South Korea’s Navy launched the fifth of its 1,800-ton class submarines on Thursday.
The Yun Bong-gil, the fifth of South Korea’s KSS 2-class (Type 214) diesel-electric air-independent propulsion (AIP) submarines, was launched July 3 at a shipyard of Hyundai Heavy Industries, the company that produced the submarine. The ceremony was presided over by Adm. Hwang Ki-chul, the chief of Naval Operations at the South Korean Navy.
The vessel is named after Yun Bong-gil, a famous anti-Japanese Korean fighter from the colonial era. South Korea’s last two submarines, the Kim Jwa-jin and the Ahn Jung-geun, were also named after independence fighters.
The new Type 214 submarine is equipped with the Haeseong-3 missile, a supersonic, stealth precision-guided ship-to-surface missile with a range of 1,500 km. “The cruise missiles with a maximum range of 1,500 kilometers are capable of carrying out precision strikes against enemies’ key facilities,” a Navy official said, Yonhap News Agency reported. This capability will likely be used to target key missile launch facilities in North Korea as part of South Korea’s active deterrence strategy. The new submarine can also lay mines for anti-submarine warfare missions.
The AIP system on the submarine allows for the vessel to cruise underwater for around two weeks at a time. It also has a maximum underwater speed of around 20 knots, which allows it to travel from South Korea to Hawaii and back without having to refuel.
As The Diplomat has previously noted, South Korea is in the process of building a formidable underwater fleet. This includes nine Chang Bogo-class diesel-electric attack vessels, which are the export versions of the German Type 209 class submarines. In 2000, it ordered three Son Won-Il class Type 214 submarines. Commissioned between 2007 and 2009, the Type 214 subs reportedly have an underwater time that is 10 times greater than the Type 209 submarines.
In 2009, South Korea ordered six more Type 214 submarines. The first of these, the Kim Jwa-jin, was launched last year at a ceremony presided over by South Korean Park Geun-hye. Xinhua News Agency has reported that the second batch of Type 214 submarines “operate various missions such as anti-ship, anti-air and anti-submarine warfare as well as ship-to-land precision strikes with cruise missiles.” The same source says that their combat system can engage up to 300 targets simultaneously.
Starting in 2018, South Korea will begin producing three domestically-designed 3,000-ton submarines. Some of the new submarines will operate from the naval base on Jeju Island that South Korea is currently constructing.
The submarine launched this week will be delivered to the South Korean navy sometime in 2015.