S. Korea should beef up maritime ISR capability
South Korea should speed up efforts to bolster its maritime defense posture against emerging irregular warfare tactics by beefing up its naval intelligence-gathering, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) weapons systems, an American naval expert said Tuesday.
William D. Sullivan, a former U.S. vice admiral who served as commander of the U.S. Naval Forces Korea, also called for multinational maritime cooperation to defend against the new concept of war at sea.
“The concept of war at sea has evolved continuously throughout history, but perhaps the most dramatic strategic changes have occurred in the past two decades following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War,” Sullivan said in a naval security forum in Seoul.
The two-day forum, titled “The Security Environment of the Korean Peninsula and Direction for Development of the ROK Navy,” ended Tuesday.
The former U.S. navy commander said superpowers ― the United States and the Soviet Union ― designed, built and trained their navies to conduct sustained, high-intensity warfare on the high seas.
“One of the by-products of the new ‘irregular warfare’ that has emerged following the Cold War is a refocusing of naval thinking on more directly influencing events ashore,” Sullivan said. “Force on force blue water naval warfare is no longer deemed as likely in the 21st century.”
Naval operations in the littorals bring with them new challenges for naval forces, he noted, adding that operating close to shore and in shallow water means reaction time is reduced, sensors are affected by land masses and active/passive anti-submarine warfare is degraded in performance.
Emerging threats include high speed, sea-skimming cruise missiles launched at sea or from the shore, sophisticated ballistic missiles, sub-surface threats from mini-subs and unmanned underwater vehicles and stealth technology, he said.
“Countering these emerging threats requires the development of improved tactics, techniques and procedures combined with increasingly sophisticated and networked situational awareness capabilities.
He continued, “Here in Korea, the threat of a million-man army to the North and thousands of pieces of artillery arrayed along the Demilitarized Zone is what captures the most attention.”
But in the last dozen years, all the most serious clashes with North Korea have taken place at sea, most recently in the tragic torpedo attack on the ROK Navy ship Cheonan, said Sullivan.
A multinational team of investigators has concluded that the ship was sunk by a torpedo fired from a North Korean submarine. The incident claimed the lives of 46 sailors.
North Korea has denied its involvement in the incident.