A tweet from Reuters this morning reports that the Chinese navy has seized a unmanned submarine operated by the U.S. Navy from international waters in the South China Sea. The United States has issued a formal statement demanding that China give us our robo-sub back.
The incident happened yesterday northwest of Subic Bay, an American naval base in the Philipines, just as the USNS Bowditch, an oceanographic survey ship, was about to collect the underwater research robot.
According to CNBC, the vessel was taken by a Chinese ship that was following the Bowditch:
“They stole it,” a U.S. defense official said. The U.S. established bridge-to-bridge communications with the Chinese but they responded by saying that they were returning to normal operations and then left the area.
The issue is being addressed through diplomatic channels, the official said.
CNBC also reports that the drone was part of an unclassified program involved in collecting oceanographic data, including ocean temperatures, water salinity and clarity, and other data. The data can have use for both scientific and military uses, especially in the field of sonar use.
We’ll update as we get more information.