South Korea is likely to build new nuclear-powered submarines in order to counter North Korea’s Submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) threat.
South Korean military experts feel there is a necessity to build submarines that are capable of countering North Korean submarine launched Ballistic missiles.
According to a report by Japanese news daily, Shimbun North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has ordered the construction of a new submarine equipped with two or three launchers for SLBMs by September 2018.
A pro-North Korean newspaper based in Japan claimed that North Korea is in the final stages of deploying SLBMs for combat use. The Chosun Sinbo said that the latest successful SLBM launch reaffirmed that the country is not far away from deploying the missiles operationally, Yonhap reported Friday.
South Korea should possess a nuclear submarine with higher endurance than conventional diesel-electric counterparts to counter the North's SLMBs, the news agency quoted unnamed analysts as saying. The move follows North Korea’s test-fire of a SLBM that flew about 500 kilometers earlier this week.
Once submarine starts moving into the water, it is difficult to locate it, hindering effective and timely response, a military expert said. However, the best way to deal against SLBM threats is to preemptively attack the missile-armed submarine in the event of an emergency situation.
The North Korean 2,000 ton-submarine model is believed to be able to operate underwater for only a few hours and to possess only one ballistic missile silo within its sail.
If an SLBM is capable of carrying a small nuclear warhead, it can pose a formidable threat, as the North would be able to hit targets theoretically from anywhere with little warning, the expert added.
"The only realistic way to counter SLBMs is to deploy a nuclear-powered submarine so they can maintain constant watch on a North Korean submarine base," said Moon Keun-sik, an expert at the Korea Defense and Security Forum said.
A nuclear-powered submarine can remain submerged as long as it has fuel, making it possible to operate privately underwater for a very long stretch of time. On the cotrary, a diesel-electric submarine has to go up to the surface to recharge its batteries, which can expose it to detection by an enemy, whereas .
South Korea is seeking to build nine 3,000-ton submarines in three batches as part of its so-called Chang Bogo-III project. The move is aimed at building submarines with local technology that can better meet the country's future defense needs, Boo Hyeong-wook, a chief research fellow at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses (KIDA) said.
But the nuclear energy pact with the US would enable Seoul to design and build part of these submarines to have nuclear propulsion, the research fellow said.