Should outright confrontation ever break out in the international waterway, Beijing may be able to use underwater drones, or UUVs, to their advantage.

“The ability of UUVs to detect and hunt submarines, thereby rendering oceans transparent, potentially changes the way of warfare,” Sylvia Mishra, junior fellow at New Delhi-based think tank Observer Research Foundation, said in a note earlier this month. “It is precisely why Beijing has been investing in a burgeoning underwater drones industry, which enjoys considerable national-level funding and support.”

UUVs may be presently used for scientific research, but they could be upgraded for underwater combat, patrol, mine-sweeping and submarine detection operations, Mishra continued. “It is likely that the People’s Liberation Army will utilize UUVs for military purposes.”

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