Saturday, December 17, 2016

UAV Bounty Hunters

Hey, that appeasement policy towards China is working real well, isn’t it?  In exchange for not seriously contesting any of their illegal actions in the South China Sea they’ve now decided to begin seizing our drones.  USNI News website reports that the Chinese seized a US unmanned underwater glider (Littoral Battlespace Sensing Glider - LBSG) in international waters while it was being recovered by a US ship operating 50 miles northwest of Subic Bay, Philippines (1).  The US has filed protests and requested that the Chinese return the drone but if the Chinese didn’t return our EP-3 until long after they had stripped it of all interesting technology, they’re certainly not going to return a drone.

History teaches us, with unfailing certainty, that appeasement encourages aggression.  Appeasement, however, is not the subject of this post.  I just wanted to throw yet another failure in the face of the Chinese apologists and appeasers among you.

Back to the post …

This incident is the beginning of what will become a trend of unfriendly nations seizing or destroying our unmanned vehicles in international airspace and waters.  Why?  Why not?  We’re not going to respond.  If we wouldn’t respond to the seizure of two manned riverine boats by Iran, we’re certainly not going to respond to the seizure of unmanned vehicles.  Our enemies know this so they won’t hesitate to seize the opportunity to deal the US a black eye, trumpet their success to their people, and garner some free technology.

During the Cold War, aircraft were shot at and down from time to time.  If countries were willing to do that then let’s face it, no one is going to bat an eye at capturing or destroying unmanned vehicles.  We’re going to see an open season on unmanned vehicles.

Russia is watching this incident carefully.  If we don’t respond forcefully, and we won’t, Russia will be sure to seize or destroy a UAV.  In fact, we may see UAV “hunting” become a routine occurrence. 

I’ve stated repeatedly that unmanned vehicles will have only a limited role in combat, being too easy to find and destroy, and it appears that they will have a limited role in peace as well.  The LBSG was a relatively unsophisticated drone.  Will we risk our most sophisticated unmanned vehicles near enemy waters and airspace knowing that they are subject to routine seizure?  I doubt it.  We’d be idiots if we did.

Does anyone think the Chinese will hesitate to sink or seize that nifty new DARPA ACTUV (Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel) that’s supposed to follow enemy subs around?

Thanks to our passive, appeasing policies, I see a future of unfriendly state-sponsored UAV bounty hunters!


(1)USNI News website, “Updated: Chinese Seize U.S. Navy Unmanned Vehicle”, Sam LaGrone, 16-Dec-2016,


  1. China will return the drone. The Hill reports, "Upon confirming that the device was a U.S. underwater drone, the Chinese side decided to transfer it to the U.S. side in an appropriate manner," said the spokesman for the Chinese Defense Ministry, Sr. Col. Yang Yujun, according to CNN."

    But, I wouldn't expect to see it any time soon nor returned in one piece.

    In response, the State Department is preparing several sternly worded hashtags.

    On a serious note, I doubt the captain of the Chinese ship didn't do this on his own. I wonder how far up the chain of command this went for approval.

    1. This is not spur of the moment decision , it is approved from the very top. the question is why now ? the chinese ship thats been tailing the US ship is a salvage boat used to recover naval assets like wayward / practice torpedo. Coincidence ? i dont think so

      is this the chinese way of insulting obama ? after the airforce one row in chinese airport and the blatant insult toward obama there, now this..

    2. It is likely a response to Trumps rhetoric in regards to Taiwan.

    3. I think this is a two-fer. First it's a poke in the eye against Obama and a chance to spark a response from Trump.

    4. The message to the US is that the South China Sea is China's property and we need to leave. That's what all the artificial island building is about.

    5. CNO,

      I've said it before, these islands are for Chinese bastion defense/alarm bell for its SLBM subs, not sovereignty grab, nor inhibition of FON, military or otherwise. All these incidences in SCS, from EP3 accidental bumping, to Impeccable stopping, to P-8 aerial interference, to this now- are all 'Hainan sub' related- in sum, battle field prep on the US side, and Chinese objection of such activity.

      China is not asking the US to leave SCS, but to not to threaten its SLBM disposition, which is, as of current, based on a minimal deterrence policy. While it is USN's duty to always safeguard the US security interest. But, have you thought about- what if such interference (of not allowing China's minimal nuke policy be) alters China's strategic nuke policy- like going from minimal to more-than-enough. I hate to see the scenario of China upwarding its nuke policy/disposition because of persisting incidents like these. And you know as well I know, unlike USSR, China has the econ/industrial capacity to keep it up.

      There, apology/appeasement and my 2 bits.

  2. You are correct up until the point we get real leadership that makes it clear an assault on a US asset manned or not will be treated the same. Just like police dogs they are not people but to assault or kill them is treated just like such on a regular cop. Deterrence.

    Besides this drone was literally captured alongside its mother ship with US personnel watching with no resistance of any real measure to stop the Chinese in a rubber runabout that came in to grab and run with the UUV.

    Leadership when the top is rotten the ROE falls through the ranks to kill all ability all the way down the lowest of soldier, seaman, airman.

    Don't worry prince O had Kerry (I served in vietnam) write up a very terse letter.

    If it was me I think I would send a destroyer detachment to make a Christmas supply drop to the Philippine marines holding Second Thomas Shoal. Then maybe decide to add such good will mission to the regular US area patrol route.

    1. just in case you forgot, the pinoys are now chinese best buddies , your so called destroyer supply drop will be rejected by the philipphines govt and it will just bring another embarassment to USG.

      bettet yet , two can play the game. any unmanned chinese naval assets might be seized for salvage by the USN.

  3. The fact of the matter is that the Chinese are willing to go to war with the US over Taiwan. We need to be prepared to completely destroy their air and naval forces and to deny China access to the global maritime commons. It is time for us to get serious about the Navy's war fighting capabilities. We need to think seriously about the assets we need to defeat China and reallocate resources being wasteful projects.

  4. If you can believe the news, Russia already has destroyed or captured one of are drones.

    You have a habit of being proven correct CNO. Just last year, we discussed Automated weapon systems being stolen in peace time. I feel this just illustrates that possibility further.

  5. Perhaps if the drone were made more toxic. If a 1 lb strip of thermite were placed in proximity to the computer and control devices in any drone and activated when the drone is opened with a computer pad kill switch time delay, or activated on command from the mother ship. The thermite can be exchanged with explosives depending on the conflict intensity.
    It's fun to catch butterflies not so much fun to catch wasps.

    1. I have to agree.

      Software and data self deletion. Highly Explosive "disassembly" on command, after loss of signal ( for a predetermined time ), and definatly on unauthorised tampering.

      Feel free to affix stickers, flash warning light and audible count down on the drone explaning all this.

  6. They stole our asset and I am outraged also. But how do we meaningfully retaliate?

    Do we sail into the harbor and board the ship and take back the drone? That will spin out of control pretty fast.

    Do we task a destroyer to escort every scientific mission in the China Seas? That will exhaust the Fleet in no time flat.

    Do we only pay 50 cents on the dollar for all US bonds redeemed by Chinese banks and people? That might get their attention.

    Do we board a Chinese flagged Container ship in international waters to do a health and comfort inspection?

    I don't hear many ideas that won't lead to a land war in Asia or WWIII and nuclear winter. What are the options?

    1. You seem to be suggesting that only our actions can cause a situation to "spin out of control". The Chinese, in your view seem to be able to do anything they want with no fear whatsoever of causing a situation to "spin out of control" and no responsibility to tone down their actions. Why is the responsibility 100% on our shoulders? This kind of appeasement is simply ensuring more conflicts in the future.

      I've never understood the fear that some people have of escalation. Let the situation escalate. Let's see how far China is willing to go. Worst case, it's better to fight them now while we still maintain a military advantage.

    2. I am not advocating appeasement. I am asking what actions we could do to send a message. Remember the P3 incident with W? What did we do that sent a message?

      BUT when you want to do something, you better have a series of responses in mind both escalating and de-escalating. Making it up as you go along is NOT good policy or a plan.

      CNO what would you do?

    3. What I would do gets into geopolitics and this blog is limited to military matters. That said, from a military perspective only, I would forcefully recover or destroy the drone. If the Chinese ship (accounts suggest the drone is still on the ship that took it) opts to resist then that is there choice and the results are on them. I would sink the ship, if necessary. If the Chinese are willing to begin a war over a drone then they were just looking for an excuse anyway.

      In the future, we clearly cannot allow unescorted ships and aircraft to conduct military operations, however benign, in the South China Sea. We must provide escorts. We're not going to wear out the fleet. There aren't that many of these ops going on. Truth be told, we've all but abandoned the South China Sea and rarely operate there.

    4. I agree with your approach from a strictly military option perspective.

      But after Iraq anyone that proposes military action without a coherent geopolitical strategy is an idiot that can't learn from recent history.

      That is why I had problems with your posting calling our actions an appeasement policy. If you don't want to discuss Geo-Politics here, and I get that, then only comment about military options that we can/should do.

    5. There's no question that our policy is one of appeasement. That's not even debatable! I won't discuss the geopolitical aspects of that beyond noting that appeasement has, historically, failed catastrophically every time it's ever been attempted.

      The degree (small) to which I opt to include geopolitics in discussions is up to me (hey, that's the beauty of running the blog, right?). My feeling is that appeasement, historically and currently, is directly linked to military actions or lack thereof and, therefore, I do opt to touch on it, lightly. You can disagree with my outlook on that but it is what it is and at least you now understand my reasoning!

    6. CNO,

      I have a counter that does not put Taiwan in danger, or harmed the US business interest (at least directly), but go straight to CCP's own sense of value-competition.

      There are >300k China's best/brightest/moniest/(and most importantly)single future of the family here in the states (and I'm not even counting the high schoolers Chinese families are now sending over). If you know Chinese, we put education as the most treasured inheritance we can leave our children (in the case of mainland china, child).

      I would asked all US universities and high schools of two things,
      1. Prepare a curriculum of 'American civil society and democracy'. No propaganda, just explain what made civil America it is (i.e. complete discourse on what made America so attractive, not just $ and personal freedom, to them, but the fundamental bedrocks of Americana- historical figures, incidence.etc).

      2. Make it mandatory to all foreign students on all level.

      Sorry, it's outside of pure military matter, but you don't bring a machine gun to a value/psych warfare.

    7. "Prepare a curriculum of 'American civil society and democracy'."

      I'm assuming you're talking about university level since there is no significant K-12 foreign student presence that I'm aware of. While I have no problem with your idea I also think it's probably a waste of time. By the time an 18+ year old foreign student arrives in America, their views (on everything!) are pretty well set in stone. There have been developmental studies that bear this out. It would be a rare individual who would change any significant belief simply due to an extra class.

      Now, instituting such a mandated course of study for American students would be highly beneficial since we're currently graduating college students with no real knowledge of our own history, civics, and values.

    8. These students are not typical or the norm (average ones stay home); either them or their parents made the conscious decision to leave their comfort zone to go to a foreign environment for their betterment; thus they are malleable and incentivized to learn new/different things. When I came over as a 9th grader, unlike you guys or my US born sons, I already had an establish perspective, and everything I experienced since then (in the US) I inevitably had to compare/reference/enforce/refute them to my previous perspective. In general, I bought in Americana because I observed it and lived it. I believe, a formulative and directional framework on what made this nation/people, will greatly influence these Chinese students (who came from elite and will be the future, at least significant portion, of China). They are captured audience, just like me had to sit through my 9th grade civic lessons.

  7. How about the west recognising Taiwan as an independent nation state ?

    1. well that is one thing we could do. That would be like Britain recognizing the CSA. Taiwan was formed during a civil war and China has never forgotten it or relinquished their claim, and there was no peace treaty signed after the Civil war.

    2. "Taiwan was formed during a civil war and China has never forgotten"

      You need to review your history. China was formed during a Civil War and Taiwan has never forgotten it. The ROC (Taiwan) was the ruling body and was defeated by the communists in the civil war. The communists formed "China" while the ROC moved to Taiwan.

    3. I know my history very well. The ONLY reason this wasn't settled at the end of the 1948 is because the US intervened and stopped the Chinese from crossing the strait.

      Chiang Kai Shek was a lousy leader who could not provide for his people, they lost end of story.

      By your reasoning Britain should not consider their US Colonies Free. Or Lenin did not lead the Soviet Union because Alex K's government was formed following the abdication of the Czar.

      One of the political parties in Taiwan, which has held power recently, advocates reunification with the Mainland. So how big of a mess are we stepping into?

    4. I'm taking no position on the issue, for or against either side. Honestly, I don't know enough about it to have a valid position. My "position" is historical accuracy in our statements on this blog. Nothing more.

  8. Gee its amazing during the Cold War we had active AGIs tailing our BGs as best they could 25/7 for months on end. They may have bagged an aberrant sonobouy or two but I can't remember them taking anything of much use. Works the other way too. We even recovered whole USSR subs. ;-)

    IMO for this case as soon as we whined about it the goose was cooked. Just like the intercepts and the "we are a victims response" gets predictable and appears weak to China and Russian and even Iran. We'll see what a Mattis run DoD develops for a response. I know what I would do. I would ask those of us who are of that vintage first about how we dealt with this type action during the CW.


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