ROK Armed Forces enhancing defense assets with indigenous missiles, submarines

ROK Armed Forces enhancing defense assets with indigenous missiles, submarines

Felix Kim

New defense assets developed by the Republic of Korea (ROK) Armed Forces, including missiles, missile-launching submarines and anti-submarine warfare frigates, are poised to deter threats from North Korea, government officials said. Such assets empower ROK Armed Forces with submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) capability, which it recently demonstrated for the first time, making South Korea the first nonnuclear-armed state to possess such technology.

On September 15, 2021, the same day that Pyongyang launched two ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan, South Korea launched a Hyunmoo 4-4 ballistic missile from its new 2,700-metric ton submarine Republic of Korea ship (ROKS) Dosan Anchangho, pictured, while the vessel was submerged, reported Yonhap, Seoul’s government-affiliated news agency. Despite stormy weather brought on by the approaching Typhoon Chanthu, the missile hit its target.

The submarine and missile were developed and built in South Korea.

Also September 15, South Korea’s Agency for Defense Development (ADD) tested a long-range, air-to-ground missile, according to a Ministry of National Defense news release. The missile “separated from the aircraft, spread its wings, and flew to the target accurately to hit the target.”

The new air-to-ground missile will be mounted on the KF-21 Boramae fighter jet, which is being developed with the United States in South Korea and is slated for flight testing in 2022, the ministry reported. The ADD also is developing a high-powered ballistic missile with a heavier warhead, as well as a supersonic cruise missile to improve South Korea’s capacity to restrict enemy sea access, part of a U.S. $271 billion, five-year defense enhancement plan.

“The increase in our missile power can be a sure deterrent against North Korean provocations,” South Korean President Moon Jae-in said after viewing the SLBM launch.

Joining the ROKS Dosan Anchangho will be three 3,260-metric ton submarines capable of launching ballistic missiles, Yonhap reported in September 2021. Work on the first submarine began in August 2021 and the contract to build the second was signed soon afterward with Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co. in South Korea. The vessels will feature 10 vertical launch tubes for SLBMs, compared to six on the 2,700-metric ton submarine.

The first of the new class of submarines is expected to be ready by 2029. Two additional Dosan Anchangho-class submarines are scheduled for launch by 2023.

The new submarines will play a critical role in countering security threats, Rear Adm. Jeon Yong-kyu, who heads the submarine project, told Yonhap.

North Korea has a 3,000-ton, SLBM-capable submarine with three launch tubes, unveiled in 2019, according to Yonhap. To counter such threats, the ROK Navy has launched the sixth of its FFX Batch II frigates, a 2,500- metric ton vessel with enhanced anti-submarine capabilities, to replace an aging set of 1,360-metric ton frigates and 900-metric ton patrol combat corvettes.

With a crew of 120, the new 122-meter frigate will be equipped with weaponry including ship-to-ship and ship-to-surface missiles, as well as a helicopter. Its towed array of sonar equipment and long-range anti-submarine torpedo give it increased capacity to identify and attack enemy submarines.

Felix Kim is a FORUM contributor reporting from Seoul, South Korea.