Game Changer: AIP Submarine Has Fired A Ballistic Missile For The First Time | World Defense

Game Changer: AIP Submarine Has Fired A Ballistic Missile For The First Time

Khafee

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Game Changer: AIP Submarine Has Fired A Ballistic Missile For The First Time

H I Sutton
07 Sep 2021

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Game Changer: AIP Submarine Has Fired A Ballistic Missile For The First Time

The latest non-nuclear submarines are much more stealthy and formidable than previous generations. Now the South Koreans have combined this with a ballistic missile capability. This could foreshadow a new dawn in submarine capabilities.


South Korea has test fired a ballistic missile from its new KSS-III class AIP (Air Independent Power) equipped submarine. As many observers note the significance of this from a geo-political standpoint, it is also important from a submarine technology angle. The combination of AIP and conventionally-armed ballistic missiles opens new opportunities for navies. South Korea is the first, but it may not be the last.

The missile was tested aboard the lead KSS-III submarine, Dosan Ahn Changho (도산안창호) earlier this month, and announced today. This follows recent tests from submerged platforms. The Hyunmoo 4-4 missile (현무-4-4) is the submarine launched derivative of the country’s indigenous Hyunmoo 2B (현무-2B) balletic missile. It is seen as a direct counter to neighboring North Korea’s submarine launched ballistic missile program. That focuses on the much larger Pukguksong (Pole Star, aka Polaris) family of missiles. These have a range in excess of 1,000 km (620 miles) and could be equipped ,with the north’s nuclear missiles.

Very Different From North Korean Submarines

One contrast between the South Korean and North Korean SLBM programs is the submarines. The KSS-III are brand new and represent leading edge submarine technology. They are locally developed by South Korean shipbuilder Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co., Ltd (DSME). The company has extensive experience of building German Type-209 and Type-214 boats. For the KSS-III project they also partnered with companies in the UK, France, Spain and elsewhere for key systems.

By contrast the North Korean ballistic missile submarines are antiquated. The first test boat, the Gorae Class (고래급), was locally built but only carried a single missile tube. The in-service boats however are actually remodeled ROMEO Class submarines. These represent 1950s technology and are both smaller and noisier than the KSS-III class. And it seems that adding the ballistic missiles sacrificed half their banks of batteries so submerged endurance will be even more limited.

The KSS-II, with it’s air-independent power (AIP) can operate submerged for extended periods however. The fuel cell AIP is essentially the same as on the Type-214. And it is expected to be combined with Korean developed lithium-ion battery technology in future boats. Local firm Hanwha Defense has been developing the cutting edge submarine battery technologies for several years. Safety is paramount and there are many challenges to overcome, but the performance incentive is clear. The batteries are expected to be fielded aboard the KSS-III class by 2027.

Overall the KSS-III class submarine is at the larger end of non-nuclear boats. It’s submerged displacement is 3,705 tons and it has three deck levels. The defining characteristic however is the vertical launch system. 6 tubes are positioned between the AIP and the traditional propulsion machinery. This is currently unique among submarines of this size, with the North Korean boats accepted.

Additionally the VLS is compatible with the locally developed land attack cruise missile (LACM). The Hyunmoo-3 cruise missile is roughly equivalent to the US Navy’s Tomahawk but is supersonic.

Impact On Submarine Warfare

If the South Korean project to launch ballistic missiles from relatively small AIP equipped submarines is deemed successful other navies may follow suit. There are rumors that Israel may be looking to VLS aboard its latest German-built submarines. And India is thought to be looking to a VLS on its planned P75I submarines. DSME are in the running with a version of the KSS-III known as the DSME3000. This could carry the Brahmos anti-ship missile but also, potentially, small ballistic missiles.

China has, technically, also tested SLBMs from a submarine with AIP. The single Type-032 Qing class boat is used to test new missiles. Yet that is a specific test submarine and the AIP and SLBM are just cohabiting a hull, rather than being an operational proposition.

The test launch really puts the KSS-III on the submarine map. In these respects it is the most potent conventionally powered and armed submarine in the world. And at the same time it does not appear to have scarified the basic capabilities of the latest generation of AIP submarines. Navies and shipbuilders will be taking note.
 

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S.Korea tests first submarine-launched ballistic missile - Yonhap

By Josh Smith
September 7, 2021
Last Updated a day ago

SEOUL, Sept 7 (Reuters) - South Korea has test-fired a ballistic missile (SLBM) from a submarine, Yonhap news agency reported on Tuesday, becoming the first country without nuclear weapons to develop such a capability.

A new Dosan Ahn Chang-ho submarine successfully carried out the underwater ejection tests last week, after similar tests were conducted from a submerged barge last month, Yonhap reported, citing unnamed military sources.

The defence ministry said it cannot confirm details of individual military unit capabilities due to security reasons.

The Agency for Defense Development had no comment and referred questions to the defence ministry.

Last week the defence ministry released its defence blueprint for 2022-2026 which called for developing new missiles "with significantly enhanced destructive power". read more

SLBMs have been developed by seven other countries, including the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France, India, and North Korea. All of those countries also have arsenals of nuclear weapons, which have typically been used to arm SLBMs.

Yonhap said the conventionally armed South Korean missile has reportedly been codenamed the Hyunmoo 4-4 and is believed to be a variant of the country's Hyunmoo-2B ballistic missile, with a flight range of around 500 kilometres (311 miles).

South Korea has developed increasingly powerful missiles designed to target heavily fortified bunkers and tunnels in North Korea, as well as a way to decrease its military dependence on the United States, which stations thousands of troops on the peninsula.

Both Koreas cite military developments in the other as reasons to boost their capabilities.

North Korea has unveiled a series of new SLBMs in recent years, and appears to be building an operational submarine designed to eventually carry them.
 

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A still from a video showing a test launch of the Hyunmoo-4 SRBM, currently the largest South Korean ballistic missile.


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MADEX 2019 DSME On Track with KSS III Batch 2 Submarine Program for ROK Navy 1
KSS III Batch 2 model showcased at MADEX 2019

South Korea’s DSME Wins Contract For 2nd KSS-III Batch-II Submarine​

South Korean shipbuilder Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) announced today that it has signed a contract with the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) for the construction of the second ship of the 3,000-ton class submarine KSS-III Batch-II project for 985.7 billion won ($844,000,000 USD).​

Xavier Vavasseur 10 Sep 2021

DSME press release

The submarine will be built at the Okpo Shipyard and delivered to the Republic of Korea (ROK) Navy by the end of 2028. DSME has achieved the feat of winning orders for four out of five orders for 3,000-ton submarines so far, including this contract. Last August, it successfully delivered ROKS Dosan Ahn Chang-ho (SS-083), the lead ship for the first batch. The first submarine of the Batch-II project also began construction in earnest, starting with steel cutting. Batch-II submarines feature a number of improvement, including Lithium Ion batteries.

Since DSME won the order for the first submarine of the Jangbogo-I project, the ‘Jangbogo’ in 1987, it has built the largest number of submarines in South Korea with 22 submarines (9 class 209, 3 class 214, 4 3,000-ton class, and export submarines), of which 16 have been successfully delivered, and 6 are under construction. In particular, it is the only South Korean company that has a record of winning overseas submarine orders.

DSME, Executive Vice President and Head of Special Ships Division, said:
“In addition to the successful delivery of the second ship of the KSS-III Batch-II project, we have thoroughly prepared the project to build a surface ship scheduled to be ordered this year and the basic design project for a Korean light aircraft carrier next year. We will contribute to the protection of maritime sovereignty.”

About South Korea’s KSS III Submarines​

KSS-III Dosan Ahn Changho-class submarine
3,000 tons KSS III submarine ‘Dosan Ahn Chang-ho’ during its seat trials. ROK Navy picture.

The basic design for a rather large ( 3358 tons surface standard displacement, up to 3800 submerged, for the batch 1) SSK type submarine started in 2004 jointly by Hyundai Heavy Industries and DSME corporations. Local companies LIG Nex1, Hanwha and STX Engine are also involved in the project, as well as British companies BMT and Babcock who provide technical assistance.

The KSS-III Batch 1 submarine has a length of 83.5 meters, a width of 9.6 meters, and a draft of 7.7 meters. Its maximum submerged speed is 20 knots, and the cruising range at economic speed is 10,000 nautical miles. The crew consists of 50 sailors.

KSS-III Batch 1 submarines are fitted with eight 533-mm torpedo tubes as well as 6x VLS (vertical launch system) tubes. They would accommodate a future cruise missile (the Cheon Ryong with a range of 1,500 Km) in development by LIG Nex1 while the launchers would be provided by Doosan. It was announced earlier in the program that Spanish company INDRA was selected to provide its electronic defense system (ESM) PEGASO and Babcock of the UK would design and manufacture the Weapon Handling System for the Batch-I submarines. French companies Safran is supplying the optronic masts for the class and ECA Group the steering consoles. Other South Korean content include the flank array sonars (provided by LIG Nex1) and the combat management system (provided by Hanwha).

Construction on first of class SS 083 ‘Dosan An Chang-Ho’ started with the first steel cutting ceremony held at the DSME shipyard in Okpo on November 27, 2014. The naming ceremony took place there on May 17, 2016. The boat was named in honor of one of the leaders of the Korean nationalist movement of the early twentieth century. The launch took place on September 14, 2018. The vessel was commissioned on 13 August 2021. In september 2021, Dosan An Chang-Ho successfully test-fired an SLBM.

The keel laying of the second vessel SS 085 ‘Ahn Moo’ took place at DSME shipyard on July 1, 2016 and was launched on November 10, 2020. Hyundai Heavy Industries in Ulsan started construction of the third boat and final vessel of the first batch, SS 086 ‘Yi Dongnyeong’, on June 30, 2017.

KSS III Batch II​

In March 2019, the construction of the KSS-III Batch II project for the RoK Navy was approved.

Compared to the first batch, KSS III Batch II submarine are expected to have a longer hull (bringing displacement approx. from 3000t to 4000t), 10x VLS tubes (up from 6x), a greater level of South Korea systems and Lithium Ion batteries and High-Temperature Superconductor (HTS) motor technology for integrated full electric propulsion system.

 
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