The Chinese Navy has developed extra large unmanned underwater vehicles (XLUUVs), seen as a key part of the country’s future naval fleet.
Secretly deployed in the South China Sea, the XLUUVs are reportedly part of China’s continuing naval expansion amid heightened tensions with Taiwan.
According to a report by Naval News, satellite images of the Sanya naval base show two XLUUVs believed to have been deployed there since March 2021.
The arrangement of the vehicles indicates that they are set for operational testing.
The concrete platform where the XLUUVs were spotted is reportedly near where China previously based its midget submarines.
The images showing the underwater drones may indicate a much larger Chinese Navy program, according to the report.
The high-resolution imagery taken by Maxar’s satellites shows two black objects “too small to be regular submarines and too large to be swimmer delivery vehicles.”
Their sizes and designs vary, suggesting that they are set up for a competitive trial of two different prototypes.
One of the XLUUVs is around 16 meters (52 feet) long and appears to have two propellers.
Its size is similar to the US Navy’s Orca XLUUV developed by Boeing.
The other drone submarine is reportedly slimmer but longer, with an estimated length of 18 meters (59 feet).
Its design resembles Lockheed Martin’s pitch for the US Navy’s XLUUV program.