China battles underwater drone ‘spies’ by rewarding fishermen who catch them

Military Technology
underwater drone

MYSTERY WIRE — China pays a hefty reward to fishermen who are lucky enough to haul in “spy submarines.”

A BBC report indicates the Chinese government paid big for 11 devices in 2019 and 9 devices in 2018. The rewards were on the scale of $72,000 — 17 times the average income in China.

The submarines — drones with no crews — are likely from the United States, Japan or Taiwan, according to several reports. They are not all necessarily meant to ferret out Chinese secrets, and some could be private ventures.

There’s no indication that hauling up a drone in a fishing net is about to start a war, but it appears to be a growing problem. Forbes reports that a Croatian fishing vessel picked up a device in the Adriatic on Jan. 6. That was probably a U.S. Navy “hydrophone” deployed in the early 2000s to detect and record — which are crucial in submarine warfare.

It’s an area of espionage that rarely makes news. But China’s awards program is a signal that they are eager to collect and study underwater drones. North Korea is known to have a “torpedo-like intelligence gathering drone” on display in Pyonyang. Forbes reports that drone is possibly a U.S. Navy submarine launched drone.

And China has drones of its own, and likely uses drones to spy on the U.S. and Japan, a close U.S. ally. One of China’s drones was included in a military parade in October, according to Business Insider.

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