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South Korea Commissions First Locally-Built Ballistic Missile Sub

Korea's first domestically-built submarine capabile of launching ballistic missles
Korea's first domestically-built submarine capable of launching ballistic missiles (RoKN photo)

Published Aug 15, 2021 12:14 PM by The Maritime Executive

South Korea has joined a growing list of nations boosting their defense capabilities with the commissioning of its first domestically-built submarine capable of launching ballistic missiles. On August 13, the Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME) delivered the first 3,000-ton-class submarine capable of firing submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) to the Republic of Korea Navy (RoKN).

The submarine, named Dosan An Chang-ho, is the first of three 3,000-ton-class Changbogo-III Batch-I submarines that South Korea plans to build by 2023 using domestic technologies as part of a $2.7 billion project launched in 2007 that calls for a total of nine submarines.

“After the deployment, the submarine will take an active role as the country's strategic weapons system against threats,” the Navy said in a statement. The submarine will be deployed in August 2022 after undergoing a series of operational performance and capability evaluations.

With the commissioning of the submarine, South Korea becomes the eighth nation to produce an indigenous submarine with ballistic-missile firing capabilities and a capacity of 3,000 tons or more. The commissioning comes amidst on and off tensions on the Korean peninsula. North Korea is rumored to be building a similar-sized submarine.

The RoKN reported that 76 percent of the component parts for the new submarine were locally made, including lead-acid batteries and an AIP system featuring hydrogen fuel cells.  Among the other features of the submarine is an active and passive sonar suite from LIG Nex1, including bow cylindrical, flank, intercept, ranging, and towed arrays, as well as the Hanwha Systems Naval Shield Integrated Combat Management System. It also features the Safran attack periscope and optronic mast, and the Indra Pegaso radar electronic support measurement (RESM) system.

The new class of submarine is the Navy’s first with the capability of firing submarine-to-ground ballistic missiles from six vertical launching tubes. With a length of 274 feet, a width of 31.5 feet, and a draft of 25 feet, the submarine’s maximum submerged speed is 20 knots while the cruising range at economic speed is 10,000 nautical miles. It can carry 50 crewmembers and can operate underwater for 20 days without surfacing.

The commissioning ceremony of the diesel air-independent propulsion (AIP) submarine took place at the Okpo Shipyard of Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering on Geoje Island in South Gyeongsang Province. The Dosan Ahn Chang-ho is named after a prominent independence fighter who led education reform and modernization movements during the Japanese colonial occupation.

Before the commissioning of the Dosan Ahn Chang-ho, South Korea was operating 1,200 ton and 1,800 ton submarines.