WHO’S DRONES UNDER INDONESIAN WATERS

Source: http://english.sia.cas.cn, 21 July 2017

Writer: Hendra Manurung is currently a doctoral candidate in international relations at Padjadjaran University, Bandung, West Java

In early January 2021, the Indonesian public was greatly shocked by the discovery of an underwater drone caught by fishermen by late December 2020, off the coast of the Selayar Islands, South Sulawesi.

The initial discovery of the drone was caught by local fishermen at Masalembu Madura on 20 December 2020 which was equipped with a surveillance camera and had Chinese characters (Kompas, January 5, 2020). Previously on March 3, 2019, also found a drone with Chinese characters and clearly written Shenyang Institute of Automation, Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Recently in 2018 (https://sputniknews.com, 2 August 2018), Shenyang Institute of Automation of Chinese Academy of Sciences or known as CAS, recently completed test flights of Xiangying-200 unmanned helicopter and it has now entered its acceptance stage. Xiangying-200 was jointly developed by Shenyang Institute of Automation and several units of CAS. It’s 8.7 meters long, 2.5 meters high, and can carry a payload of 150 to 200 kg. The key components such as the control system, power system, and transmission system are all domestically developed. It indicates that the independent research and development ability of China’s large unmanned helicopter has been further improved.

However, the shocking news was only widely discussed by the Indonesian public in early 2021. The drone with a series of sensors on its nose has a length of 2.25 meters the length of the two wings is 50 cm, the length of the rear antenna is 93 cm, while the body structure is made of aluminum with weighs 175 kilograms (Kompas, 5 January 2020).

During peacetime, a sea-glider is a small drone operated by the manufacturing country with the aim of being able to operate under the depths of the sea, and is useful for collecting marine data for the national interest by the decision-makers of the making countries. This underwater drone is equipped with sophisticated sensor instruments to monitor temperature, salinity, ocean current velocity, and various other marine conditions.

Further, the discovery of the drone in the form of a sea-glider is currently being examined by the Indonesian Navy. It is likely that a thorough investigation process will take at least a week to a month. A number of cases of finding underwater drones or sea-gliders in Indonesia since 2019 should never be underestimated and must be investigated comprehensively, and opened as widely as possible to the Indonesian public, who and which countries actually own the underwater drones. At least, there are three cases of findings of underwater drones or sea-gliders in Indonesia, namely: 1) Tenggel Island, Bintan Region (3 March 2019). At drone found Chinese characters written Shenyang Institute of Automation, Chinese Academy of Sciences; 2) Masalembu, Madura (20 January 2020). Found things like drones equipped with camera and Chinese characters; 3) Selayar waters, South Sulawesi (26 December 2020). A fisherman found a sea-glider. Indonesian Navy has not found any characters of the characteristics of the writing originating from the country of manufacture.

From now on, the Indonesian government must never be afraid of China’s expansive ambitions to control and dominate the South China Sea territories. To the last drop of blood, the Indonesian nation supports the sovereignty of Indonesia’s territorial territories.

Obviously, the location of the discovery of a number of cases of an underwater drone or sea-glider findings in Indonesia over the last two years is precisely in the location of a trade prone route in the South China Sea.

A domestically developed underwater glider set a new world record by reaching a depth of 6,329 meters, breaking the previous record of 6,003 meters held by a U.S. vessel, according to the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Furthermore, this underwater glider drone named Haiyi, which means sea wings in Chinese language (海逸), went underwater aboard the deep-sea submersible mother ship Tansuo-1 (坦索1) during a mission in the Mariana Trench in early July 2017.

Although oceans cover about 71 percent of the Earth, many parts, especially deep-sea areas, are still unexplored. By reaching 6,000 meters, Haiyi allows Chinese scientists to explore 97 percent of the maritime territories.

Haiyi, developed by the Shenyang Institute of Automation under CAS, is used in monitoring vast areas of the deep-sea environment, such as seawater temperature, salinity, turbidity, chlorophyll, and oxygen content.

During the recent mission, Haiyi dived down 12 times and traveled about 130 kilometers, collecting high-resolution data for scientific research.

The underwater glider, which carries lots of detectors, has a simple cylindrical body, with two small wings making it look like a small plane, and a long tail, plus an antenna to send signals to drone country-maker.

Different from other underwater robots, the glider does not have a propeller but uses a different method to move in the water. In its body, there is an oil bag that works like a fish bladder and a moveable battery.

The glider also has a special coat made of light carbon fiber material to protect it from the huge pressure in the deep sea. When it glides down to 6,000 meters, the pressure could reach 60 MPa, which is similar to holding 60-tons of weight on your palm.

Based on China Daily, in Oct 2014, Haiyi swam 1,022.5 kilometers nonstop in 30 days during a test, setting a record in China for the longest time and distance covered by an underwater glider.

The underwater drone found in Indonesia is similar to a missile and is a type of sea-glider. This object is made of aluminum along 2.2 meters with two wings and a 93-centimeter long antenna. There is also an instrument similar to a surveillance camera on the body of the tool.

From 2018 to 2021, the escalation of tensions in the South China Sea is still happening, triggered by rivalry and friction in the ambition of expanding the interests of China VS the United States.

These Sea-gliders are usually used by the producing countries for the benefit of the underwater research of the producing countries. This underwater drone can dive to a depth of 2,000 meters. In the sea, this type of drone can record data on temperature, salinity, and direction of seawater currents, oxygen levels, sea fertility, and the sound of fish. The data collected is then sent via satellite when this underwater drone appears above sea level. The device is estimated to be able to withstand deep-sea surveillance operations for up to two years or seven hundred and thirty days.

These underwater drones are widely used to search underwater oceanographic data and are also used for various national interests of producing countries, both for industrial purposes and strategic military interests.

For industrial purposes, underwater drones can be used for various offshore drilling activities to search for marine resources.

Meanwhile, for strategic military defense purposes, this underwater drone is operationalized in finding water depth points and detecting seawater concentrations, thus, submarine operations cannot be easily detected by sensors of warships above sea level.

This unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) is indeed included in the category of underwater research tools. UUV was found in a non-functioning condition, but it has not expired. There are internal technical obstacles in this underwater drone operational system.

It is estimated that the UUV already has an operational dive time of more than 25,000 hours or close to three years or 995 days. Most likely this underwater drone began operating in November 2017.

Never underestimate the case found in Selayar Islands, which are most likely the underwater drones produced by the bamboo curtain country. This type of underwater drone can be categorized as an unmanned underwater vehicle.

Until now there has been no official statement from the country that makes underwater drones that have been found to be in Indonesian territorial waters. It is particularly related to the aims and objectives desired by country maker production.

Obviously, the deliberate use of underwater drones in the territorial waters of other countries is categorized as an instrument to support spying and intelligence activities.

In fact, in the world of modern intelligence, various tactical and strategic instruments are deliberately used to operate in silence without arousing the suspicion of other countries. All attributes relating to certain country affiliations are intentionally omitted. The goal is not to be exposed and not easily accused by other countries when the instrument has been discovered.

If the state being spied on is an intelligence agent from a certain country that is carrying out intelligence operations, the sending country will never acknowledge the intelligence operational activities in order to maintain good relations between governments.

Indonesian public is eagerly very much waiting for the findings by the Indonesian Navy on the operation of foreign countries’ underwater drones. Indonesia must continue to strengthen national defense and improve the quality of the sea, air, and land defense.

The Indonesian government must be vigilant and ready to respond to the intelligence activities of major countries that deliberately carry out spying operations in the South China Sea area which must be responded to and anticipated.

In the midst of the spread of a new variant of the COVID-19 outbreak, in observing the dynamics of international relations in the South China Sea, it is necessary to become a concern and a policy priority by Indonesia that ‘Lupus est homo homini, non homo, quom qualis sit non novit’ or known as ‘homo homini lupus’ (drama entitled Asinaria by Titus Maccius Plautus, 254-184 BC), is real. Where, humans (country) are not humans (countries), but wolves for others, who are ready to prey on and rule at any time.

Neither friend nor foe lasts longer than the achievement of ambitions and interests in the international system.

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