South Korean news agency Yonhap reported that South Korea tested for the first time a submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM) from a submerged barge as the Republic of Korea Navy (RoKN) prepares to induct its first SLBM-capable Dosan Ahn Changho (KSS-III)-class submarine in the near future. South Korea is developing an SLBM based on the home-grown ground-to-ground Hyunmoo-2B (also spelled Hyeonmu-2B) ballistic missile with a flight range of around 500 kilometers. It will be used with envisioned 3,000-ton-class or larger submarines.
The Dosan Ahn Changho-class submarines are the final phase of the Korean Attack Submarine program, a three-phased program to build 27 attack submarines for the Republic of Korea Navy between 1994 and 2029. They will also have many other improvements compared to their predecessors built with a greater degree of South Korean technology, especially in the later batches, which will include Samsung SDI lithium-ion batteries. The lead vessel, Dosan Anh Changho, was launched in 2018. It began sea trials in 2019 and ready for service in 2020.
According to the Defense Acquisition Program Administration, the Dosan Ahn Changho class are equipped with the Korean Vertical Launching System which will be able to carry up to ten indigenous “Chonryong” land-attack cruise missiles and “Hyunmoo” submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM), becoming the first submarines in the South Korean navy to have this kind of capability. Measured to displace over 3,800 tonnes (3,700 long tons) submerged during sea trials, they are the largest conventional submarines ever built by South Korea.
The Hyunmoo includes the only ballistic missile reverse engineered by South Korea that was actually deployed. The Hyunmoo-2A was the first of South Korea’s attempts to develop an newer indigenous ballistic missile with an increased range, over Hyunmoo-1. Due to an agreement in 2001 with the MTCR (Missile Technology Control Regime), the missile’s range was limited to 300 km. It is carried by a 4 axle transporter erector launcher (TEL). Eventually the missile range was increased to 800 km which spurred on the development of Hyunmoo-2B and Hyunmoo-2C.