Vietnamese Fisherman Drags a Chinese Torpedo Back to Shore

The 22-foot-long torpedo would have been fired from a submarine.

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YouTube

One Vietnamese fisherman just hauled in a particularly deadly catch. He returned to shore hauling what appears to be a Chinese torpedo, which he said he spotted floating in his country's waters.

It's most likely that a Chinese sub launched the heavyweight torpedo in international waters and the weapon then drifted into neighboring Vietnam’s territory. The fisherman towed the torpedo to shore, where local government authorities took over and called in the Vietnamese Navy to inspect it. (This kind of thing isn't entirely uncommon. In 2017, a Russian torpedo washed up on a desolate beach in Lithuania.)

According to Tuoi Tre News, local fisherman Tran Minh Thanh sighted the object four miles off the coast of Phu Yen, a province in south central Vietnam. Tran towed the torpedo to a nearby islet, where authorities brought it to the mainland for a better look. Here’s a local news report on the incident:

The torpedo is approximately 6.8 meters (22 feet) long. It's black with a large orange band and has a pair of contra-rotating propeller blades on the rear. Behind the blades is a hole from a control-wire dispenser that the submarine uses to send commands to the torpedo. Chinese characters are visible on the torpedo’s flank.

What can we discern from all this? First off, the reported diameter of 54 centimeters makes this a heavyweight submarine-launched torpedo. These torpedoes come in two basic varieties, and the smaller, lighter ones, which are closer to 32 centimeters in diameter, launch from the decks of surface ships, helicopters, and aircraft.

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Guidance wire emanating from the inside of the torpedo.
YouTube


The orange band indicates this is a training torpedo, meaning it is probably fully functional but lacks a high-explosive, ship-cracking warhead. The use of an orange band confirms to the U.S. and NATO standard of marking training ordnance with orange. The contra-rotating torpedo blades are common to modern torpedoes because they increase stability when the weapon is moving underwater.

Finally, Defense News reporter Mike Yeo translated the characters. The exact meaning isn't clear: “connect/disconnect” could be used by ordnance personnel on land when assembling the torpedo.

接通 at the top means "Connect" and 断开 below means "disconnect". Worth noting these are 简体中文 characters

— Mike Yeo 杨启铭 (@TheBaseLeg)

Ultimately, here's what we can surmise: Somewhere out there, fairly recently, a Chinese submarine practiced shooting a torpedo. When the torpedo ran out of fuel, it became buoyant enough to float and gradually drifted close to the Vietnamese coastline. The torpedo shot must have been recent, because the tube has been floating in corrosive salt water and yet looks practically brand new.

It’s likely a YU-6 torpedo. The YU-6 entered service in 2005 and is reportedly based on the American Mk.48 and Russian Type 53-65 torpedoes. The Chinese torpedo is for use against both enemy submarines and surface ships.

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