A Chinese government survey vessel, the Xiang Yang Hong 03 has been spotted operating in the Indian Ocean and carrying out a search pattern west of Sumatra, the latest satellite and open-source intelligence (OSINT) has revealed. It has been reported that the same vessel was also located in Indonesian territorial waters last week.
According to H.I. Sutton, defense and OSINT analyst, the vessel may have gathered information related to salinity, bathymetry, and currents of the water, which can be very useful while launching a submarine attack.
In November 2020 it was reported that two Chinese research and survey vessels were located by the Indian Navy close in Sri Lankan waters, this reflects China's aggressive maneuvering in the Indian Ocean and hence can be viewed as a cause of concern for India.
The vessel suspected of operating underwater gliders in the Indian Ocean to map the sea bed, gliders can be used to gather hydrographic data which can be further used for military purposes. The data can also be used to make a submarine undetectable. China has large plans for the Indian ocean, in order to achieve those objectives china requires a lot of information before making a big move.
"The ships are operated by the State Oceanic Administration (SOA). In December 2019, Xiang Yang Hong 06 deployed at least 12 underwater gliders in the Indian Ocean. These long-endurance uncrewed underwater vehicles (UUVs) gather data on currents and water properties. Their data is also civilian-defense agnostic, and particularly relevant to submarine warfare", stated H.I. Sutton. According to Sutton China could have deployed more of these gliders in the Indian Ocean.