South Korea Submarine Capabilities

The Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) currently operates a submarine flotilla of nine diesel-electric Jang Bogo-class (Type 209/1200) and six Son Wonil-class Type 214 hybrid diesel-electric/fuel cell vessels with air-independent propulsion (AIP), all of which are based at Jinhae, close to Busan on the Republic of Korea's southern coast. [1] The first three Type 214 vessels were built by Hyundai Heavy Industries shipyards with Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME) constructing the remainder six, all with the cooperation of Germany's Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (HDW). [2] The sixth Type 214 submarine was launched in May 2015. [3] An additional three Type 214 boats will be constructed and delivered before 2020, which will bring the ROKN force level to 18 active conventional submarines. [4]

Submarine Tables for South Korea
 

The joint project with HDW included technology transfer, and South Korea is using the experience obtained assembling the Type 209 and Type 214 submarine kits to develop a series of indigenous 3,000-ton KSS-3-class submarines. [5] Construction of the first KSS-3 submarine began in November 2014. [6] The design includes an air turbine pump and programmable firing valve launch system, which will enable the vessels to more exactly meet the launch requirements of a weapon. [7] The submarines will have the capacity to launch cruise missiles with a range as extensive as 1,500 km, which would encompass strategic areas of North Korea. [8] This development represents not only a qualitative increase in the ROKN's capabilities, but also hints at possible changes to South Korea's interpretation of its strategic environment. A submarine of this size, regardless of propulsion type, will be able to remain at sea for extended periods of time.

North Korean submarines also pose a significant threat to the ROK's sea lines of communication, and the disputed western maritime border between the two countries has created significant naval tensions. The March 2010 sinking of the Cheonan ROK Navy corvette by a suspected North Korean submarine highlights the potential for naval tensions around the Korean Peninsula to turn into armed engagement. [10] As a result, ROKN officials have recently placed greater emphasis on the significant role of submarines in sea denial to hostile forces and anti-submarine warfare, rather than the longer-term goal of a blue-water navy. [11] As part of the increased focus on submarine strategy, the Navy established a formal submarine command on February 1, 2015. [12] Based in Jinhae, the command is designed to allow South Korea to more effectively organize against perceived North Korean and Chinese threats. [13] A submarine operational plan is being developed to further increase the maritime capabilities of the country. [14]

Sources:
[1] "Submarine forces, Korea, South," Jane's Underwater Warfare Systems, June 16, 2011.
[2] "Navy Launches 2nd 1,800-ton Submarine," The Korea Times, June 13, 2007, www.koreatimes.co.kr; "Submarine forces, Korea, South," Jane's Underwater Warfare Systems, June 16, 2011.
[3] Ridzwan Rahmat, "South Korea Launches Sixth KSS-2 Attack Submarine," IHS Jane's 360, May 6, 2015, www.janes.com.
[4] "Navy Launches 2nd 1,800-ton Submarine," The Korea Times, June 13, 2007, www.koreatimes.co.kr; "Submarine forces, Korea, South," Jane's Underwater Warfare Systems, June 16, 2011.
[5] "Submarine forces, Korea, South," Jane's Underwater Warfare Systems, June 16, 2011.
[6] Jung Sung-Ki, "South Korea Focuses on Underwater Protection," Defense News, April 12, 2015, www.defensenews.com.
[7] Richard Scott, "Babcock Achieves Milestone on KSS-III Submarine Weapon-Handling System," IHS Jane's 360, September 25, 2014, www.janes.com.
[8] Jung Sung-Ki, "South Korea Focuses on Underwater Protection," Defense News, April 12, 2015, www.defensenews.com.
[9] Prashanth Parameswaran, "South Korea Reveals New Attack Submarine," The Diplomat, May 8, 2015, www.thediplomat.com.
[10] "North Korean torpedo sank Cheonan, South Korea military source claims," Guardian, April 22, 2010, www.guardian.co.uk.
[11] Jung Sung-ki, "Navy to Focus on Littoral Warfare," Korea Times, September 15, 2010, www.lexisnexis.com.
[12] Jung Sung-Ki, "South Korea Focuses on Underwater Protection," Defense News, April 12, 2015, www.defensenews.com.
[13] Ridzwan Rahmat, "South Korea to Establish Submarine Command," IHS Jane's 360, January 11, 2015, www.janes.com: "South Korean Submarines a New Threat to China: Strategy Page," Want China Times, May 19, 2015, www.wantchinatimes.com.
[14] Ridzwan Rahmat, "South Korea to Establish 'Submarine Operational Plan,'" IHS Jane's 360, February 12, 2015, www.janes.com.

September 28, 2015
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