Military analysts say one option the Pentagon could use to prevent China from more provocative thefts of underwater drones is to outfit the gliders with explosive self-destruct charges.
The glider taken last week and returned Monday is under 24-hour remote communication. Adding an explosive charge to its components and announcing that capability would deter thefts. Anyone who improperly tried to steal the drone would be faced with death or injury.
The Islamic State terrorist group used a similar tactic in a recent attack in Syria.
According to Pentagon officials, Islamic State fighters last summer sent an aerial drone into Kurdish-controlled territory in Syria and made it appear that the drone had landed as a result of a malfunction or loss of remote control.
Kurdish militias retrieved the small aircraft and drove it to a nearby base, believing they were about to gain a windfall on Islamic State intelligence-gathering capabilities.
But three Kurdish fighters were killed and several others were wounded after taking the drone apart.
An investigation revealed that the Islamic State had booby-trapped the drone with a type of improvised explosive device designed to kill leaders or intelligence personnel. The bomb was disguised as a second small battery inside the drone.