China's new amphibious stealth drone can seize, guard South China Sea reefs — report

China's new amphibious stealth drone can seize, guard South China Sea reefs � report
On April 8, 2019, Wuchang Shipbuilding Industry Group under China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation, delivered the world's first armed amphibious drone boat Marine Lizard.
CSIC / Released

MANILA, Philippines — China's new stealth amphibious assault drone boats could be used to guard its military outposts in the South China Sea, according to a report.

Earlier this month, Beijing announced that it has built the world's first amphibious drone boat named Marine Lizard.

Chinese newspaper Global Times reported that analysts say the 12-meter-long drone ship can be used in land assault operations and can form a combat triad with aerial drones and other drone ships.

Each armed with two machine guns and a vertical launch system for anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles, the drone ships have an operational range of up to 1,200 kilometers and can be controlled remotely from 50 kilometers away, South China Morning Post (SCMP) said.

China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation, the company that built the drone ships, said the Marine Lizard "can hide and hibernate, do autonomous patrols and launch rapid assaults and landings."

Military commentator Song Zhongping said with the speed of the drone ships, it could be used for a surprise attack on an island.

"In the South China Sea, it can be used to either seize a reef or guard a reef, both offensive and defensive," Song told SCMP.

The drone ships could also be released from land or ship-landing docks to search for enemy divers or conduct surveillance. These features can be useful for Chinese coast guard and miitary forces in the South China Sea, the SCMP reported.

The company also noted that the drone vessels can stay on stealth near a target for up to eight months and can be reactivated remotely for a surprise attack. The SCMP report added that this feature could be used to take over uninhabited islands. 

Last year, Beijing had installed anti-cruise ship missiles, surface-to-air missiles and electronic jamming equipment on its "big three" islands in the Spratly chain — Fiery Cross, Mischief and Subi Reefs — which are also being claimed by the Philippines.

The Philippine military earlier confirmed that hundreds of Chinese fishing vessels, which appear to be part of China's maritime militia, have been loitering in the area of Pag-asa Island and nearby islands in the Spratlys.

The Chinese ships increased as the Philippine government started its rehabilitation operations on Pag-asa Island, one of the largest features in the Spratly Islands. — Patricia Lourdes Viray

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