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AI submarines, ship-mounted rail guns, and other Chinese military tech

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China’s military has made several waves recently with ambitious technological advances and planned projects.

Artificial intelligence (AI) systems for submarines are being designed for China’s navy, a senior scientist on the project told the South China Morning Post.

  • The new “brain” of the sub “could support commanding officers by assessing the battlefield environment, providing insight into how levels of saline in the ocean and water temperature might affect the accuracy of sonar systems,” and a variety of other tasks, the SCMP reports.
  • For more on the significance of this news, see this Twitter thread by Elsa Kania, a scholar of security issues focused on Chinese defense innovation and emerging technologies.

China has launched the world’s first ship-mounted rail gun, a type of electromagnetic weapon that “has the potential to fire shells with enough force to destroy a warship and precision to shoot down a satellite,” the SCMP separately reports.

  • The revelation came as photographs surfaced last week of a warship in Wuhan, Hubei Province, with the technology mounted, “indicating the People’s Liberation Army Navy is testing the electromagnetic weapon and has been able to make it more compact.”
  • China may have beat the U.S. military to the punch with this technology, because while both countries have been testing it for some time, the compact device in Wuhan “appears to be the first mounted on a ship.”

In other military news:

  • A missile-defense system that can intercept a “ballistic missile while it is flying in space before re-entering the atmosphere” was successfully tested, China’s defense ministry said in a brief statement, AP reports.
  • “We must work on protecting technology as much as we have on researching and developing it,” a commentary in the People’s Liberation Army’s China National Defence News said on February 5, according to the SCMP.

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Lucas Niewenhuis

Lucas Niewenhuis is an associate editor at SupChina who helps curate daily news and produce the company's newsletter, app, and website content. Previously, Lucas researched China-Africa relations at the Social Science Research Council and interned at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. He has studied Chinese language and culture in Shanghai and Beijing, and is a graduate of the University of Michigan.