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South Korea to Develop Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile

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Asia Defense

South Korea to Develop Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile

The Republic of Korea Navy plans to equip its latest submarine class with the new weapon, according to media reports.

South Korea to Develop Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile

Keel-laying ceremony of South Korea’s first KSS-III (aka Jangbogo-III) submarine on May 17, 2016.

Credit: DSME

South Korea will develop a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) fitted on the KSS-III (aka Jangbogo-III), the Republic of Korea Navy’s largest and latest attack submarine class currently under construction, Korea JoongAng Daily reports, based on information provided by a high-ranking military official.

“On the 3,000-ton Jangbogo-III submarine, which is currently under production, we are installing a vertical launching pad,” he said. “The installation of a vertical launching pad indicates that the SLBM is already under development.”

The SLBM is purportedly being developed by the state-run Agency for Defense Development (ADD), which has also been responsible for developing land-based ballistic missiles, including the medium-range Hyunmoo-2B.

While the South Korean defense official did not name the SLBM prototype, it is highly likely that the missile in question is a variant of the Hyunmoo-2B or its predecessor the Hyunmoo-2A, given that it, as I reported previously, can be also launched from submarines with vertical launching pads.

Two Hyunmoo-2B (현무, literally means “Guardian of the Northern Sky”) prototypes were test-fired in June 2015.  The ballistic missile purportedly has a range of more than 310 miles and can carry a payload of up to 2,200 pounds (997 kilograms). It is capable of hitting targets anywhere in North Korea.

“Although the SLBM may lack the accuracy of the SLCM, which is equipped with a guidance system, its velocity and destructive capability are significantly greater,” said Kim Hyeok-soo, first commander of a submarine flotilla and now-retired rear admiral. “The deployment of the speedy and stealthy SLBM will allow the South Korean Navy to deliver a blow to North Korea before the situation even escalates to emergency levels.”

Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME), a South Korean shipbuilder, began construction of the first KSS-III submarine on May 17, IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly reports. The first boat is slated for induction into the ROK Navy around 2020 at a cost of around $800 million. The ninth and last KSS-III is slated for delivery around 2029.

Overall, the ROK Navy will receive nine indigenously produced 3,400-ton diesel-electric KSS-III attack submarines, all equipped with air-independent propulsion and a six-cell vertical launching system from which up to 10 Hyunmoo-3C cruise missiles along with an unknown number of SLBMs can purportedly be fired.

Interestingly, ADD engineers have allegedly been using the cold-launch technology from Russian S-400 air-to-air missile systems, which has been in service with the ROK military since the 1990s, for launching the missiles underwater. However, up until now there have been no confirmed tests of the SLBM.

“The military has already deployed surface-to-air missiles that use cold-launching mechanisms — a technology used by the SLBM, in which the engine fires after the missile reaches a certain altitude. We are trying to apply that mechanism so that the missiles can be fired underwater,” a ROK military official told Korea JoongAng Daily.