The world’s favorite naughty boy, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, showed off a some new naval toys this weekend. He watched a firepower demonstration where a “new” antiship cruise missile, which some in the press call the “KN-01”, was launched. The missile looks to be a near-copy of conventional Russian designs. If one looks close, you can see a radar reflector set up on the target (gotta make sure you get a hit for the big guy or you’ll end up a dead guy yourself).
China is now officially an aircraft carrier-operating navy with the commissioning of Liaoning on 25 Sept 2012. Though much has been written, I direct you to Andrew Erickson’s column in the Wall Street Journal, “Introducing the ‘Liaoning’: China’s New Aircraft Carrier and What it Means.”
Andrew (and many others) point out that the Chinese have yet to meet a major milestone; landing aircraft on the deck. Just one day after being commissioned, photos appeared on the ‘net that may indicate that landings have already happened (see “Who left skidmarks on the flight deck of China’s new aircraft carrier?“)
But does China really need an aircraft carrier? Yet elsewhere in Foreign Policy is an argument entitled “Shipping Out: Are Aircraft Carriers Becoming Obsolete?“ I will be the first to say that the arguments put forth are very simple and the author shows little real understanding of naval matters; not to mention apparent ignorance of anti-ship ballistic missiles. For a far better analysis of the Chinese naval threat I recommend the latest edition of Ronald O’Rourke’s Congressional Research Service report China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities—Background and Issues for Congress. On the issues of China’s aircraft carriers, the report points out:
Although aircraft carriers might have some value for China in Taiwan-related conflict scenarios, they are not considered critical for Chinese operations in such scenarios, because Taiwan is within range of land-based Chinese aircraft. Consequently, most observers believe that China is acquiring carriers primarily for their value in other kinds of operations that are more distant from China’s shores, and to symbolize China’s status as a major world power. DOD states that “Given the fact that Taiwan can be reached by land-based aviation, China’s aircraft carrier program would offer very limited value in a Taiwan scenario and would require additional naval resources for protection. However, it would enable China to extend its naval air capabilities elsewhere.” (p. 20-21)
Regardless of the threat, it will be fun to play out a wargame scenario using Liaoning. Indeed, the Oct 2011 issue of The Naval SITREP from Clash of Arms featured a Harpoon scenario “The Wisdom of Shi Lang” (Shi Lang being what the west originally thought the carrier would be named).
Take a peek at this article over at the Foreign Policy website. Time to get Harpoon 4.1 out and start generating some scenarios! Hmm, Sea of Dragons was published in 1997. So much has changed an update is urgently needed.
If the author is right, and the key factor is the human equation of combat, then no wargame is going to accurately simulate the battles. Without very detailed (and despised) rules for when to break off combat most wargames are “fought to the death” or past the point where a rational commander would stop fighting.
The battleship USS Iowa approaches the Port of Los Angeles where it will become a floating museum in the San Pedro section of Los Angeles, California, May 30, 2012. The battleship USS Iowa served the United States for six decades and carried the late President Franklin Roosevelt across the Atlantic to his historic meeting with Winston Churchill and Josef Stalin in World War Two. Despite extensive repairs, the 887-foot gray dreadnought is being moved by tug from Richmond, California because a U.S. Navy contract forbids the powerful battleship to be fully operational outside of navy control. Reuters Pictures
The Un’er – already famous for his
toy tours inspection visits – toured a munitions expo in Pyongyang in mid-April. What I found interesting when looking at the pictures was the ships shown. As seen here, all these ships look to be from the US Navy. From left to right I make them out to be an Aegis destroyer, an Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate, a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, and on the far right a Spruance-class destroyer. So what message was being delivered to the NorKs and what does this tell the world? I also note that if one views the KCNA propaganda film that was also released you can see NorK navy ships, but the scales are such that they look huge (indeed, they are built to be larger than the American ships). Is that the subtle message; the NorK navy is still “bigger and better” than others? Once again, I have to wonder just what “truth” is being fed to the Un’er and how his worldview is being shaped.
Seems like the Un’er has been visiting the Navy alot recently. First the East Coast, where he was regaled with stories of sinking American cruisers, and now on the West Coast.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un visits the Korean People’s Army Navy Unit 123 in an undisclosed location in this undated picture released by the North’s KCNA in Pyongyang March 10, 2012 (Rueters)
NK Leadership Watch has many more photos and breaks it down a bit more. KPA Navy Unit 123 is located on Cho’do (Cho Islet or Island). A quick check of GoogleEarth reveals several NorK naval platforms located here.
More importantly, this base feed combat power to the area of the Northern Limit Line, site of the Choenan sinking in March 2011. Given all the NorK rhetoric against South Korea, this visit has to be part of an overall propaganda campaign from Pyongyang.
In this undated photo released by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) and distributed in Tokyo by the Korea News Service on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, second left, rides a boat when he visited Unit 158 of the navy of the North Korean People’s Army. (AP Photo)
The NorK Kid continues his
toy travels inspection tours of various military units. Not unusual, but thanks to North Korea Leadership Watch we get a few more details. Here Kim Jong Un is visiting Combined Unit 597. Later in the same day he visited Unit 158 of the Korean People’s Army Navy. A very famous units, as KCNA tells us, because it sank CA-68 USS Baltimore.
According to KCNA:
The history of the development of the unit is recorded with feats which strikingly demonstrated the might of the KPA Navy by sinking or destroying a lot of enemy warships including the battle results unprecedented in the world history of naval battles KPA navymen achieved by sinking the U.S. imperialist heavy cruiser “Baltimore” with just four torpedo boats in the naval battle in Jumunjin during the Fatherland Liberation War.
The NorKs apparently even have a display in a museum in Pyongyang which claims the same.
Poor “Engrish” aside (a nearly 70-word sentence), the above is a great example of NorK delusional propaganda. The battle referenced is better known as the Battle of Chumonchin Chan which took place on 2 July 1950. As the Naval Historical Center tells it:
In the early hours of July 2, as the allied fleets converged on Korea, U.S. cruiser Juneau, British cruiser Jamaica, and British frigate Black Swan discovered 4 torpedo boats and 2 motor gunboats of the North Korean navy that had just finished escorting ten craft loaded with ammunition south along the coast in the Sea of Japan. The outgunned North Korean torpedo boats turned and gamely pressed home a torpedo attack, but before they could launch their weapons, the Anglo-American flotilla ended the threat; only one torpedo boat survived U.S.-British naval gunfire to flee the scene. After this one-sided battle and for the remainder of the war, North Korean naval leaders decided against contesting control of the sea with the UN navies. The surviving units of the North Korean navy eventually took refuge in Chinese and Soviet ports.
So let me get this straight; USS Baltimore was not involved and three NorK torpedo boats were sunk. Yet the fourth boat is heralded as the victor in that same Pyongyang museum.
All this makes one wonder just what stories the young NorKster is being told and what he really believes. Is this really just propaganda for the masses? Does Kim Jong Un believe it? Is he inclined to act based on interpretations of history like this? Has he already done so? All the more interesting in light of reports that Kim Jong Un masterminded the sinking of 26 March 2011 sinking of the ROK Navy ship PCC-772 Choenan.