North Korean state media said on Sunday the country's forces were "combat-ready to sink" the Carl Vinson.

Is North Korea capable of sinking an aircraft carrier with a torpedo? They probably sank a South Korean warship like this in 2010, but this would be a different kettle of fish.


This question is on hold as 'primarily opinion-based', but I disagree. As has been pointed out below, an answer can be provided from knowledge and analysis of military hardware capabilities. However, to make this question more concrete, I'm restricting it to a torpedo attack, and it boils down to two points:

  1. Does North Korea actually have a submarine capable of reaching the battle group, keeping up with it, and firing a torpedo at it, and would such a torpedo sink the carrier? I think we can assume the battle group won't be dawdling, or getting too close to the North Korean coast.
  2. What countermeasures and defences does the battle group have against torpedo attack?
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    Impossible to answer definitely. A few torpedoes, a mine, or a dinghy with a nuclear bomb are theoretically capable. Anything else is speculation. Apr 24 '17 at 21:21
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    Modern torpedoes work by detonating underneath the keel of a ship rather than striking it directly. This creates a void underneath the vessel which then, unsupported, breaks its back under its own weight. We know NK has such torpedoes because they used one to sink a SK corvette. Whilst an aircraft carrier is a lot bigger than a corvette the basic principle is the same and a carrier is unlikely to be any more able to resist such an attack. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ROKS_Cheonan_sinking
    – GordonM
    Apr 25 '17 at 21:39
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    This question is not "primarily opinion based"! Answer can be provided from an analysis of military hardware capabilities. There's nothing opinion based about that. "-forces were 'combat ready to sink'..." is not ambiguous, it relates to the capabilities of North Korean and US naval warfare. Don't vote to close something just because it's outside of your field of expertise!! Apr 26 '17 at 9:47
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    This requires: one, an understanding of North Korea's military capabilities, which they would consider classified; two, an understanding of the difficulty of sinking the Vinson, which the US would consider classified. Anyone who has the knowledge to answer this question should not, as they would almost certainly be breaking a law. No aircraft carrier has been sunk by enemy action since World War II, which was well before the Vinson went into service in 1980. Not citable!
    – Brythan
    Apr 26 '17 at 17:37

I won't address US defensive capabilities or attempt to conclusively answer the question, but here is some of the key information one would have to consider on the North Korean side.

From a 2015 article on Ars Technica:

On February 7, the North Korean government's official news service published images of the test-firing of new homegrown anti-ship missiles from a new class of ship that the Korean People's Army (KPA) Navy has reportedly had in development for over a decade. While details are thin, the vessel is an attempt by the North Koreans to develop a high-speed "stealth" ship-killer using a surface effect hull—a combination of catamaran and hovercraft. This is the first time the ship and the missiles it fired have been shown by North Korean state media. The implied threat of the new craft and its missiles is that North Korea could strike at South Korean and US naval vessels near its territorial waters without warning.

Some more detail regarding those anti-ship missles:

the new SESs... carry four of a new class of anti-ship missile derived from the Russian-made Kh-35 Uran——a sea-skimming missile with a range of over 250 kilometers (135 nautical miles) similar to the US' Harpoon missile. It's not known if the North Korean built version has that sort of range, but during tests it was said to have hit and sunk a target ship 100 kilometers away.

Another angle, from a recent blog post on The National Interest:

Pyongyang’s mini-submarines are one of the bigger threats facing U.S. and South Korean sailors operating near North Korea’s shore. The threat can be mitigated however. “[It’s] a risk that could be mitigated by, one, taking them out pre-emptively—if not already at sea—or, two, not coming in close,” analyst Bryan McGrath, managing director of the FerryBridge Group naval consultancy told The National Interest. “They are a manageable threat.”

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