Navy plans maritime drills to mark first anniversary of Cheonan sinking
South Korea and the U.S. are conducting a three-day joint military amphibious logistic support exercise in the West Sea that ends Thursday, as part of efforts to enhance the allies’ combat readiness, the Combined Forces Command said Wednesday.
The “Combined Joint Logistics over the Shore” exercise being staged in waters off Anmyeon Island is the first joint logistic support exercise to occur in the West Sea. It is being staged as part of the annual Foal Eagle exercise that runs through April 30.
The Korean military in the CFC has led the process of planning and organizing the exercise, officials said. The exercise is being led by Rear Adm. Son Cha-soo, chief of the Navy’s Component Flotilla 5.
The CJ LOTS operations are to establish a makeshift pier for troops to properly operate in seaside areas where piers do not exist or are destroyed during wartime, and help transport soldiers, equipment and military supplies to support operational units.
The South has deployed five warships, 66 vehicles and 276 troops for the exercise while the U.S. has mobilized two military vessels, 25 vehicles and 168 troops.
Military vehicles are unloaded from a barge on the west coast in Taean, South Chungcheong Province, Wednesday as part of a South Korea-U.S. joint amphibious logistic support exercise. (Yonhap News)
For the drills, 16 civilian vessels including a 19,000-ton ship have also been mobilized to join the operations to transport combat equipment, ammunitions, fuel, emergency supplies and military personnel.
The U.S. military had initially planned to conduct the exercise separately by itself in operational areas for its commands in Africa or Europe, but changed its plan to help enhance the allies’ combined logistic support capabilities, officials said.
Due to the huge budget required for the LOTS operations, the South Korean military had largely depended on the U.S. military for such operations. However, the South has decided to take a leading role in the exercise as it will stand on its own after it retakes wartime operational control in December 2015, officials said.
“The exercise has been made possible as the maritime police, residents and fishermen have actively supported it although it is the peak time for fishing. This is a good example that shows our citizens put the foremost priority on national security,” said Brigadier Gen. Jang Ki-yun, senior official in charge of the logistics at the CFC.
Meanwhile, the Navy plans to stage large-scale maritime maneuvers in the East, West and South Seas from Friday to Sunday to mark the first anniversary of the sinking of the corvette Cheonan, a government source said.
“The Navy’s First, Second and Third Commands will conduct maritime drills for three days from Friday. Each fleet will mobilize their patrol aircraft and warships to engage in imaginary warfare,” he said.
The military also plans to conduct live-fire drills in the West and South Seas on Saturday, the day of the tragic sinking that killed 46 sailors.
The Cheonan, carrying 104 sailors, sank in the waters near the tense western inter-Korean border following an unprovoked torpedo attack by North Korea on March 26, 2010. The North still denies its role in the sinking.
By Song Sang-ho (email@example.com