Patterico's Pontifications


South Korean Ship Update

Filed under: International — DRJ @ 2:05 am

[Guest post by DRJ]

A South Korean warship lost at sea may have been sunk by an external torpedo:

“The Cheonan was on a routine patrol on March 26 when the unexplained explosion split it in two in one of South Korea’s worst naval disasters. At least 40 sailors died.

“Basically, I think the bubble jet effect caused by a heavy torpedo is the most likely cause” for the blast, [South Korean Defense Minister Kim Tae-Young] told reporters Sunday. Kim, however, said an investigation was ongoing, and it’s still too early to determine the cause.

Kim told lawmakers shortly after the blast that a North Korean torpedo or mine was among the suspected culprits. He said earlier this month that a torpedo attack was more likely.”

The report states that local media have “increasingly been speculating” that the sinking was the result of a North Korean attack. Compounding these tensions is another report that North Korea tried to assassinate a defector living in South Korea:

“Two North Korean assassins planning to kill the highest-ranking communist official to defect to Seoul have been arrested, South Korea’s government said Wednesday.

The announcement was made hours before South Korean President Lee Myung-bak toughened his stance over the sinking last month of one of his country’s warships, killing 46 crew members.

After weeks of appealing for calm until the cause of the incident is determined, Lee said Wednesday that the sinking should counter South Koreans’ complacency about their northern neighbor.”

It’s time to keep a watchful eye on this region, although hopefully that was already being done.


27 Responses to “South Korean Ship Update”

  1. I really wonder what N. Korea’s long term plans are, if any. They have the unusual distinction of being one of the poorest places to have its birth rate fall below replacement level. Do they have a target population level they believe is sustainable under their disastrous agricultural policies? Eventually, they won’t have enough young people in ratio to their elderly to keep things functioning, to the extent that anything there functions now.

    I can easily imagine N. Korea euthanizing its elderly dependents. Unfortunately, that option is probably going to gain in popularity throughout much of the world over the next few decades as the economic burden grows. But N.K. is facing it sooner and is a lot more ruthless in regard to its citizens.

    The real question is, will they collapse before lobbing any nukes?

    epobirs (0e049c)

  2. When will Obama pledge his support for North Korea and demand that South Korea back off?

    Machinist (9780ec)

  3. An examination of the wreckage indicates an external explosion. That’s the finger pointing directly at North Korea.

    A torpedo is proof of official sanction, while a mine leaves the door open to claim error.

    ropelight (e0e500)

  4. Too bad david frum has been exiled from the conservative movement, and thus we can’t follow his policy prescriptions.

    imdw (79829b)

  5. How’s that apology, imdw? It’s not like you are contributing anything to any discussion.

    Eric Blair (e8f8ac)

  6. Too bad David Frum didn’t come to work enough to keep his well paid job. Now, if he had been a member of the UAW…

    I have done some reading about North Korea that leads me to believe that Kim is not really in charge. Instead, they have a warlord rule that resembles Chaing Kai Shek toward the end. The warlords in NK pretty much agree to let him be the boss but that stroke he is alleged to have had last year may have set into play a struggle for succession. That sort of thing in a nuclear state can get really worrisome. The torpedo may have been a step toward forcing some issue.

    Mike K (2cf494)

  7. The much – ballhooed “Sunshine Policy” was always nothing but empty promises and fairy tales told by the South Koreans in an attempt to appease the ruthless nutbags across their border. Of course, having Madeline the Troll dance with Dear Leader didn’t help matters much, did it?

    Dmac (21311c)

  8. N.K. has a long history of provocative actions, this is likely one more in that dastardly list. I wonder when the US administration and the SK administration will wake up to this and recognize that you can’t treat with madmen?

    GM Roper (6afe02)

  9. President Lee has been forced to confront the inevitable.

    GeneralMalaise (24d3e0)

  10. Soon, Obama will find himself in the same predicament.

    GeneralMalaise (24d3e0)

  11. Greetings:

    There have also been recent reports that North Korea has seized several buildings in North Korea that were built by South Koreans as part of a joint tourism venture. (Money for Commies, Tricks for free.)

    I watch Korean TV (KBS) occasionally and despite the years of separation there is a deep emotional bond between the people of the two states that should be factored in. On the other hand, the South Koreans are very accepting of their military service obligations, even their celebrities serve. The South Korean Marines seem to be held in especially high regard.

    11B40 (52ca9e)

  12. All S. Korean military conscripts train daily in Tae Kwon Do, and are blackbelts after two years.

    Actually, there are quite a few wealthy S. Korean families who send their male children abroad for “study” but also to avoid being conscripted. It turns into a problem when the 30 year-old males want to return to live and work in S. Korea as bi-lingual businessmen. They still owe the service time. There are small enclaves of these kids studying in RPV, Westlake, and Ojai.

    TimesDisliker (8941d3)

  13. The sad thing is that many South Korens have great empathy for their relatives in the North – who they feel are victims of communism and not really their enemy.

    The loss of millions in a short period of time is what is in store if swords get unsheathed

    You have a dying despot on one side – which nothing to lose and for the first time in decades a man of substance and personal courage on the other.

    But someone – for the good of al – has to back down

    40 vs 400,000?

    EricPWJohnson (277a19)

  14. Are there any Navy guys (current or former) commenting here? How in the world can it be that here in the year 2010 with all of our technological advances we somehow can’t immediately tell if a ship came under a torpedo attack? I wonder if it isn’t in fact known exactly what happened to the ship, but the South Korean authorities are suppressing the information because they don’t want a showdown with the North right now.

    JVW (08e86a)

  15. Why can’t we tell if this was a torpedo attack???

    A couple possible reasons:
    1-The ship sank, and it is probably considered way too dangerous (due to the political situation) to do a deep dive to examine the wreckage;
    2-NRO probably was not monitoring the situation and thus there were no satellites with eyes on the area.

    Any confrontation between the South and North Koreans will be at the discretion of the North – they control the situation, since they have artillery/missiles that can impact Seoul, and put a million men across the DMZ anytime they wish (to engage the tripwire forces of the UN/US).

    AD - RtR/OS! (fb87e7)

  16. “Are there any Navy guys (current or former) commenting here? How in the world can it be that here in the year 2010 with all of our technological advances we somehow can’t immediately tell if a ship came under a torpedo attack? I wonder if it isn’t in fact known exactly what happened to the ship, but the South Korean authorities are suppressing the information because they don’t want a showdown with the North right now.

    Comment by JVW — 4/25/2010 @ 11:38 am

    How did a torpedo get through to sink the ship without anyone knowing? There may have been an instance of dereliction of duty from those on watch on the Cheonan, i.e. not focusing on their assigned tasks. Even so, you’d think one of the watch standers, either the duty sonarman, the CIC watch, the officer on the bridge, the weather deck port/starboard and/or aft watch would have caught an imminent threat like a torpedo. Maybe they did, but too late.

    Then there’s the possibility of F-Troop/McHale’s Navy honorable mentions being on watch. I bet that most vets can recall a few fellow service members who were F-Troop/McHale’s Navy material. I know I can, even close to four decades after the fact.

    In such an environment a harmonic convergence of dissimilar instantiations of SNAFU or even a low-grade goofup can result in a major catastrophe.

    Oh yeah. If it was a torpedo, I keep tripping over the abundant use of the word likely, it may have been heard depending on who was, or *looks around* was not in the area. But for political considerations, that information may be classified such that it’s not going to be made public, or even shared beyond a circle of high echelon within the US and/or ROK government/military, anytime in our lifetime. In any event, someone up the chain has a lot of splain’ to do.

    I imagine that those who should be in the know, know. And they have known from the beginning.

    Bahrack (b4a61e)

  17. The wreckage has been lifted and is being examined. It was then that the torpedo theory got more support because the explosion was obviously external, not internal. Here is the ship with the stern covered up. I doubt the human torpedo story,

    Mike K (2cf494)

  18. Time to arm the South Korean dolphins.


    daleyrocks (1d0d98)

  19. Mike K,

    Thank you for the linked article. I did not realize that if North Korea did this, it “would be the bloodiest single incident since an uneasy truce brought the Korean War to an end in 1953.” I don’t see how the South Koreans can do anything without more proof, but surely this will impact their elections and public opinion.

    DRJ (09fa6c)

  20. Modern torpedoes do not run like what you see in WWII or WWI movies with the long bubble trails, etc. The usual method for detecting a running torpedo would be passive sonar. Depending on a lot of variables, including how modern the SK’s sensors were, how advanced the Nork’s torpedo was, and even how fast they had set it to run, this attack might have been extremely hard to detect as it happened. It is easy to say that one should always be vigilant but getting a crew to stay at 100% readiness is extremely difficult.
    This type of attack would occur suddenly with no warning by a sub that the SK’s would not even suspect was in the area. The absolute first sign that anything was wrong would be a catastrophic explosion from which the ship would have very little chance of surviving.

    Have Blue (854a6e)

  21. Admittedly my knowledge of the Navy puts me closer to WWII than the current navy. D%&*^^! I’m getting old.

    I was under the impression that the Nork’s sub fleet consists of circa 1950’s era soviet diesel subs and some homemade variants of cold war eastern block diesel boats. Screw noise (Toshiba Machine technology exports to the USSR during the 80’s notwithstanding) being relatively loud and detectable when stacked up against current western sonar capabilities.

    I also assumed that their torpedo technology was not much better. But I’ll readily defer to someone who is in the know.

    On the matter of being alert on watch, I’ll agree that sailors will often drift when they should be 100%, but anything less than 100% when operating near nork waters is unacceptable. I can’t imagine that has changed in the past four decades.

    Bahrack (b4a61e)

  22. #21 Bahrack:

    but anything less than 100% when operating near nork waters is unacceptable.

    Unless they had reason to go to general quarters, there was likely little time to respond even if the attack was detected.

    I am not familiar with operating in the area where Cheonan went down, but some of the areas near there that I have operated in were challenging for sonar; and that may have been a factor as well.

    EW1(SG) (edc268)

  23. Bonifas’s murder didn’t lead to war, so I don’t think anything will push the South to war.

    I have no doubt the North Koreans could manage a torpedo attack on an alert ship. Too many advantages a sub can have over a ship. They can just sit there quietly for a week, if they want.

    These few 46 sailors are small potatoes compared to the North Koreans that North Korea is killing. But there’s no easy answer. I think Iraq would look like Air Force Officer Training School compared to occupying a brainwashed North Korea.

    Dustin (b54cdc)

  24. Here’s what Global Security says about North Korea’s subs:

    North Korea builds small- and medium-size submarines mainly in the Nampo and Wonsan Shipyard, but also in other small- and medium-size shipyards along the two coastal lines where naval and military bases are scattered.
    Submarines, most of which are of the 20-some Romeo-class, are outdated and slow, but they are sufficiently capable of blocking sea lanes. These vessels could attack ROK surface vessels, emplace mines anywhere within the ROK maritime territory, or secretly infiltrate commandos into the South.

    And its mines:

    The DPRK has a credible mine warfare capability. There are numerous small surface ships that are capable of delivering mines within both the navy and civilian sectors. Mines will be used to defend against amphibious assaults, defend strategic ports, and provide seaward flank protection for land forces. Defensive mine fields will be monitored by coastal observation teams and radar, and they will be supported by well emplaced artillery and missile batteries. This will make close approach and mine clearing operations extremely hazardous. DPRK has a large inventory of older technology mines, significant historical experience with their effectiveness, and, most importantly, the willingness to use them.

    DRJ (09fa6c)

  25. I can’t argue with anything you’ve said EW1. And I agree with Dustin in that a sub laying in wait has the advantage.

    Nope, I’m not saying that there would have been time to counter the torpedo or avoid the hit, but I have to hope that the watch on the ship could have detected a torpedo heading their way.

    At least that would do away with the persistent use of likely torpedo in the reports. But then again, the authorities may not want to release the details for any number of reasons.

    Ok, I’ve exceeded my WAG quota.

    G’nite folks.

    Bahrack (3636f7)

  26. ” will be supported by well emplaced artillery and missile batteries”

    Always wondered if the old MLRS fire missions off the coast of Korea were really tests related to the use of cluster munitions to create corridors safe from mines, like a suppression of enemy air defense mission cluster munitions were slated (but not used) for Kosovo and Apaches.

    Mines are a mess. North Korea hasn’t had a whole lot to do besides prepare for a war. Digging tunnels and making minefields and tank traps. I can’t imagine a war there when the ice melts and everything is a muddy mess.

    I would hope they know exactly whether or not the attack was a torpedo by now. I think all ships in places like that would use a black box that saves sonar data for later analysis. Surely they do that. A torpedo would leave traces, too.

    Dustin (b54cdc)

  27. Of course there’s the assumption that it was indeed an NPK attack, other culprits are the Russians, and the Chinese

    Also the latest technological developments in anti ship armnament are speculated to be a new generation of very slow moving ultra quiet torpedoes that are launched outside of efficient acoustic range and creep towards the target when within a few thousand meters accelerate rapidly to 70 plus knots giving just mere seconds to detect access and evade.

    Additionally, ships sensor ability is degraded considerably in cold shallow water and to maximize passive phones – ships have to turn off some counter measures and reduce speed leaving them even more vulnerable – that area of the world is ideal for subsurface warfare

    EricPWJohnson (a12f23)

Powered by WordPress.

Page loaded in: 0.1477 secs.