Promising Chinese BEC on sea trials
The Chinese industry is trying to keep up with foreign colleagues and is developing new directions for itself. It became known about the existence of its own Chinese project of an unmanned boat for solving certain problems. Moreover, an experimental product of this type has already entered sea trials.
According to unofficial data …
The existence of an unmanned boat (BEC) developed by the PRC became known just a few days ago. In the Chinese blogosphere, the only photo taken in the water area near one of the shipbuilding enterprises in Jiangxi province has spread so far. Against the background of the coast, a boat of a characteristic appearance with the hull number “6081” and people on board were captured.
According to unofficial sources, the BEC, intended for use in anti-submarine defense, has been brought up for testing. Other information is not yet available. In addition, officials remain silent and do not comment on the appearance of the new boat in any way – despite the interest at home and abroad.
The only known photograph allows us to see the general architecture of the Chinese BEC. The product is built according to the trimaran scheme with a large elongation main body and a pair of outriggers shifted to the stern. The hull has seaworthy contours and a stem piled back.
The bow of the boat is designed as a deck with a light rail. Behind it is a superstructure that occupies the entire width of the hull. The superstructure has a characteristic faceted shape and variable height. A conical casing of radio engineering systems is mounted on the superstructure. Judging by the dimensions and the presence of glazing, the boat is optionally manned. There is another deck behind the superstructure, probably with the possibility of installing additional equipment.
According to various estimates, the length of the Chinese BEC reaches 38-40 m. The width, draft and displacement are unknown. Also, the area and volumes for the installation of additional equipment and its permissible weight remain a secret.
The trimaran “6081” is equipped with a diesel power plant with seawater cooling. A propeller or water cannon is estimated to be able to accelerate the boat to 25-27 knots. Travel range and autonomy have not been established.
The boat must have an autopilot and navigation aids capable of long-term independent operation on the high seas. Also, communication and control facilities are needed to transfer data and fully interact with the operator, headquarters and other combat units of the fleet.
ACTUV Sea Hunter – American PLO boat
According to popular versions, the Chinese BEC is intended for use in an integrated PLO system and therefore receives the necessary equipment. For the search and tracking of submarines and the detection of sea mines, the boat requires hydroacoustic equipment, which is included in the general complex of on-board automation. Naturally, the exact composition and characteristics of the GAS are unknown. Target equipment must be associated with communication devices for the issuance of data and target designation to various consumers.
Outwardly, in terms of its architecture and intended purpose, the new Chinese BEC resembles one of the latest American developments of the United States. Since 2016, the DARPA agency and the Navy have been testing a promising unmanned PLO boat under the designation ACTUV Sea Hunter. By now, the boat has entered trial operation and is regularly involved in various training and test events.
The American Sea Hunter is a trimaran with a large main body and two small outriggers. The total displacement of the boat reaches 140 tons. The length is 40 m, the width, taking into account the side hulls, is more than 12 m. The hull with high seaworthy and maneuverable characteristics is used. During the tests, the BEC received a full-fledged wheelhouse to accommodate the crew and special equipment.
The boat is equipped with a two-shaft power plant based on a pair of diesel engines. The maximum speed is declared at 27 knots, and the range is set at 10 thousand nautical miles. Autonomy, depending on the task being performed, is 30-90 days. An important feature of the BEC is its low operating cost. A day’s work of such a boat costs no more than $ 20 thousand, while a full-size LCS ship with the same functions requires 700 thousand.
According to open sources, the Sea Hunter is equipped with a Raytheon MS3 GAS, the antenna device of which is placed in a retractable podkee nacelle, as well as magnetometric equipment. The onboard equipment is capable of independently analyzing data from observation devices and identifying the detected object. For this, the on-board computer memory contains signatures of various submarines, unmanned vehicles and other possible targets.
Underwater data is transmitted in real time to patrol aircraft or drones or to the coastal control center. The Sea Hunter has no weapons of any kind. The boat is only responsible for detecting and issuing target designation to other participants in the anti-submarine defense system.
The ACTUV project is based on the idea of building and deploying multiple Sea Hunter-type BECs, capable of monitoring large areas of the oceans together. The use of a large number of unmanned boats should expand the capabilities of an ASW while reducing construction and operating costs. From the point of view of economics, a UAV-supported BEC fleet turns out to be more profitable than a grouping of ships and patrol aircraft with the same capabilities.
It is assumed that the new Chinese prototype belongs to the BEC class. If so, then there are grounds for some very interesting conclusions. It turns out that the PRC is engaged in a new direction for itself in the context of the development of the naval forces. Moreover, to date, a promising project has been brought to the stage of sea trials of a prototype.
The principle of operation of the boat ACTUV
In the near future, Chinese specialists should complete the development of the unmanned platform “6081”, after which they can start testing and fine-tuning the target equipment, presumably for the search for submarines. How long these events will last and what results they will lead to is unknown.
However, it is already possible to make predictions for the future. Upon successful completion of the experimental design stage, the new Chinese BEC will receive a recommendation for serial production and commissioning of the PLA’s naval forces.
The consequences of this development of events are obvious. It is very likely that China will be able to establish mass production of new equipment and create a fairly large BEC fleet in a few years. With its help, it will be possible to supplement the traditional means of anti-submarine defense, and then expand its capabilities.
A mixed flotilla of ships and boats is capable of covering a given area more tightly and finding underwater objects faster. Combat capabilities are not lost in this case. Probably, BECs will be able to work at a great distance from ports, incl. outside the area of responsibility of basic patrol aircraft. It cannot be ruled out that with the help of promising boats, the PLA Navy will be able to carry out search activities almost throughout the Pacific Ocean and in the surrounding regions.
It should be noted that at the moment we can only speak with confidence about the presence of a boat with the number “6081”. The purpose of this product is still unknown, and all data in this regard is based only on assumptions and estimates. However, it is these assumptions that are the most plausible and probable. When the official information about the project will appear – if it will be revealed at all – is unknown.
However, it is obvious that China, striving for regional and world leadership in the military-technical sphere, would sooner or later begin to study the topic of unmanned boats. It seems that these processes have already begun and have already yielded the first results. It may take several years to complete the work and obtain practically applicable equipment, and after that the PLA Navy will be able to boast of fundamentally new models.