Chinese Testing Experimental Armed Drone Ships at Secret Naval Base

In front of scenic cliffs and an ornamental European-style windmill is a secret People’s Liberation Army Navy pier. Here, at a former tourist resort on China’s northern coast, is where the PLAN is developing some of its most secretive, and previously unreported, naval programs, USNI News has learned.

The pier near Dalian is where China is testing its large uncrewed surface vessels (USVs), according to satellite photos provided to USNI News by Maxar and an analysis of open-source intelligence.

Construction of the new pier started in early 2016 and took about a year, according to satellite photos. Since then it has been used intermittently by the PLAN. When in use, two large work barges are moored alongside to provide basic facilities for crews and support staff. The facility itself has only the most basic semblance of a military base. Taken together this suggests that it is an auxiliary facility, used to support short-term trials and exercises.

Submarines have also been observed at the pier. On one occasion, a Type-035 Ming Class boat was seen performing pier-side ballast tests, according to photos provided to USNI News by Maxar. The facility may be used as overspill for the nearby Xiaopingdao naval base.

The new base’s status as an auxiliary site brings benefits as an uncrewed surface vessels (USVs) testbed like being further from main naval bases, giving the unmanned more space to operate safely. The site is just nine miles from the submarine base at Xiaopingdao, and 5 miles as the crow flies from Dalian. And what may be more significant is that it’s only a mile from a civilian yacht arena where a USV was seen in 2020. That USV, known as the ‘JARI’, is similar to one of the two new USVs seen at the pier.

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Source: USNI