|Staff Reporter |||Jun 26, 2016 08:04 AM EDT|
(Photo : US Navy) USS Cheyenne, a Los Angeles-class nuclear attack submarine
China plans to build an "Underwater Great Wall of China" of sensors, robot undersea vehicles, torpedoes and a manned "deep-sea space station" beneath the South China Sea to further solidify its control over this hotly disputed area that might trigger a war between China and the United States and its Asian allies.
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The Underwater Great Wall Project will be disguised as a scientific "natural resource development project" requiring an undersea base and a fleet of drone submarines, according to sources.
Analysts said this allegedly civilian project will form the basis for a future underwater military defense system designed to cement Chinese hegemony over the South China Sea while keeping the U.S. Navy at bay.
This underwater defense line will complete China's triad of control over the South China Sea. The first leg of this triad are the military outposts on reclaimed islands defended by HQ-9 surface-to-air missiles (SAM) and supersonic jet fighters such as the J-11.
The second leg will be the forthcoming ADIZ or Air Defense Identification Zone that will effectively bar military and civilian aircraft from outside China entering the airspace above the South China Sea without China's permission.
The Underwater Great Wall, the third leg, is meant to counter the U.S. Navy's fleet of attack and ballistic missile submarines against which the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has no credible defense. Anti-submarine warfare is the greatest tactical weakness of the PLAN.
Also arousing suspicion is the proposed location of this "natural resources project." Its deep- sea space station will be built at a depth of 3,000 meters below the surface and will be manned by a full-time crew. No country has ever attempted to build a manned underwater base at these crushing depths.
Analysts said this underwater station might anchor the Underwater Great Wall. This wall will consist of a network of floating and submerged sensors designed to detect U.S. Navy submarines and those from other "unfriendly" nations such as Japan, India and Australia.
China revealed a few facets of this wall at a recent military exhibit that focused on a fleet of unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) that are part of the wall's defense system. These drones will be capable of carrying torpedoes and other military payloads such as mines and sensors.
Chinese officials at this exhibit admitted this base could be used for military purposes.
"But we can't rule out it will carry some military functions," said Xu Liping, a senior researcher of Southeast Asia affairs at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
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