A Chinese naval ship seized an underwater naval drone that was being used by the U.S. Navy to test water conditions in the South China Sea, the Pentagon said Friday.
Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said the incident occurred on Dec. 15 about 50 nautical miles northwest of Subic Bay, in international waters in the South China Sea.
The USNS Bowditch, an oceanographic survey vessel with a mostly civilian crew, was in the process of recovering two unmanned ocean gliders, which are used to collect information about water conditions that can help U.S. vessels operate. A Chinese ship, a Dalang-III class submarine rescue vessel, approached the area, coming within about 500 yards of the Bowditch before dropping a small boat in the water. It seized one of the gliders and brought it aboard, Davis said.
The Bowditch contacted the Chinese ship and asked for the glider to be returned. Officials aboard the Chinese ship acknowledged the radio communication, Davis said, but said they were returning to normal operations. The ship then left the area.