Thursday, October 18, 2012

China's Expanding Maritime UAS Fleet


S-100 Camcopter on DCNS Landing Grid (DCNS Photo)
 
Unmanned systems have not been excluded from China's rapid naval expansion and modernization program.  Last month, China's State Oceanic Administration (SOA) announced it would establish a string of UAV surveillance and monitoring bases in provinces along China’s coastline by 2015.  The SOA will also use drones to increase surveillance of the disputed Diaoyu (Senkaku) Islands in the South China Sea. 

In keeping with this announcement, China Maritime Surveillance (CMS), a law enforcement agency under control of SOA responsible for law enforcement within the PRC's territorial waters, exclusive economic zones (EEZ), and shores, awarded two contracts this week to the French DCNS Group.  CMS will purchase landing grids for two planned CMS 1,500 ton off-shore patrol vessels to be delivered in 2013.  The DCNS landing grids allow helicopters and vertical take-off-and landing (VTOL) UAVs fitted with a harpoon to land or take off from a ship's deck in adverse sea conditions.   It is possible that these new OPVs will be equipped with Schiebel's S-100 Camcopter, which is compatible with the DCNS landing grids.  The S-100 is in widespread use primarily with European navies (including France's) and works well on offshore patrol craft and other vessels too small for a conventional helicopter flight deck.

This acquisition is not the first evidence of S-100 use in the PLAN. China reportedly acquired 18 S-100s in 2010. In May of this year, the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) released images of a Chinese Type 054A missile frigate with what appear to be at least three S-100s aboard.

credit japan maritime self defense force
Likely S-100s on Chinese Frigate (Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force Photo)

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