September 19, 2018

South Korea's nuclear ambiguity for its submarine missiles, until?

South Korea's intentionally ambiguous mixture of usually conventional Hyunmoo cruise missiles and usually nuclear Hyunmoo ballistic missiles. (See greatly expanded image by clicking Missile Threat (the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) Missile Defense).

Pete has added additional information in bolded or in square brackets [...] to the article below that "Unknown" identified on September 18, 2018. The article is from THE KOREA TIMES, apparently dated "2011-05-02") and written by Jung Sung-ki / aka Jeff Jeong? (who is now a Seoul correspondent for Defense News)

[Exclusive] Vertical launching system for attack subs developed

Korea has developed a vertical launching system (VLS) [known as K-VLS or KVLS with, eventually, 10 cells for SLBMs] to be installed on 3,000-ton heavy attack submarines [KSS-IIIs] to be deployed after 2018, according to a shipbuilding industry source, Monday. 

Hyundai Heavy Industries and Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering are subcontractors for the heavy attack submarines. 

It is the first time that the development of a submarine VLS in Korea has been confirmed. The Agency for Defense Development (ADD) has already developed one used aboard the 7,600-ton [KD-III Sejong the Great class Aegis destroyers]. 

A VLS is a modern type of missile-firing system used aboard submarines and surface vessels of several navies around the world. When installed on an attack submarine, a VLS allows a greater number and variety of weapons to be deployed in comparison to using only torpedo tubes.

Following the development of the VLS for subs, top shipbuilders in Korea and the ADD are also on track to develop an indigenous horizontal tube to launch torpedoes, cruise missiles and mines, the source said. 

"The development of a vertical launching system has already been completed, while the development of a horizontal launching system is still under way," the source told The Korea Times, asking not to be identified. "Developing the horizontal launching tube requires more sophisticated technology than the VLS development." 

The VLS would be used in launching long-range cruise missiles at key targets in North Korea.

The ADD has developed the 500-kilometer-range, ship-launched Cheonryong, which is a modified variant of the surface-to-surface Hyunmoo III-A ballistic missile [or Hyunmoo-3A (Tomahawk like) cruise missile?]. The missile range could be extended up to 1,000 kilometers, according to military sources. 

The Cheonryong missiles are believed to have already been modified to be [horizontally launched from torpedo tubes on South Korea's] Type-214 subs.

South Korea has successfully developed the Hyunmoo III-C surface-to-surface ballistic missile with a maximum range of 1,500 kilometers, following the deployment of the 1,000-kilometer-range Hyunmoo III-B. 

With the VLS development, Korea would have an advantage in selling its submarines overseas in the future, the source added. 

Currently, the South operates nine 1,200-ton, Type-209 submarines and three 1,800-ton, Type-214 submarines. They are all diesel- and electric-powered and were all built with technical cooperation from HDW of Germany. 

As Germany restricts the transfer of key submarine technology, such as launching tubes, Korea would have difficulty exporting any of those locally-built submarines.

The Navy plans to deploy at least three more Type-214 submarines in the years to come. 

Beginning in 2018, Seoul plans to build 3,000-ton KSS-III submarines fitted with domestically-built submarine combat systems aimed at automating target detection, tracking, threat assessment and weapons control. 

The heavy attack sub will be armed with indigenous ship-to-ground cruise missiles and be capable of underwater operations for up to 50 days with an upgraded Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) system. 


So South Korea seems to retain confusing ambiguity on whether its new submarine missiles will be:

-  usually conventional explosive cruise missiles (SLCMs) that are usually low flying,
    subsonic or mildly supersonic (if conventional adhering to the NPT)


-  usually nuclear explosive ballistic missiles (SLBMs) that are almost always high flying
   and hypersonic (if nuclear breaking the NPT in the same way North Korea already
   breaks the NPT).

Note that a submarine firing merely conventional explosive cruise or ballistic missiles would represent a very expensive launch method for little explosive effect. Also submarine launched cruise or ballistic missiles from a nuclear capable country (like South Korea) might be seen as nuclear armed by nuclear armed countries - usually demanding a nuclear response. 

If Israel's Dolphin submarines fired their cover-name "Popeye Turbo" missiles at Iran then Iran would consider these missiles to be nuclear until proven otherwise.

There is also a myth that ballistic missiles might carry other special warheads (by they biological, chemical or radiological payloads). Over the years critical military installations (eg. deep dug command or "Kim" VIP centers or hardened long range missile silos) have developed air conditioning or separate oxygen defenses that are only vulnerable to the blast penetration of nuclear weapons. So it is likely that South Korea's mature and final submarines ballistic missiles (in the late 2020s/or 2030s?) will be nuclear armed.  



Unknown said...

Dear Pete,

Sorry I did not identify miself correctly in my first comment. I´m the "unknown" guy in your previous article on KSS-III.

Regardng South Korean submarine program and the subject you are talking about here you can have all the information you need from the link below. Informations available there were provided by a korean commentor (ambassador) that is well aware of most south korean military programs. Sadly he is no longer commenting there.


Pete said...

Thanks Andromeda1016 Dated May 17, 2016 (which still seems up to date) "17-05-2016" is interesting, particularly for the quoted dispalcement of the first 3 KSS-III B1s [for Batch 1] with 6 VLS which is:

"Surface Displacement: 3,358 tons
Submerged Displacement: 3,705 tons"

"Two 3.12MW diesel-electric engines
PEM fuel cell AIP [later mentioned:
"Fuel cell Manufacturer [being": GS Caltex
Type: 30-kW class single large PEMFC stack
Maximum output: 54kW per stack
Power density: 1,018 W / L"]
600 modules x 500kg per module LAB on 4 banks" [that is no LIBs for the 3 Batch 1s]

"Underwater endurance: 50 days AIP no snorkel
Range: 19,000 km without refueling ([Pearl Harbour] Hawaii round-trip)"

The second batch, in the mid 2020 is named
"KSS-III B2 [with]
Displacement: >4000 tons [surfaced?] stretched hull
Armaments: 10 VLS cells
Populsion: LiB of same configuration replacing LAB / Integrated Full Electric Propulsion system (Samsung SDI submarine LiB:

Much more information at Dated May 17, 2016 which still seems up to date.



Anonymous said...

There is nothing ambiguous about the ROK SLBM program. They are the result of the US imposed ballistic missile range on the ROK, which was kept to 800 km to keep Tokyo out of the ROK ballistic missile's range. The ROK wanted the ability to execute a decapitation strike on the Japanese prime minister and the MoD HQ in the event of the Liancourt Rocks war, so the SLBM program was born.

With the SLBM, the entire Japan is covered and there is nowhere to hide for the Japanese prime minister who decides to go to war with the ROK. If the ROK can execute a decapitation strike on Kim Jong Un, it has no hesitations about doing the same on the Japanese prime minister if necessary.

Pete said...

Hi [North Korean?] Anonymous [of 21/9/18 3:41 AM]

Your comments on potential war between South Korea and Japan read like output from a North Korean or PRC Ministry of Propaganda. But it is worth publishing, nevertheless :)



Pete said...

Sebastien Roblin, for the National Interest, has written an excellent article "Are South Korean Submarines About to Go Nuclear?" of March 9, 2019


"the KSS-III does incorporate foreign hardware, including the quiet pressurized torpedo loading and launch system used in the British Royal Navy’s Astute-class submarines. The KSS-III’s Spanish Pegaso electromagnetic sensor (ESM) allows it to discreetly detect and identify the emissions of opposing sub-hunters, and it can also spy on nearby vessels using a French-designed non-penetrating optronic mast—functionally a stealthy hi-tech periscope loaded with electro-optical sensors.

The KSS-III will likely incorporate a derivative of the land-based Hyunmoo-2B or C ballistic missiles, which have a range of 500 miles carrying warheads between 1,000-2,200 pounds. These could fired underwater using a ‘cold launch’ system reportedly derived from the Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile system. Unconfirmed reports claim South Korea has already successfully tested the underwater launch system....lower precision has traditionally relegated SLBMs to delivering nuclear-warheads. For example, a Hyunmoo-2B lands within 30 meters of its target half the time.

...South Korea is reportedly investigating its legal options, and has contemplated pursuing a 65-megawatt light water reactor 7x3.5 meters in diametes, derived from Russian technology."

See Sebastien's whole article at