China alleges US ship’s 2,000m sonar is hunting Chinese submarine

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Chinese observers, as reported by media outlets including Sohu, have noted recent activities by the US military in China’s major maritime regions. After allegedly dumping unidentified objects in the South China Sea, CCTV has recently disclosed that “the US military suddenly entered the East China Sea and secretly searched for traces of PLA submarines.” 

China alleges US ship's 2,000m sonar is hunting Chinese submarine
Photo credit: US Navy

According to Chinese reports, this incident coincides with the People’s Liberation Army ship Fujian preparing for its third round of sea trials. Meanwhile, the US military’s ocean surveillance ship, USNS Capable, has deployed a towed sonar over 2,000 meters long in the East China Sea, entering into high-intensity operations.

The USNS Capable, part of the US Naval Sea Command, is primarily utilized for underwater surveillance. It can gather extensive hydrological data, including tides and wind waves, and features a towed low-frequency active sonar array. This sophisticated equipment enables the collection of comprehensive underwater data and precise seabed mapping, acting as a crucial asset for the US military’s anti-submarine efforts.

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‘Data Collection’ Exercise

Some analysts suggest that the U.S. military’s maneuvers might include “military training” activities. Since 2012, the United States has stationed all five ships of this class in the Western Pacific, clearly signaling its focus on China, as reported by Chinese publication Sohu.

Experts point out that the recent joint military exercise, “Freedom’s Edge,” involving the United States, Japan, and South Korea, took place primarily in the Sea of Japan, around Jeju Island, and the Philippine Sea. These areas overlap with regions where U.S. surveillance ships have been spotted. Given that U.S. surveillance ships are now present in the East China Sea, it seems likely that they are also monitoring and issuing alerts regarding the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.

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Video screenshot

It’s also noteworthy that a U.S. P-8A patrol aircraft recently dropped an unidentified object in the direction of the South China Sea. This object was later identified as a submarine detector, which was retrieved by the Chinese Navy. According to Sohu, this detector can pick up signals from Chinese submarines and engage in signal confrontation.

Researching routes?

Chinese experts note that the U.S. Navy’s recent maneuvers indicate a keen interest in gathering data on underwater and surface hydrology, as well as monitoring ship movements. This, they believe, is aimed at bolstering the U.S.’ position in the modern information warfare landscape.

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Moreover, these actions suggest an American effort to study China’s underwater deployments and submarine movement patterns. The goal is to accumulate vast amounts of data to support potential future anti-submarine warfare operations.

In response, following the entry of a U.S. surveillance ship into the East China Sea, the People’s Liberation Army issued a critical navigation warning. They announced that from 4:00 a.m. on the 3rd to 6:00 p.m. on the 5th, no ships would be permitted in specified areas of the East China Sea.

Spying on Fujian?

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Photo credit: Sohu

The recent navigational warning issued closely mirrors those from past sea trials of the aircraft carrier Fujian. Consequently, many experts believe this signals a third round of sea trials for the vessel in the waters east of Zhejiang.

In this context, China is expected to deploy related underwater equipment to support the Fujian. The U.S. military’s sudden presence in the East China Sea might be an effort to gather invaluable intelligence during these trials.

Over the past few years, China’s deployment of PLA ships has surged, both in scale and frequency. This has concurrently increased the sophistication of their nuclear submarines in the South China Sea, East China Sea, and the broader Indo-Pacific region. In response, the United States has intensified its efforts to monitor Chinese submarine activities.

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