Chinese unmanned vessels, Type 052D destroyer make debut at Middle East defense expo

By Liu Xuanzun and Cao Siqi (Global Times) 14:51, February 23, 2023

Advanced Chinese naval platforms including unmanned combat vessels and a Type 052D guided missile destroyer are on show at an influential defense expo in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for the first time, with analysts saying on Wednesday that China's shipbuilding and associated industries have reached a very high level, and they can confidently display their capabilities and offer trend-leading products for export.

For the first time, China's Poly Technologies Inc brought a genuine A45 unmanned combat boat, together with other advanced surface drones including the A300 unmanned mine-hunter boat and the A2000 unmanned multirole boat, to the 16th International Defense Exhibition and Conference (IDEX 23), which is being held from Monday to Friday in Abu Dhabi, the maker of the unmanned surface vehicles said in a press release sent to the Global Times.

Making dynamic demonstrations at the expo, the A45 sailed in narrow water lanes, displayed its capabilities in autonomous obstacle evasion, close-in reconnaissance and target tracking, winning praise from visitors for its full autonomy, accurate controls and good human-machine interactivity, according to the press release.

The A45 has a length of 7.5 meters, a width of 2.7 meters and a displacement of 3.7 tons with a maximum speed of 40 knots. Sailing at 25 knots, its standard range can reach 280 nautical miles. The ship drone can adapt to sea state 4, and can operate fully autonomously, semi-autonomously, through remote control or manually, its maker said.

The drone can be equipped with optical and electronic sensors, radar systems, guns and missile launchers, and it can be deployed for alert patrols, as well as reconnaissance and precision strike missions around islands, reefs and maritime borders as an armed reconnaissance ship drone.

It can also provide fire support to naval forces by blocking small to medium-sized maritime targets from approaching.

With technological breakthroughs in communications, sensors, target identification and image processing, China has made huge strides in the field of unmanned vessels. Their comprehensive development could lift revolutions in naval warfare to a new era, observers said. Unmanned vessels have already been deployed in the Russia-Ukraine conflict by both sides.

At the IDEX, a remote control station is available for visitors to experience operating an unmanned vessel thousands of kilometers away in Zhuhai, South China's Guangdong Province. The drone ship can take commands in real time, autonomously pick routes and carry out missions, showing that China has achieved beyond-visual-range control of unmanned vessels, the press release said.

China has also overcome the difficulties of swarm coordination among ship drones, with a company displaying swarm coordination between 56 unmanned boats in 2018, and six unmanned fast boats intercepting and expelling a mock target in coordination in 2022, media reports showed.

The hardware on display shows China's high level of confidence in its technologies, as the remote-control technology, extended range and swarm technology give more tactical depth to unmanned vessels, an industry insider who requested anonymity told the Global Times.

Compared with large warships, unmanned boats reduce costs and avoid casualties, making them a trend in future naval warfare, the insider said.

The unmanned boats displayed at the IDEX are available for export, the Global Times learned.

The guided missile destroyer <em>Nanning</em> of the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy is moored at a port in Karachi, Pakistan on February 12, 2023 during the AMAN-23 multinational maritime exercise. Photo: Liu Xuanzun/GT

The guided missile destroyer Nanningof the Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy is moored at a port in Karachi, Pakistan on February 12, 2023 during the AMAN-23 multinational maritime exercise. Photo: Liu Xuanzun/GT

Another highlight in Abu Dhabi fare is the participation of the Nanning, a Type 052D guided missile destroyer of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy.

Invited by the military of the UAE, the Nanningarrived on Friday in Abu Dhabi for the Naval Defense and Maritime Security Exhibition (NAVDEX), the naval expo held concurrently with IDEX, China Central Television (CCTV) reported on the day.

The Nanningwill conduct friendly interactions including seminars, visits and sports competitions with the navy of the UAE and vessels from other countries participating in NAVDEX, and will be open to the public, CCTV reported.

In addition to the PLA Navy's efforts to conduct exchanges and communications with other countries' navies, the Nanning's participation in NAVDEX could also serve to promote exports of the Type 052D, as the destroyer was made available on the international market at Airshow China 2022 held in Zhuhai, analysts said.

Wei Dongxu, a Beijing-based military expert, told the Global Times that displaying the Type 052D at an international defense expo allows potential clients to see China's advanced shipbuilding capabilities and the vessel's comprehensive combat capabilities.

The Type 052D is very competitive in the international market thanks to its outstanding performance, and China can customize the destroyer according to clients' demands, Wei said.

China has already built 25 Type 052D destroyers for the PLA Navy, with more under construction, according to media reports.

(Web editor: Zhong Wenxing, Liang Jun)


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