TechAmerican surveillance tech falls into Chinese hands in South China Sea

American surveillance tech falls into Chinese hands in South China Sea

Maritime patrol aircraft P-8A Poseidon
Maritime patrol aircraft P-8A Poseidon
Images source: © | MC3 Daniel J. Meshel
Łukasz Michalik

29 June 2024 19:31

During one of the patrols, an American maritime patrol aircraft, the P-8A Poseidon, attempted to track down a Chinese submarine. It utilised, among other things, a set of sonobuoys. One of these sensors fell into Chinese hands in the South China Sea.

The Yuyuan Tantian account, associated with the state-owned China Central Television station, shared footage of the American P-8A Poseidon aircraft dropping sonobuoys over the South China Sea.

One of them fell near the Second Thomas Shoal in the Spratly archipelago. This is a hotspot – a disputed territory that the Philippines and China are trying to control. According to information provided by the Chinese, the sonobuoy dropped by the Poseidon was immediately retrieved by the Chinese coast guard.

This means valuable Western technology – a device remotely located in submarines and other submerged objects – has fallen into Chinese hands. Sonobuoys can operate passively – only collecting sounds that reach them – or actively, working with their sonar and sending the obtained data, for example, to a patrolling aircraft.

In this instance, the P-8A Poseidon was likely trying to locate a suspected Chinese submarine in the Spratly archipelago area.

P-8A Poseidon – maritime patrol aircraft

The American aircraft is a modern maritime patrol machine developed in the 21st century to replace the outdated P-3 Orion aircraft. The new design is based on the civilian Boeing 737.

The P-8A Poseidon is 39 metres long, has a wingspan of 35 metres, and has a nine-person crew. Two people are responsible for piloting, and the rest operate the onboard reconnaissance systems.

The air forces and navies of several countries operate poseidons. In the P-8A variant used by the United States, the aircraft has up to 11 hardpoints.

It can carry a wide array of maritime weaponry under them: from AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles to AGM-88 anti-radiation missiles to the latest cruise missiles such as the AGM-158C LRASM. Poseidons can also carry various types of torpedoes. They gather target information, among other ways, through sonobuoys – the aircraft is equipped with three launchers, each holding ten buoys.

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