Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) launched the Republic of Korea Navy’s (ROKN) seventh Son Won II-class (Type 214) diesel-electric air-independent propulsion submarine on April 5, according to a company press release. The launching ceremony of the Son Won-II-class (also referred to as KSS 2-class) submarine was attended by Admiral Jung Ho-sub, chief of naval operations of the ROKN, took place at the Special & Naval Shipbuilding Division in Ulsan, South Korea.
The submarine, named after South Korean national hero Hong Beom-do, is expected to be delivered to the ROKN after extensive operational trials in July 2017. The Hong Beom-do is the fifth KSS 2-class submarine built by HHI under license. (The KSS 2-class is a variant of the Type 214 submarine build by the Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft in Germany). HHI is currently also working on another KSS 2-class boat. The other subs of the class will be built by South Korean ship maker Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering.
The recent launch is part of a three-phased naval construction program to build up the ROKN attack submarine force. South Korea currently operates a fleet of nine 1,200-ton Chang Bogo-class diesel-electric attack submarines – a variant of the German Type 209 boat. Under the first phase, the ROKN is planning to upgrade all nine Chang Bogo-class submarines with air-independent propulsion and flank-array sonars over the next few years.
The nine Son Won II-class vessels are part of the second phase of the ROKN’s so-called Korean Attack Submarine program. The third and final phase (and also the most ambitious part of the project) will be the construction of nine indigenously produced 3,000-ton diesel-electric attack submarines – designated KSS-III – equipped with air-independent propulsion and multiple vertical launch tubes from which Hyunmoo-3C cruise missiles with a range of up to 1,500 kilometers can be fired.
The newly launched 1800-ton Hong Beom-do measures 65 meters (213 feet) in length and seven meters (22 feet) in width. With its air-independent propulsion system, built around Siemens polymer electrolytic membrane fuel cells, the submarine can stay submerged for up to two weeks and can dive up to 400 meters (1312 feet) deep. With its two MTU Friedrichshafen diesel engines, the Hong Beom-do is capable of reaching a top surface speed of 12 knots (and up to 20 knots when submerged with its electric motor).
“The submarine is loaded with long-range submarine-to-ground cruise missiles developed by Korea’s own technology, torpedoes and mines featuring an automatic simultaneous target tracking system and a torpedo guidance and detection system,” according to the HHI press release. The ship is equipped with eight 533 millimeter tubes that can fire the Baek Sang Eo (White Shark) anti-surface warfare/anti-submarine warfare heavyweight torpedo. The ship fits a crew of 40.