The glider was operating with U.S. Military Sealift Command ship USNS Bowditch (T-AGS-62) about 50 miles off of Subic Bay in the Philippines when a People’s Liberation Army Navy ship took the glider both defense officals said.
“A Chinese naval ship that had been shadowing the Bowditch put a small boat into the water. That small boat came up alongside and the Chinese crew took one of the drones,” CNN reported on Friday
The gliders, far from the Navy’s most sophisticated unmanned vehicles, are used by the service as oceanagraphic survey tools. The gliders largely use unclassified means to collect data for the Navy’s charts and ocean models. The service deploys the systems for months at a time and they transmit data back to the Navy.
The Bowditch made radio contact with the Chinese ship to demand its immediate return but were "ignored". "This is not the sort of conduct we expect from professional navies," Capt Davis added.
China has built seven large islands in the South China Sea and put air strips and antiship and antimissile weapons on them. There are many different claims to the South China Sea.
The South China Sea has global geopolitical strategic value and has perhaps a trillion dollars worth of oil and natural gas.
The South China Sea is a potential flash point for conflict.