ROKS Cheonan (PCC-772)

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Cheonan was launched in November 1989 from Hyundai Heavy Industries. The ship's primary mission was coastal patrol, with an emphasis on anti-submarine operations. The Cheonan was one of the ships involved in the First Battle of Yeonpyeong in 1999. It is also known that the ship suffered slight damage on the rear in the First Battle of Yeonpyeong. The ship had been scheduled for decommissioning in 2019. On 26 March 2010, an explosion occurred near the rear of the ship causing it to break in two. The cause of this explosion was not immediately determined, although experts said that an external explosion was likely, as the structure of the ship was bent upwards, rather than evenly splitting as would have happened if metal fatigue had been the cause, and that an internal explosion was unlikely, as explosives on board the ship were undamaged. The 1,200 tonne ship started sinking at 21:20 local time (12:20 UTC) about 1 nautical mile (1.9 km) off the south-west coast of Baengnyeong Island in the Yellow Sea. The island is located on the South Korean (ROK) side of the Northern Limit Line, the de facto boundary dividing South from North Korea (DPRK). The ship had a crew of 104 men at the time of sinking, and a total of 58 crew were rescued. Another 46 crew were unaccounted for. Cheonan's Captain, Commander Choi Won-il, said that the ship broke into two and the stern sank within five minutes after the explosion and while he was still assessing the situation. On 17 April 2010, North Korea denied any involvement in the sinking of Cheonan. Initially six South Korean Navy and two South Korean Coastguard ships assisted in the rescue as well as aircraft from the Republic of Korea Air Force. It was reported on March 27 that hopes of finding the 46 missing crew alive were fading. Survival time in the water was estimated at about two hours and large waves were hampering rescue attempts. The ship sank in 45 meter deep waters with a small portion of the overturned hull still visible above water. It was expected that it would take up to 20 days to salvage the ship. On 20 May 2010, an international commission investigating the sinking of the Cheonan presented its findings, and said that the ship was sunk by a North Korean torpedo attack. The torpedo parts recovered at the site of the explosion by a dredging ship on May 15th, which include 5x5 bladed contra-rotating propellers, propulsion motor and a steering section, perfectly match the schematics of the CHT-02D torpedo included in introductory brochures provided to foreign countries by North Korea for export purposes. The markings in Hangul, which read "1?" (or No. 1 in English), found inside the end of the propulsion section are consistent with markings on a previously obtained North Korean torpedo. Russian and Chinese torpedoes are marked in their respective languages. [READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE]





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