The U.S. is reconstructing a global maritime spy system that has lain dormant since the Cold War aimed this time at tracking Chinese submarines, Reuters reported, citing three people with knowledge of the plans.
China has embarked on a massive upgrade to its submarine fleet, producing nuclear-powered vessels that are quieter, more difficult to detect and could more easily launch missiles at targets on land, according to the Pentagon’s 2022 report on China’s military power. In response, the U.S. Navy began a multibillion-dollar, top-secret project, the Integrated Undersea Surveillance System (IUSS), to revamp undersea listening cables and surveillance ships with cutting-edge acoustic technology and communications systems to monitor Chinese submarine movements, the sources told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
American officials have sounded the alarm over China’s intensified military activities in the Taiwan Strait, apparently intended to intimidate Taiwan, a democratically governed island China wants to control. Beijing has signaled intent to impose its will on Taiwan through force.
As nuclear tensions spiked between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, the U.S. military laid down a vast network of underwater acoustic cables to spy on Soviet submarines roughly 70 years ago, only revealing the existence of the program in 1991. Now, the Navy is applying modern technologies to make each node in the network smaller and more capable, and add a host of unmanned, artificial intelligence-operated capabilities, Reuters reported, citing the sources.
Existing surveillance ships will be retrofitted with acoustic devices and microphones, according to Reuters. A fleet of underwater sea drones will patrol the ocean depths and portable “underwater satellite” sensors will listen for enemy vessels. AI powered software can collect and analyze data from these new capabilities, providing information to the military in seconds.
The U.S. plans to sell Australia similar technology, according to Reuters.
Reuters also spoke to more than a dozen people working on the program and reviewed hundreds of Navy contracts. It found at least 30 tied to the IUSS granted in the past three years.
Capt. Stephany Moore, a Navy intelligence officer, leads the IUSS at the direction of Rear Adm. Richard Self, commander of the Submarine Force U.S. Pacific Fleet, according to Reuters.
A spokesperson for the Pacific Fleet declined to comment on the program for “operational security reasons.”
“The systems have and will experience growth and recapitalization as subsea technologies are developed and as defense priorities are updated,” the spokesperson told Reuters.
China is also working on its own maritime surveillance plan called the Great Underwater Wall, two Navy sources told Reuters. The Wall involves a cable network similarly equipped with listening devices carpeting the South China Sea, where tensions have concentrated over Chinese military activities its neighbors claim are undermining their freedom and security.
China also operates a fleet of underwater and surface unmanned vehicles to watch for enemy submarines, the sources told Reuters.
The Pentagon, Navy and National Security Council did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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