Unexplained floating ‘battle tank’ reclaimed from South China Sea after mystery

Indonesian authorities are scratching their heads after discovering a replica tank floating in the southernmost part of the South China Sea.

The life-sized dummy combat vehicle – displaying features of both the US Army’s M1 Abrams main battle tank and a Chinese Type 15 light tank – was first spotted on December 18 by oil rig workers on the Natuna Sea.

A ship, reportedly the anchor handling vessel OPS Astrid, attempted to salvage the mystery object but the attempt was unsuccessful due to rough seas.

The reports of “objects similar to tanks” being seen floating in Indonesian waters went viral on social media in the region, and Major Saul Jamlaay of the Indonesian Army was forced to make an announcement that the “objects were not dangerous.”

Social media users speculated that the mystery object was a Type 15/ZTQ-15 tank, also known as VT-5 that was being used by the Chinese Marines as an amphibious combat vehicle.

The South China Sea is heavily contested – with both China and Taiwan claiming parts of the ocean.

China has also been putting pressure on Indonesia to stop its South China Sea oil and gas drilling projects near the Natuna Islands, deploying Coast Guard cutters to intimidate oil rig constructors.

The Chinese and Russian navies have also sent a joint flotilla of 10 warships through the narrow Tsugaru Strait, hinting at a future Sino-Russian alliance.

With the South China Sea a potential flashpoint for a conflict between China and America, the presence of Russian warships in the region places additional pressure on US Navy forces.

For several days, Indonesian Navy patrol ships searched for the floating tank in order to learn who abandoned it. They eventually caught up with it, and it has now been towed to shore.

The “tank” is apparently a hollow wooden replica – explaining how it’s managed to remain afloat since before Christmas.

However it’s still not clear who made the dummy tank – or why.

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