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Indonesia Alarmed At Fishing Suspected Chinese Submarine Drone In Its Waters; May Escalate

Days after Indonesian fishermen discovered a suspected Chinese submarine drone near Selayar Island, politicians have expressed their concern about the finding.

Indonesia

Days after Indonesian fishermen discovered a suspected Chinese submarine drone near Selayar Island in South Sulawesi, several politicians have expressed their concern about the find and have demanded the government to take firm actions.

According to a report in Indonesian news agency Antara, a top legislator has said that Indonesia needs to strengthen its underwater defence and security in the wake of the discovery of an Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (UUV) belonging to a foreign nation deep inside its territorial waters.

'A threat to Indonesia's underwater defence & security'

"Any underwater drone and submarine of foreign countries cannot be at our sea without our government's permission,” Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives (DPR), Azis Syamsuddin, said on Friday. The Indonesian Foreign Ministry must lodge a protest with the country which owns the drone that was recently found by a fisherman near Selayar island, South Sulawesi province, he added.

"The discovery of an underwater drone, which resembles China's Sea Wing UUV in physical appearance, indeed poses a serious threat to Indonesia's underwater defence and security," he asserted. "The Indonesian government must work to protect and secure the country's territorial waters by modernizing its underwater detection and tracking capability," he added.

"This is a homework for Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto to enhance our capabilities to accelerate the development of remote-sensing technology," Sukamta, a member of the House of Representatives’ (DPR’s) Commission I, stated in Jakarta on Saturday. According to media reports, the drone is currently examined by the Indonesian Navy in their 2nd Fleet HQ, Surabaya.

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Drone seized by the Indonesian military

The UUV was recovered from the water by a local fisherman on December 20 but was only reported to authorities six days later. According to Indonesian media, the captured drone is 225cm in length, with a 50cm wingspan and a 93cm-long trailing antenna. Another report in Independent said that the torpedo-shaped object equipped with camera and antenna was apparently still active when it was netted near Selayar Island 20 December, with its light blinking and sensors working. The drone has now been seized by the military and transferred to the 6th Main Naval Base in Makassar, where it is currently being inspected.

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Writing in his blog, submarine warfare expert H I Sutton said Sea Wing gliders have been recovered in Indonesia on at least three occasions. According to him, China has deployed a number of underwater drones called Sea Wing (Haiyi) glider in the Indian Ocean, which can operate for months on end and make observations for naval intelligence purposes.

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Writing for the Forbes magazine, Sutton said that these sea gliders, which the Chinese are deploying "en masse", are a type of Uncrewed Underwater Vehicle (UUV) which were launched in mid-December 2019 and recovered in February after making over 3,400 observations. Citing the government sources, Sutton in his report said that these gliders are similar to those deployed by the US Navy, one of which was seized by Beijing in 2016 to ensure "safe navigation of passing ships."

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