S. Korea launches first 3,000-ton submarine capable of firing ballistic missiles

Lim Chang-won Reporter Posted : 2018-09-14 15:18 Updated : 2018-09-14 16:32
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[Yonhap Photo]

SEOUL -- South Korea's first 3,000-ton submarine capable of firing ballistic missiles made its debut on Friday. The diesel-electric submarine can sail at a maximum speed of 37 kilometers per hour with about 50 people aboard.

The submarine named "Dosan Ahn Chang-ho" was unveiled in a ceremony attended by President Moon Jae-in at the shipyard of Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering on Geoje Island. After an operational test and evaluation, it will be delivered to the navy in late 2020.

The launch of a new submarine built with indigenous technology will signal "the leap forward" in South Korea's defense industry, Moon said in a speech, adding South Korea should build strategic weapons even in times of peace to bolster its defense power.

The new submarine demonstrates the technical superiority of South Korea's shipbuilding industry, he said, pledging full government support to help domes shipyards regain their competitive edge in the global market.

The new submarine equipped with high-performance fuel cells and six vertical missile launchers cost about one trillion won ($893 million). Its localization rate stands at 73 percent, installed with home-made equipment such as a sophisticated combat system which integrates and processes various information for navigation and combat, using various sensors such as sonar and radar.

South Korea has a three-phase project to develop a fleet of submarines. Through the first phase, nine 1,200-ton diesel-electric subs have been built with technical help from Germany. The second phase called for the construction of six 1,800-ton hybrid diesel-electric/fuel cell vessels. Daewoo Shipbuilding will build three 3,000-ton submarines by 2023 and three 3,600-ton submarines by 2028.

South Korea has upgraded its submarine technology to cope with North Korean missile and nuclear threats. At an inter-Korean summit in April, the two Koreas agreed to work on ending the status of war, stop all hostile acts against each other and replace a fragile armistice signed at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War with a lasting peace regime.

Despite an inter-Korean thaw brought by North Korea's sudden peace overture, the South's defense ministry called for the buildup of strategic assets and the deployment of upgraded warships. Military data showed North Korea operates 20 1,800-ton submarines and about 40 smaller ones. 

The North's SLBM program sparked calls for the development of a nuclear-powered submarine in South Korea.