The US Navy unmanned underwater glider that was gathering unclassified scientific data in the South China Sea was seized by a Chinese warship. The US is demanding its return, said the Pentagon on Friday.
The US has raised a formal diplomatic complaint over Thursday’s episode, said Navy Capt. Jeff Davis – a Pentagon spokesman adding that he was not aware of any response yet. However, the Chinese Embassy refused to give any immediate comment on it.
Davis said the USNS Bowditch – a civilian US Navy oceanographic survey ship regulated by the military’s Sealift Command, was recovering two of the unmanned gliders near the Philippines. The Dalang Class Chinese ship that does rescue and recovery missions sent out a small boat that took one of the Navy gliders, he added.
Although the Chinese ship received radio messages from the US ship, it did not respond to demands the glider be returned.
Nearly 10 feet long and not more than two feet wide, the Navy drone is a glider. It can be programmed and moves automatically through the water gathering data on temperature, salinity, and other scientific specifics used for sonar operations.
“It is ours. It’s clearly marked as ours. We would like it back, and we would like this not to happen again,” said Davis to reporters.
According to Davis, the USNS Bowditch was stopped when the Chinese ship come close to it. Though the USNS Bowditch was carrying some small arms, no shots were fired. The Pentagon said, “We are returning to normal operations.”