Researchers in China tested a new kind of submarine detection laser that can penetrate depths not likely to be reached by any modern naval submarines at present.
Typically sunlight can reach below just 200 metres from water’s surface whereas a team from the Shanghai Institute of Optics and Fine Mechanics tested a new aircraft mounted laser flying over the South China Sea earlier this year that can effectively penetrate aphotic depths where sunlight does not penetrate at all.
China is aiming to develop a satellite mounted laser detector capability through the Guanlan (Sea Watcher) project, which was launched in May 2018. Since its inception over 20 research institutes and universities joined the program. The Guanlan satellite can detect submarines as deep as 500 metres.
When such a technology materialises in to an operational tool the Chinese military would effectively add a significant anti-submarine deterrence capability and enable them to detect any intruding submarines by triangulating their positions and taking necessary actions.
For now the technology could be decades away however when in place it will take away much of the surprise element enjoyed by way of submarine warfare.
The PLAN (Chinese Navy) would be theoretically capable of detecting all Indian Navy submarine movements if it needs to once the Guanlan satellite becomes operational. At present naval forces around the world use less reliable acoustic technology to detect submarines.
The Chinese have also developed a significant anti-submarine warfare capability having built dozens of Variable Depth Sonar (VDS) equipped warships including Type 055 destroyers, Type 054A guided missile frigates and Type 056A anti-submarine warfare corvettes. Besides the naval aviation fleet is equipped with Z-20, Z-18F, Z-9, Ka-28 helicopters and KQ-200 maritime patrol aircraft similar to P-3.
Over time the forces will upgrade the avionics and sensors of the existing platforms possibly integrating technology derived from the Guanlan project to give the PLAN an unassailable lead in anti-submarine warfare.