North Korea remains a fascinating, if disturbing, preoccupation in the world like a country that “time forgot” out of a 1950s film. That image was on display this week when Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un visited the pride of his submarine force — a Romeo class submarine that was abandoned over 50 years ago. As someone who like to follow military history and technology, the sight of a leader on a Romeo class sub is like President Obama riding on Civil War spotter balloon as a demonstration of our continued surveillance capabilities. What is also bizarre is that, after last week giving instructions the North Korean meteorologists on how to make more accurate predictions, the Supreme Leader reportedly taught submariners “new tactics.”
Romeo-class submarines were only in service for 48 months after being designed in the 1950s. They are considered laughable boats that are so loud and slow that they seem best designed as targets for exercises. Consider the fact that World War II had just ended when these things were designed. Indeed, in some of the pictures, you can see the rust on the boat. Inside are Yu-4 torpedoes, a Chinese-made weapon dating from the 1960s with a range of four miles.
The usual breathless state-controlled media reported out the Supreme One taught a “good method of navigation” and instructed on combat readiness. As a point of comparison, a Los Angeles Class nuclear-powered attack submarine can sink a ship 150 miles away. What I particularly love are the admirals carrying around the same notebooks shown with the meteorologists to take down the wisdom of the Supreme Leader on submarine technology and tactics. It is something out of a Saturday Night Live skit. (What is disturbing is that this over-stuffed moronic dictator is constantly being told how brilliant he is. At some point, you begin to believe your state-sponsored reviews and, with a large army, egotism and stupidity can be a dangerous mix).
As usual, Kim pounded the war drums and told the fleet to prepare for battle and repeated the official slogan of the “Year of Camouflage”. Romeo subs tend to be fully camouflaged when they rest at the bottom of the ocean as was the case a few years ago when one appeared to spontaneously sink in a military exercise.