South Korea successfully test-fired an indigenous submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) from a new submarine, South Korean outlet Yonhap reported, citing unnamed sources.
The Agency for Defense Development (ADD) carried out underwater ejection tests of the SLBM from the Dosan Ahn Chang-ho submarine in the week ending on September 5th after successful launches from an underwater barge last month.
The SLBM is believed to be a variant of the country’s Hyunmoo-2B ballistic missile, with a range of around 500 kilometres, and will be mass produced for deployment after another round of tests, Yonhap reported.
The locally developed 3,000-ton class submarine is equipped with six vertical launch tubes. After a round of additional tests, the SLBM will be mass produced for deployment, the sources said.
If this is true, South Korea has become the 8th country in the world to possess such a weapon.
North Korea has attempted for a while to arm itself with a SLBM. It showed off four such devices at a military parade overseen by leader Kim Jong Un in January 2021, with state media KCNA calling them “the world’s most powerful weapon”.
Unlike conventional land-based missiles, SLBMs are harder to detect as they are launched from submarines for surprise strikes, which is why they are often called “a game changer.” The new missile is expected to serve as a key deterrence tool for South Korea, which faces consistent threats by North Korea.
Back in January, Kim told a congress of his ruling Workers’ Party that the North had completed plans for a nuclear-powered submarine.
“Any such vessel is likely to be years away from going into service, but analysts say it could be a strategic game-changer, enabling Pyongyang to launch a surprise strike underwater even if its land-based forces had been destroyed,” Yonhap reported.
Kim inspected a newly built submarine in 2019, when pictures showed him standing next to a gigantic vessel accompanied by officials.
The defense ministry in Seoul refused to officially confirm the development.
“Our military secures advanced high-powered military assets to ensure peace on the Korean Peninsula by building strong military capabilities, and plans to continue to develop them,” the ministry said in a release.
On September 6th, Seoul allocated nearly 1.5 trillion won ($1.3 billion) for defense technology research and development next year in a budget request submitted to parliament.
If approved, it will represent a 76 percent jump in the research budget of the Defense Acquisition Program Administration, which will be used to “actively develop cutting-edge, future technologies”, according to a press release.
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