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A new model of Unscrewed Surface Vessels, also known as USVs were seen docked at the piers on the north-China coast just miles from the Xiaopingdao naval base. The base, reportedly used by the People’s Liberation Army, has in the past housed Chinese submarines, including the Type-036 Ming Class boats.
According to UNSI News, China’s State Shipbuilding Corporation built JARI-USV ‘mini-destroyers’ at the location in 2018.
The JARI, which refers to the Jiangsu Automation Research Institute, is a noteworthy USV in its own right.
The boat, which is around 50 feet long, is capable of being mounted with an ambitious weapons arsenal, including surface to air missiles, and two torpedoes.
Added electronic warfare systems also include phased array radars and electro-optical devices, along with more conventional sonar systems, which can be used in the tracking of submersed targets such as submarines.
The new ships being developed appear follow a similar model to that of the JARI.
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Much like its peer, it has openings for torpedoes on each side of the hull, however, its size is significantly larger, boasting an extra 20 feet of space, making the craft far more stable than the JARI.
Some experts believe that China is also holding other secret warships at the port, constructed in 2017.
The emergence of such Chinese military hardware comes at a time of raised tension in the region.
Already China and the United States have crossed paths on multiple occasions around the South China Sea, a place in which China has started to reclaim land from the sea, building a vast host of islands in the process.
US Spy planes have been warned to stay away
Many of the islands are said to be used for military purposes, with clear satellite images of runways and ports appearing on the new plots of land.
The United States has often been warned away from the area during aerial reconnaissance by Chinese military units.
The US has repeatedly defended its right to fly into international airspace, and has continued to do so in spite of Chinese pressure to stay away.
Furthermore, tension between China and Taiwan has also led to China flexing its military muscles as a war of words between Beijing and Taipei seem to escalate on a daily basis.
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Chinese Navy displays some of its equipment
President Xi has vowed to reclaim the self-declared independent territory which it claims is still part of China, while Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has said the small island will defend itself and not bow to pressure from China.
The satellite images have been released at a time of heightened tension, escalated after the signing of the AUKUS deal between Australia, UK and US.
AUKUS will see a fleet of nuclear powered submarines built in Australia, in a move widely perceived as an effort to counter China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region.
Speaking of the deal, and the role China, UK Defence Secretary said: It is growing its navy [and] air force at a huge rate. Obviously it is engaged in some disputed areas… Our partners in those regions want to be able to stand their own ground.”
Although the AUKUS deal has yet to be put into operation, global focus has shifted from West Asia to the Indo-Pacific in recent months following the withdrawal of US and allied forces from Afghanistan, as well as dying interest in events in Syria.
China has its own fleet of nuclear submarines
The prospect of a new Cold War in the region is fast becoming a reality, with nations in the area, such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Japan fearing the move could lead to a regional arms race.
Already the two Koreas have escalated their military might in recent weeks, with hypersonic missile testing in the North and ICBM capable submarines revealed in the South.
With China fast rising as the world’s largest economy, due to overtake the USA by 2024, the race is on to secure a position on the world stage through a show of force, power and commercial strength.