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Revitalized Cheonan ship to defend West Sea

Posted May. 20, 2023 08:04,   

Updated May. 20, 2023 08:04


Thirteen years ago, the corvette Cheonan was tragically struck by a torpedo attack from a North Korean submersible in the waters near Baengnyeong Island in the West Sea. Now, the Cheonan has been transformed into a state-of-the-art escort ship to safeguard the West Sea from the end of this year.

On Friday, a commissioning ceremony for the new frigate Cheonan (FFG-826) took place at Jinhae Naval Port in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province. This event marks the formal delivery of a warship constructed at a shipyard to the Navy and signifies its official integration into the fleet as a combat vessel. During the ceremony, the commissioning flag was raised. The new Cheonan frigate represents a remarkable upgrade from its predecessor, the Corvette Cheonan (PCC-772, 1000 ton), which tragically sank after being torpedoed by North Korea on March 26, 2010.

The ceremony was attended by military officials such as Navy Commander Choi Won-il, the former commander of the Cheonan (now a reserve navy colonel), war veterans, and the bereaved families of those killed in the Cheonan incident. “I hope the newly resurrected Cheonan frigate would continue its mission to protect Korea,” said former Captain Choi. “We ask for strong punishment if North Korea engages in any further provocation, in honor of the fallen crew members of PCC-772 Cheonan and the brave soldiers who participated in the war.” Lieutenant Colonel Han Kyu-cheol, the commander of the new Cheonan, said, “We’re committed to defending the West Sea in any circumstances with pride and inheriting the noble sacrifice and determination of the marine defenders.” During the ceremony, Lieutenant Colonel Park Yeon-soo (then Captain) and Sergeant Ryu Ji-wook (then Sergeant), who were the crew of the Cheonan, which was hit by North Korea 13 years ago, raised the commissioning flag of the new Cheonan.

The new Cheonan is the seventh vessel among the new frigates, replacing older frigates and patrol ships. Construction of the ship commenced in June 2020 and was launched in November 2021. Following a year and a half of equipment installation and commissioning evaluations, a commissioning ceremony was held to mark its entry into service. With dimensions of 122 meters in length, 14 meters in width, and 35 meters in height, the new Cheonan can carry one maritime operation helicopter and reach a maximum speed of 30 knots (55 km/h). Its primary armaments consist of ship-to-ship, ship-to-air, and ship-to-surface guided missiles, 5-inch guns, and long-range anti-submarine torpedoes (Hong Sang Eo) known as “submarine killers.”

Furthermore, the new Cheonan has significantly enhanced its anti-submarine capabilities by incorporating a “hybrid propulsion system” that combines a propulsion motor with a gas turbine engine. This system enables the ship to navigate stealthily without being detected by enemy submarines, thanks to a low-noise propulsion motor. In case of emergency, it can be switched to a gas turbine engine for high-speed maneuvering. The new Cheonan is set to be deployed in the West Sea by the end of this year after undergoing a weaponization process and operational capability evaluation.

Sang-Ho Yun ysh1005@donga.com