May 30, 2015

South Korean Ballistic Missile Programs, Hyunmoo-2B

(Courtesy Free Republic) Major sites of North Korean ballistic missiles with ranges of perhaps 2,000 km - capable of hitting all of South Korea and Japan. Some are in hard to penetrate silos. South Korea and the US may face restrictions on targeting sites near the Chinese border (including Chunggang-up).  This is due to the risk of SK-US warhead explosions effecting Chinese citizens as well as secondary fallout from destroyed NK warheads or nuclear facilities.  

Also high on South Korea's target list would be North Korean nuclear research and possibly reactor and reprocessing sites (although fallout may be a consideration in not attacking reactors or reprocessing sites). South Korea and the US may face restrictions on targeting sites near the Chinese border (including Yongjo-ri and Hyesan).  This is due to the risk of SK-US warhead explosions effecting Chinese citizens as well as secondary fallout from destroyed NK warheads or nuclear facilities.  

Please connect with -  South Korean Submarines, 3,000+ ton KSS-III, Nuclear Potential, April 16, 2015 and South Korean Future Nuclear Weapon Program, May 17, 2015.

See the South Korean announcement of an early June 2015 test of a Hyunmoo-2B.

The following mainly deals with South Korean submarine launched missiles. It is acknowledged that South Korean land based missiles and a major US land/sea/aircraft launched missile and bomb  contribution would acutely influence the submarine aspects and requirements.

Indicates coverage over North Korea of South Korean missiles of 300km and 500km range. Their launch from a predictable launch point in SK runs the risk of NK destruction of the missiles at that launch point and greater effectives of NK anti-missiles-missiles shooting down missiles from that SK launch point. This underlines the value of  SK submarine launched missiles.

South Korea (SK) has been developing land based ballistic missile with ranges around 800 km sufficient to reach all of North Korea (NK) and warheads of at least 500 kg. In order to penetrate silos and bunkers SK is probably working towards 1,000 kg warhead capabilities. 

To face NK's developing submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM) threat South Korea would also be considering building an SLBM capability. SLBM would frequently shorten SK's time to NK target capability which is so important in SK's preemptive strike “Kill Chain” strategy. SLBMs are hard to shoot down due to their speed, of 3,000+ km/h, and variable (rather than on land predictable) launch points. Variable launch points complicate an enemy's battle plan thus adding to uncertainty - hopefully promoting deterrence.

South Korea's existing submarine launched cruise missiles (SLCMs) carry disadvantages of subsonic only (around 800 km/h) speeds making them frequently too slow for preemptive strike “Kill Chain” duties and more easily shot down by North Korea’s anti-missile defences. Nevertheless SLCMs might be effective against North Korean coastal targets depending on how close South Korea submarines can get to the coast. 

However South Korea would now be seeking to make its future submarines capable of firing vertically launched ballistic missiles. This may include the four final KSS-IIs submarines (see below) to be launched by 2020 and certainly the KSS-IIIs already due to receive vertical launch systems for cruise, ballistic missiles or anti-missile missiles (BMDs). South Korea may be accelerating its KSS-III program in view of the looming North Korean SLBM threat.


South Korea has the following land based ballistic missiles that might be capable of development into a submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM) including:

-  The Short Range South Korean Rocket (KSR) research program which has produced a missile of 800 km range perhaps with a 300 kg payload and 11.21m long. With a lot of development this may represent the closest SK built solution to its SLBM needs. See launch below. 

Launch of South Korea short range ballistic missile/rocket to deploy a satellite.

-  The US provided ATACMS (Army TACtical Missile System)  looks like it would require too much development to be modified into an SLBM. The US might also heavily restrict modifications.

-  The Hyunmoo-2B or NHK-2 or Hyon Mu 2 (which is unrelated to the Hyon Mu 3) has a length of 12.14 m which is probably too long for vertical launch from the hull of the future KSS-III. Firing through the sail/fin/conning tower might be possible. The NHK 2 (Hyon Mu 2) may now have a 800 km range and 500 kg payload. The diameter of 0.54 m would allow perhaps 6 to be carried by a 3,000 ton KSS-III. See the South Korean announcement of an early June 2015 test of a Hyunmoo-2B.

New Foreign Missiles?

It may take South Korea too long (5 years?) to modify one of the above missiles for SLBM use. A wholly new missile might take longer. Therefore South Korea may seek foreign assistance or a complete foreign missile. Possible countries are the US - although the US might which to observe MTCR rules closely. Other countries might be:

-  France
-  Israel (Popeye Turbo - perhaps a supersonic SLCM, with the advantage of horizontal torpedo tube launch option) or
-  India (K-15 Sagarika missile?) noting Indian Prime Minister Modi's visit to South Korea on May 18-19, 2015.


South Korea has two existing types of submarine certainly capable of launching SLCMs and possibly SLBMs, including:

-  Nine  KSS-I Chang Bogo class (Type 209)(no AIP). They can would be capable of firing Harpoon missiles (220 kg warheads, 130 km range) to coastal parts of North Korea. 1,200 tons (surfaced) 8 torpedo tubes (how many can fire Harpoon missiles for land attack?). Could be retrofitted to fire South Korea's Tomahawk like Hyon Mu 3 cruise missiles (500 to 1,000 kg warheads) to any part of North Korea, and

Four KSS-II Son Won-II class (Type 214) with AIP (to remain fully submerged off North Korea’s coast for around 3 weeks). Five more KSS-IIs are due to be commissioned by 2020 which could be modified to launch SLBMs. 1,800 tons surfaced (8) 533 mm torpedo tubes, SLCMs (4?) Harpoon missile capable. Could fire Hyon Mu 3s.

South Korea is also developing KSS-III 3,000 ton submarines capable of firing Harpoons, Hyon Mu 3s SLCMs, and launching SLBMs from their vertical launch systems or anti-missile-missiles (BMDs).



Anonymous said...

SK may wish to have these capabilities but I do not see anyone of them to be practical.
The areas south of the DMZ are heavily populated, dotted with mini cities and factories. Although the DMZ on paper is ~30km away (well within artillery range), truth is one only need to go out not even 10km to see NK on the other side of the highway to the DMZ. SK population will be at great risks if a conflict with NK develops. We will be talking casualties in the millions.
There are tens of thousands of US troops in SK so any counter strikes will need to get a US approval.
Besides, the SK military has tried to avoid for years now to assume full responsibilities in the case of a conflict.
I have been to SK hundreds of times, and looking at SK youths in the Karaoke bars coming friday nights and weekends, I have my doubts how SK troops will perform. The corvette sinking a few years back did not bode well in a future war.

Peter Coates said...

Hi Anonymous

Thanks for your points.

The SK leadership and defence forces (as part of their job) need to respond to the technically changing threat from NK. SK cannot simply give up or worry that SK counter-strategies will make an unreasonable NK more angry.

The "better red than dead" approach was touted by peace groups in 1980s Western Europe then the West won because the Communists backed down.

Yes the timing problems of Kill Chain/preemptive strike and extra inputs make that likely unworkable. SK firing conventional missiles at a nuclear NK is unbalanced. Equivalent deterrence, which for SK would need to be nuclear, is a much more reliable strategy - used worldwide since 1949.