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China upgrades its navy – Aircraft carriers, AI drones and more

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Beijing has focused on modernizing its Navy for years. In addition to new aircraft carriers, “artificial intelligence” elements are also increasingly being deployed. Both under and above water.

The People’s Republic of China has been upgrading significantly for several years and is increasingly focusing on strengthening its Navy. The main reason for this is that Beijing, as a continental power, currently has no fear of being attacked by its neighbors on land.

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It has excellent relations with Russia, and even with rival India, there are no significant problems (except for a few skirmishes on the disputed border). Not to mention that India would not be able to send massive troop movements across the mountainous border region even in the event of war.

However, the situation is different with respect to the coastal region. In particular, the growing tensions with the United States – which has an enormous fleet at its disposal – have led to a rethink on the part of the Chinese in this regard.

With the launch of the newest aircraft carrier Fujian, the Chinese Navy has three aircraft carriers. The ship is the first in the fleet to be equipped with an electromagnetic catapult that can shoot down aircraft on board in rapid succession.

China continues expanding its military arsenal and is moving closer to the U.S. Navy’s advanced carrier systems. The Fujian is named after the southeastern coastal province across from Taiwan.

Early in his career, President Xi Jinping spent many years in this province and was not squeamish about expressing his strong desire to reunify Taiwan with the mainland.

The Asian giant’s other two aircraft carriers – the Liaoning, which China refurbished after buying secondhand from Ukraine, and the Shandong, Beijing’s first domestically built aircraft carrier – use jumping platforms to launch fighter jets.

The Fujian uses an electromagnetic catapult and a level runway. The ship’s shape has also been modified to improve stealth, making it harder to spot on radar.

But that is far from all. Underwater drones controlled by “artificial intelligence” are also part of China’s modernization program for the Navy. As early as October 2019, HSU001, a large unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV), was launched and tested.

This is because the Achilles heel of the Chinese Navy, namely the submarine fleet, needs a comprehensive upgrade from Beijing’s perspective. However, with a lack of appropriately trained personnel to expand the submarine fleets significantly, focusing on unmanned underwater drones (also controlled by “artificial intelligence”) seems to be a pragmatic solution for the country’s communist leadership.

Especially also because these drones can be equally used for “kamikaze actions” against enemy aircraft carrier groups.

But it is not only underwater that the Middle Kingdom relies on “artificial intelligence.” With the AI-led “mother ship” to launch dozens of drones, Beijing is also ushering in a new era of surface warfare that ultimately points primarily to a material battle while avoiding human casualties.

The autonomous ship, the Zhu Hai Yun, is 88.5 meters long, 14 meters wide, has a draft of 6.1 meters, and can carry dozens of aerial, naval, and diving drones equipped with various observation instruments, according to the shipbuilder, CSSC Huangpu Wenchong Shipping Co.

Beijing has officially called it a maritime research tool, but some experts have stressed that the ship has the potential to be used as a military vessel. But there are fears in the West that the ship could also be used to deploy armed drones.

Recent developments in the Chinese Navy show that Beijing is seeking technological superiority over the United States above all else. While it will take some time for the People’s Liberation Army Navy to catch up with that of the United States – but unlike the Americans, the Chinese do not have to station their warships virtually around the globe.

Indeed, the Pentagon has three major naval deployment areas where the bulk of its warships and submarines are located: North Atlantic (up to the Mediterranean), Middle East, and Indo-Pacific. On the other hand, Beijing focuses primarily on the Indo-Pacific region (including protecting the “New Silk Road,” the Belt and Road Initiative).


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