Construction begins for third-generation attack submarine

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Construction begins for third-generation attack submarine

The South Korean Navy held a keel-laying ceremony on Tuesday for its 3,000-ton next-generation attack submarine, which is capable of launching a ballistic missile.

The Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) said some 100 government and military officials attended the ceremony in Geoje, South Gyeongsang, to officially inaugurate the construction of the Chang Bogo-III, a Batch-I submarine that is the first of its scale to be built with Korea’s proprietary technology.

“The submarine’s front portion, which has been under construction since November 2014, was completed, so we held a keel-laying ceremony,” a DAPA official said, “and from here, we will build the back part of the submarine in a block shape to complete it.”

When the submarine is completed in 2020, it is expected to have the capability of carrying vertical launchers and firing cruise missiles that can strike any part of North Korea. A vertical launcher will enable quicker launches of more missiles.

The Navy is currently operating 1,200-ton and 1,800-ton locally-built submarines, but this is the first time a 3,000-ton attack submarine is being indigenously constructed.

Previously, 3,000-ton submarines were constructed with the support of German shipbuilder Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft, but the Chang Bogo-III is being built by Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering.

The submarine will be equipped with the latest technology, including an air-independent propulsion system and more advanced sonar. It will be powered by a diesel-electric propulsion system and be able to conduct operations for about two weeks.

It will also carry a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM).

“The success of the Chang Bogo-III project will not only be a springboard for Korea to become a submarine power, but a turning point for our top-class submarines to take the lead in the defense market,” said Jeong Woo-seong, a DAPA official overseeing next-generation submarine projects.

On April 23, Pyongyang conducted an SLBM test from a submarine off its eastern coast, which exploded in midair. While the launch may not have been a “great success,” as claimed by Pyongyang, experts point out that North Korea has made progress with its SLBM technology.

“North Korea recently developed an SLBM to load onto its 2,000-ton submarine, but our 3,000-ton submarine will be completed by early 2020 and will be able to carry a more powerful SLBM,” a military official said.

The DAPA plans to build three Chang Bogo-III-class submarines between 2020 and 2024.

The military expects its Hyunmoo-2b ballistic missiles, with a range of over 500 kilometers (310.7 miles), to be loaded onto the submarine.

BY JEONG YONG-SOO, SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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