September 19, 2015

China's Divine Eagle UAV - Threat to Submarines


China is developing a large twin-fuselage turbofan-powered UAV that could operate at altitudes up to  80,000 feet. It is known as Divine Eagle (also Project 973 or Shen Diao in Chinese). Its uses may include naval missions like the Global Hawk's Triton derivative (published ceiling 60,000 feet). The bus next to Divine Eagle appears to have been provided for scale. (Photo above and some details courtesy Air Force World July 4, 2015).

As at mid 2015 Divine Eagle was undergoing flight testsDivine Eagle may be a development of Russia's S-62 UAV concept. 

Submarine relevance is that Divine Eagle could loiter over contested South China and East China seas for 30+ hours with the ability to detect submarine snorkels by using cloud penetrating radar and electro-optical sensors. Divine Eagle is large enough to carry lightweight torpedoes for powered flight then torpedo mode. Divine Eagle could also act as part of a ASW chain using China's numerous small ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, ASW aircraft, ships or Chinese submarines. 

Divine Eagle's snorkel spotting capabilities means submarines in the South China Sea should, of course, be built for longer fully submerged range between snorts.   

It is suggested Divine Eagle could also mount a large metre-wave antennae between the fuselages for counter-stealth missions against stealthy UAVs (eg. the RQ-170), cruise missiles, B-2 bombers, F-22s and F-35s. 


Satellite picture of Divine Eagle large UAV next to that bus again. (Courtesy bellingcat August 23, 2015).

Divine Eagle's probable length may be 14 to 18 meters and wingspan 40 to 50 meters. It may weigh up to 15 tons, just over Global Hawk's 14.5 tons with the heavier weight perhaps for oneupmanship-propaganda reasons.  


Divine Eagle may operate from China's Sanya naval base on Hainan Island to cover the South China Sea. Naval air bases China is building on several islands (including Fiery Cross and Mischief Reefs (map above)) may provide emergency landing runways for Divine Eagle. Of course China's new South China Sea airfields would be principally used by aircraft (ASW, fighter-bombers, troop transports) and UAVs of shorter range.

Submarine Matters will provide much more detail and maps later this week on China's construction of small naval and air bases on South China Sea reefs.

Pete

10 comments:

RAJ47 said...

Hi Pete,
Please follow me on twitter @rajfortyseven
for more on China and Pakistan

Nicky said...

Hi Pete
That's why in Asia, SSK Submarines with AIP are very much prized in the region.

Peter Coates said...

Hi RAJ47

Alas I don't follow twitter as I provide longer comments/articles and appreciate comments from readers that are longer than tiny Twitter tweets.

Regards

Pete

Peter Coates said...

Hi Nicky

Yes China and Singapore are established AIP users. Japan with a few Stirlings. India expected to adopt fuel cell AIP. Maybe Russia will.

But S Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia have not adopted AIP and may rely on Li-ion Batteries instead to minimise snorting time.

Regards

Pete

Anonymous said...

Hey Pete,
S Korea has AIP on its Type 214 subs.

MHalblaub said...

Dear Pete,

South Korea was the first Type 214 user. So South Korea is the senior AIP user in the Pacific region.

Regards,
MHalblaub

Peter Coates said...

Thanks Anonymous

Thats true. South Korea's 214s have AIP of course :) Otherwise S Korea would still be building 209s.

Regards

Pete

Peter Coates said...

Hi MHalblaub [at September 21, 2015 at 8:18 PM]

My mistake. South Korea's 214s have AIP of course :)

Interesting to see whether S Korea has AIP and/or LIBs in its next class of subs (the KSS III (DSX-3000) http://gentleseas.blogspot.com.au/2015/04/south-korean-submarines-3000-ton-kss.html

Regards

Pete

Anonymous said...

Diving Eagle aerodynamics are optimized to be a medium or more likely a high altitude UAV similar to US Global Hawk, so I frankly doubt it is going to carry torpedoes or AShm. A surveillance radar is possible though.

Peter Coates said...

Hi Anonymous [Sept 23, 2015 12:37PM]

Its diificult to predict how China will use Divine Eagle - given China's opaque nature.

The 80,000 feet operating altitude is only 16 miles and force of gravity would assist any laser guided JDAM mode - then parachute deployed - lightweight torpedo.

Regards

Pete