South Korea's New 3,000-Ton Ballistic Missile Submarine Goes Active in 2024

Now it has three.
Brad Bergan
The new ballistic missile submarine.South Korea Navy / RoKN

Major powers of the world are rearming.

And South Korea has launched a new 3,000-ton submarine that can fire ballistic missiles, in the third locally-built major addition to the powerhouse nation, according to a statement from the country's navy, in an initial Korea Times report.

And that makes three ballistic missile submarines for South Korea.

South Korea now has three ballistic-missile submarines

The novel submarine's launch ceremony went off without a hitch at the Hyundai Heavy Industries Co. shipyard in the city of Ulsan, on the southeast section of South Korea. The new boat was named after a Korean independence activist, Shin Chae-ho, and it represents the third and final of three Changbogo-III Batch-I submarines the country has developed without outsourcing technologies, in a project that cost roughly $2.77 billion. All three of the new boats can fire submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). The first one of its class was launched in 2018, and was deployed in August. The second one, called the Ahn Mu, left port in November 2020 for tests, and will be received by the Korean navy next year, according to officials, reports Korea Times.

The new submarine is 31.5 ft (9.6 m) wide and 274 ft (83.5 m) long, and can carry 50 crewmembers underwater for 20 days without surfacing, according to the country's Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), which also said the new boat will be delivered to the Navy in 2024, following extensive test operations. "The submarine has a strong capability of deterring provocations as it can be equipped with SLBMs test-fired earlier this month," said the Navy in a release, according to the report. "Some 76 percent of its parts are locally produced, which allows for maintenance and other technological support in a timely manner."

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Earlier in September, South Korea revealed its first-ever self-built SLBM when it declared the test-launch of its Dosan Ahn Chang-ho submarine, which, like the new boat, has six vertical landing tubes that can fire SLBMs. North Korea is also developing its SLBM and submarine capacities, and revealed a suite of new SLBMs in recent months. The other Korea has also been developing a new submarine that experts think could be a 3,000-ton boat that can also carry missiles. But officials stressed that North Korea hasn't yet made a successful test of its underwater ejection of these missile systems.

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Last week in reaction to South Korea's SLBM, the North Korean Chief of missile development said his counterpart's asset was "clumsy" and still in the development stage. The North's government in Pyongyang has also pushed for the South to cease its development and procurement of advanced weapons, claiming that these actions constitute an expression of hostile intent. This comes roughly a week after the U.S. and Australia struck a deal for the former to supply nuclear-powered submarines to the latter, and it's hard not to note the growing military might of China, seeking to increase its presence and influence in the Indo-Pacific region, as a primary motivation for the U.S., Australian, and now South Korean advancements. While the new Korean submarine doesn't appear to be nuclear-powered (which explains the limited underwater time), it could see action if a conflict erupts between China and the U.S. in the region, in the coming decade.

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