China's CSSC Begins Building "Large Unmanned Ship" With Naval Features

Image courtesy CSSC / Chinese state media

Published Jun 5, 2022 5:57 PM by The Maritime Executive

The world's largest shipbuilder, CSSC, has begun construction on an "advanced large unmanned ship" at a yard in Guangzhou. 

The design bears a striking resemblace to the trimaran Independence-class littoral combat ship, with the addition of the low-observable tumblehome bow and inward-canted deckhouse of the Zumwalt-class destroyer - all familiar features from U.S. Navy ship-design trends in the mid-2000s. It appears to have a deck-mounted weapons platform and twin side hatches that could be positioned appropriately for torpedo launchers. 

According to CSSC's No. 716 Research Institute, the new drone ship will be a high-speed hydrofoiling design, characterized by high endurance and long range. As with other recent Chinese defense shipbuilding projects, the design team emphasized domestically-sourced components, especially the main propulsion system. 

The No. 716 research institute (along with two dozen other 700-series institutes at CSSC) is subject to U.S. Commerce Department controls and restrictions on technology and goods exports. Multiple CSSC-owned shipyards in Guangzhou are subject to similar restrictions. 

CSSC Huangpu Wenchong recently launched what it believes to be the world's first "drone carrier," an optionally-autonomous vessel that carries other autonomous systems. The 290-foot vessel is designed to carry "dozens" of unmanned systems fitted with scientific instruments. The project's overarching objective is to deploy unmanned devices en masse for a 3D, networked observation system, above and below the surface - an "Intelligent and Agile Ocean Stereoscopic Observation System" covering an area about 50 nm in diameter, with plain crossover applications for naval ISR purposes.