As it watches China build up its presence in the South China Sea, one reclaimed island at a time, the US military is betting on a new technology to help retain its edge — submarine drones. During the past six months, the Pentagon has started to talk publicly about a once-secret programme to develop unmanned undersea vehicles, the term given the drone subs that are becoming part of its plan to deter China from trying to dominate the region.

Ashton Carter, US defence secretary, made special mention of drone subs in a speech about military strategy in Asia and hinted at their potential use in the South China Sea, which has large areas of shallower water. The Pentagon’s investment in subs “includes new undersea drones in multiple sizes and diverse payloads that can, importantly, operate in shallow water, where manned submarines cannot”, said Mr Carter, who visited a US warship in the South China Sea on Friday. FULL REPORT