Thursday, 21 February 2013

The Pride of Goryeo Dynasty: DDH-981 ROKS Choi Young

DDH-981 ROKS Choi Young a.k.a Choe Yeong was part of the second batch of Chungmugong Yi Sunshin class destroyers that were delivered to the Republic of Korea Navy. She was built by Hyundai Heavy Industries and was launched on 20 October 2006, entering service on 4 September 2008. She is bestowed from Choe Yeong, the General of Goryeo Dynasty. She is about 150 metres (490 ft) long, 17 metres (56 ft) wide and displaces between 4,800 and 5,000 tons. Her propulsion unit is a CODOG unit, capable of propelling her at speeds of up to 30 knots (35 mph). She has a crew complement of 200. Her armament consists of a 32-cell VLS (with space to install a 64-cell system), a Mk 45 gun, a RAM launcher, a Goalkeeper CIWS and eight Harpoon anti-ship missiles. Other systems include an AN/SPS-49 radar, an MW08 radar, and a DSQ-23 sonar.

The Choe Yeong was assigned to patrol the Northern Limit Line in November 2009 after a boundary dispute clash with North Korea, the first of its kind in seven years. In August 2010, the ship participated in a series of naval drills in the Yellow Sea, four months after the sinking of the PCC-772 ROKS Cheonan of Pohang-class Corvette.

On 15 January 2011, the Norwegian-owned chemical tanker Samho Jewelry was captured by Somali pirates while en route from the United Arab Emirates to Sri Lanka. The South Korean operator of the vessel, the Samho Shipping Company, was facing huge losses because it was obligated to continue paying Norwegian investors under its charter even while the vessel was held by pirates. However, the Norwegian government had no military presence in the area at the time. Eight South Koreans were among the 21 crewmembers being held hostage.

The South Korean government dispatched the Choe Yeong, under Captain Cho Young-joo, commander of the Cheonghae Anti-piracy Unit The Choe Yeong pursued the Samho Jewelry for nearly a week until the pirates aboard the tanker were fatigued. Several fake attacks were staged to exhaust the pirate crew. When some of the pirates left the ship to attempt another hijacking on a nearby Mongolian vessel, commandos from the Republic of Korea Naval Special Warfare Brigade boarded the Samho Jewelry while a Westland Lynx helicopter provided covering fire. Communications jamming was utilized to prevent the pirates from calling for assistance. The tanker was retaken with eight pirates killed and five captured. The captain of the Samho Jewelry survived a gunshot wound to the stomach while three navy personnel suffered "light scratches". The rest of the tanker crew were unharmed.

The Choe Yeong escorted the Samho Jewelry to Oman, where they docked at the port of Muscat on 31 January. The rescue was called "a perfect military operation" by Lieutenant General Lee Sung-ho of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Republic of Korea.

The ROKS Choe Yeong was diverted from anti-piracy operations in the waters off of Somalia to evacuate South Korean nationals stranded in Libya. The Choe Yeong successfully evacuated 32 South Korean nationals on 4 March and docked in the Maltese port of Valletta. The Choe Yeong will remain on standby near Libyan waters to support "further evacuation efforts."