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China’s Minesweeping Drones

by John Reed on February 17, 2012

Amid all the recent talk about the need for U.S. Navy minesweepers in the Persian Gulf in case Iran attempts to close the straight of Hormuz with sea mines, I noticed an interesting fact about China’s minesweeping plans. They involve drones. Not sleek, purpose-built, sea-going drones, but vessels originally designed to carry people that have been quickly converted to be remotely operated from an anti-mining mothership.

These pics show what China Defense Blog claims are Chinese navy minesweeping drones based on the Type 529 patrol craft. If you look closely you can see what appears to be orange, remotely controlled submersibles mounted on the sterns of the boats.  The vessels may be controlled by the 818 Kunshan minesweeping ship that’s shown docked with the small patrol vessels below.

Click through the jump for more pictures.


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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

S O February 17, 2012 at 2:12 pm

The German navy has used trios of mine-breaking drones for decades; the Troika system.


Black Owl February 17, 2012 at 2:19 pm

Hmm… clever.


Cthel February 17, 2012 at 2:31 pm

Are you sure the orange things are ROVs? They could just be old fashioned mechanical sweeps, or towed noise-makers


FormerDirtDart February 17, 2012 at 6:54 pm

The "boats" are remotely operated


Cthel February 18, 2012 at 8:09 am

I was referring to the objects described in the article as "(appearing) to be orange, remotely controlled submersibles mounted on the sterns of the boats"


RCDC February 18, 2012 at 6:55 pm

If we were referring to the Iranian suspected remote controlled bomb boats we probably just needed a powerful remote control to get control frequency control of the Iranian remote controlled bomb boats in any future face off/ conflict events with them (Iran).


BoyScout February 17, 2012 at 2:34 pm

I wonder how else a military could save money by re-purposing older ships.


Lance February 17, 2012 at 2:41 pm

Well if they made a mistake and miss a mine which hits the boat well no problems they're all drones. LOL


chockblock February 17, 2012 at 3:08 pm

Well played comrades, challenge accepted


RCDC February 17, 2012 at 3:35 pm

Just reinstate all retired p boats and minesweepers and refurbish it.


Thunder350 February 17, 2012 at 9:51 pm

The Chinese have it right..

Instead of investing millions into designing a new system. Reuse old equipment destined for the graveyard.

Saves money, and puts people to work.


joe February 20, 2012 at 3:19 am

No different to turning old fighters into target drones – something the USAF has been doing for decades.

Doesn't stop it being a good idea, though.


Byron Skinner February 17, 2012 at 10:14 pm

Good Evening Folks,

This must be a joke, right. The Chinese are this dumb, this looks like something that an "American Think Tank" would think up.

All one of those sneaky Americans have to do is put counters on our mines and wait for the tender to pass over, Ka-Booom.

Then with out controllers you have all these radio controlled boats running around. now that would be funny.

Byron Skinner


fewrwrw February 17, 2012 at 11:48 pm

so your saying the mothership is going be running around in mined waters, even though it controls multiple remote controlled minesweeper drones. good thinking.


blight_ February 17, 2012 at 11:58 pm

The issue is assuming that the first mine you encounter is the outer perimeter of the mine field. And if you hit a mixed mine field with CAPTOR mines, life gets interesting.

What is the range of teleoperation from ship to drone?


FormerDirtDart February 19, 2012 at 7:52 pm

As the US can operate predator drones anywhere on the planet from stateside bases, I believe it would be reasonable to assume that "drone" boats can be operated at great distances too. Its not like the Chinese don't launch their own communication satellites, now is it?


blight_ February 19, 2012 at 9:09 pm

It's probable they have their own Creed AFB by now, but there's a lot we don't know about their ROV infrastructure.

I imagine their priority is to get their Beidou up and running. Having RPVs running around but having their precision operation depend on Galileo, Glonass or GPS? Beidou has three satellites up and running, but I imagine the PRC would prefer to get that infrastructure up and running as soon as possible.

Alternatively, if RQ-170 went down then it validates for them that UAVs aren't the end-all, especially when teleoperated at the end of several thousand miles of satellite bandwidth.

blight_ February 21, 2012 at 12:42 pm

Beidou puts a coordinate boundary on where they can reliably expect their UAVs to work with great precision: at least until the next-gen globally-positioned Beidou constellation is online. Beidou-1 is geostationary and well-suited for regional guidance.

Considering that Beidou is based on the DFH's…one wonders if the Beidous can also do teleoperation.

Hunter78 February 18, 2012 at 8:06 am

So you want a first ship safe policy? Suppose the first ship over is a Chinese guided missile cruiser?


Zeyn February 18, 2012 at 6:17 am

got to give credit for the damn Chinese, if it was the USA, we would have spent 5 time what they spent and it will only be a little better.


MikeD February 19, 2012 at 6:10 am

More like 20 times the amount spent with one tenth of what the Chinese have got to show for it. The Chinese are eating Americca alive thanks to Americas inbuilt stupidity and complacency. Its very amusing to wath.


elizzar February 18, 2012 at 11:59 am

forgive my ignorance but isn't this similar in idea to something we the british have, carried on the minesweeper 'mothership'? http://defense-update.com/20111208_sea-fox-naval-
the last line of the linked articles suggests following its use in libya other navies are buying it, presumably nato.


RCDC February 18, 2012 at 3:20 pm

Now Xi shake hands with Barrack perhaps they (China) will sell their ships and boats for a penny's on the dollar to us…(kidding)


MikeD February 19, 2012 at 6:08 am

I bet they won't be dumb enough to make ther drones hackable, unlike a certain other failing nation…


RCDC February 19, 2012 at 4:05 pm

We probably need a universal remote.


Old timer February 20, 2012 at 5:55 pm

Why not a static generator to scramble the signal n the way to the drones? Beam it in their direction. An old Ford ignition coil would be a good place to build on.
I’m sure a sacrambler could be easily be built if not done already. Just mix their signal up.


oldwoodboats February 21, 2012 at 9:53 am

I wonder whose mines the Chinese expect to clear? Surely not the non existent US sub launched mobile mines that might otherwise threaten their harbors!


marty February 21, 2012 at 10:17 pm

shave down some of the some times decades long procurment process the navy uses and use some of the mothballed fleet for some thing productive for once


@RefractableMe February 22, 2012 at 4:44 pm

With a billion people who needs drones?


blight_ February 25, 2012 at 9:04 am

Digging through the ether, apparently we had a drone mothership for our Firebees. I wonder why we don't have field motherships anymore…


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