A Vietnamese fisherman caught a bit more than he bargained for earlier this week, when he hooked what appears to be a Chinese torpedo about four miles off the Vietnamese coast. Although the fisherman, Tran Minh Thanh, snagged the torpedo only about four miles from shore, it remains likely that if it is indeed a Chinese torpedo, it was still likely fired in international waters, which begin 12 nautical miles off shore. Because China has laid claim over the vast majority of the South China Sea, it’s likely that the torpedo was launched during training exercises — particularly because it appears to be armed with a dummy warhead.
Based on the images available, it seems likely that the torpedo is a Chinese made Yu-6.
To be fair, it also doesn’t look too dissimilar to America’s Mark 48 torpedo that remains in service — this is in large part because it’s believed China stole elements of that torpedo design during their development of the Yu-6.
The orange band near the nose of the torpedo indicates that it isn’t armed with a live warhead, though the wire extending from the tail, just past the propellers, suggests that is indeed a functional torpedo. It’s size, at approximately 22 feet long and a telling 21 or so inches in diameter, indicates further that it’s a submarine launched weapon. Torpedoes launched from surface ships and aircraft traditionally have a smaller diameter.
One defense journalist took to Twitter to offer a translation for the visible characters on the torpedo, which say “connect” and “disconnect,” in characters indicative of the People’s Liberation Army-Navy.
接通 at the top means “Connect” and 断开 below means “disconnect”. Worth noting these are 简体中文 characters https://t.co/sm0IZAW8iQ
— Mike Yeo 杨启铭 (@TheBaseLeg) December 19, 2018
Based on the evidence available, it seems likely that the torpedo was launched from a PLA-N submarine elsewhere in the South China Sea, and likely within the confines of what other nations would consider international waters (despite China’s refusal to acknowledge that any water in the South China Sea falls under the international classification). The dummy torpedo then drifted at sea until it was stumbled upon by Tran Minh Thanh and dragged back to shore.
You can see more of the torpedo in the local news report below: