they aren’t combatants.

This is no where near as embarrassing as when the Iranians seized those Riverine Command boats in the Persian Gulf earlier this year. Those two boats weren’t commissioned United States Ships (USS; small craft are not commissioned individually but are operated by by commands which are commissioned as a squadron or unit, but they are still combatant craft, armed, with Sailors who are supposed to know how to fight them). Old Navy hands, and by that I mean I officially retired in 2008, after getting my Notice Eligibility to receive retired pay in late 2007 (always get the NOE letter before submitting your letter requesting retirement as the gub’mint will be only too happy to let you retire and ONLY LATER let you know you don’t qualify for retired pay as that saves the gub’mint money). So I had been out for a while, but I participated in a comment thread on the US Naval Institute blog site and universally we were asking each other, “how does this happen?” It’s pretty easy to avoid Farsi Island. You really have to not know how to plan your transit to run afoul of the IRGCN at Farsi Island. And I realize that I run the risk of sounding like some grumpy old man telling these damned kids today to get off my lawn, but seriously? Your GPS goes out and now you’re lost? I have a compass, a chart, and even a sextant, and I know how to use them. I am a freakin’ triple threat.

Some skills never become obsolete, as the Navy keeps having to relearn.

“…According to navy spokeswoman, lieutenant commander Kate Meadows, the US Navy ceased all training in celestial navigation in 2006, but reinstated it in 2011.

Meadows stated that the navy is planning to bring the training back for enlisted ranks by the third-quarter of 2016…”

Too late.

I could go on, and not doubt many if not most of you understandably think I’ve gone on for too long already. And yes, Dutarte is an @$$hole but the Philippines occupy a strategic position if we are going to limit the Chinese threat to the “first island chain.” As we must. If we don’t want national leaders who aren’t @$$holes like Dutarte making their own separate peace with China as they see us wimp out at every opportunity we must not keep proving they can’t count on us.

A USNS is unarmed as it isn’t a combatant but it still is a US government ship. If we aren’t willing to defend our own, why should the Philippines or Japan or Singapore think we’re willing to meet our treaty obligations to them? We don’t even do anything for our own defense. Why was this ship unescorted? Have we forgotten the hard-learned lessons of the Pueblo and the Liberty?

Yes, we have.

What I would do, would be to make sure that the next series of drones all carry an internal 1,000 lb warhead – and it would be set to go off whenever the case is cracked in an unauthorized manner. Then I would have it swim circles around a chinese ship, just begging them to pick it up.

Semper Gumby.

We adapt.

If we’re allowed to.