China Continues South China Sea Aggression by Deploying Drone Carrier

China recently launched what they are calling a “research vessel.” In reality, the vessel is a weapons platform capable of launching autonomous drone swarms in the South China Sea, bringing the nation one step closer in its push for regional dominance.

The ship is called the Zhu Hai Yun, or Zhuhai Cloud. It has no crew and can deploy drones and autonomous submersibles. Although the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is claiming it is primarily a research vessel, the South China Morning Post is reporting that the ship can act as an area denial platform with the ability to expel invasive targets.

The firm involved in designing the Zhuhai Cloud has already put drone swarms in the field; specifically, for military applications. Although it is unclear exactly how many drones the ship can store and launch, they will certainly have offensive swarm capabilities.

This move by the CCP is in alignment with an overall strategy in the South China Sea of area denial and implied aggression.

China has spent the last decade designing other weapons platforms for the sole purpose of deterring the United States Navy from traveling to various parts of the South China Sea. In addition to the new drone technology China has developed an Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile (ASBM) with an astonishing top speed of over Mach 5. There is no known countermeasure in the United States Naval arsenal.

Beyond its new weapons capabilities, ships like the Zhuhai Cloud will be used in conjunction with the ASBM to push the envelope on the CCP’s territorial claims in the region.

China claims sovereignty over what is known as the South China Sea Islands.

Although it has made similar claims in the past, it has never had the military might to obtain its claims by brute force. With the CCP’s new weapons platforms it can now utilize aggressive threat of force postures to gain leverage in the region.

China continues to explicitly state that ships like the Zhuhai Cloud are for scientific purposes, but the platform is very much part of a larger strategy to dominate the South China Sea.