The analyzes were made by Alexander Timohin for Vzglyad. Their assessments, opinions and comments on the topic do not reflect the position of BulgarianMilitary.com
SEOUL, ($1=1,168.81 South Korean Wons) – South Korea has reached an important military-technical milestone – it has entered the elite club of countries capable to hit with ballistic missiles from underwater. How did Seoul achieve this, what military objectives does South Korea have for the use of such weapons?
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On September 7, the South Korean submarine “Dosan An Changho”, the lead in the class of ships of the same name, successfully launched a ballistic missile (SLBM) “Hyongmu 4-4”. But before talking about a new missile, it is worth looking at the context of the event. South Korea (SC) has huge ambitions in the global arms market and is actively breaking into such segments as tanks. There are many other achievements as well. At the same time, South Korea has several military threats. The first of them is, of course, the DPRK, the northern “relatives”.
However, there is one nuance here. There is an opinion that the DPRK is such a beggar, but a terrible military monster with a super-powerful army and nuclear weapons. The reality, however, is different. Poor North Korea and the troops contain the appropriate – and clashes with the southerners, this army will not stand.
The gap in combat capabilities between north and south is monstrous: in the south – modern armed forces, equipped with the latest high-tech weapons and trained in modern methods of warfare, in the north – something similar to the Iraqi army in 1991, adjusted for hungry soldiers, at times poorer equipment and zero combat experience. It all starts with physical training – the southerners, fattened for several generations, are simply taller and stronger and carry more weapons and ammunition, then there is an epochal break in everything – from radio communications to aviation. The South Koreans, of course, see this very well. But they are preparing for war, firstly, so that this gap does not disappear, and secondly.
Secondly, the South Koreans have, frankly, difficulties with Japan. This sounds strange since psychologically, any outside observer perceives these countries as allies of the United States, but everything is not easy with each other.
The Japanese have had and still have a territorial dispute with South Korea over the Dokdo Islands, which Japan considers its own [as familiar, right?]. Now in South Korea, the processes of confiscation of some property of Japanese companies have been launched, and Japan has imposed trade sanctions on South Korea, along the way accusing it of transferring equipment and dual-use technologies not somewhere, but to the DPRK. Japanese patrol planes occasionally approach South Korean warships, usually ending in protests. They also end the visits of Japanese officials to the notorious Yasukuni Shrine. In general, no one there has forgotten anything or forgiven anyone.
And all this is superimposed on secret global ambitions. South Korea is actively preparing not only to reduce the presence and influence of the United States in the world but also wants to “cut” a part of this influence and convert it into money and resources, which the country is deprived of. What does it take to be taken seriously not only by your neighbors? It is necessary that these “not only neighbors” can be reached.
The means of reaching out to any country is always the fleet, and here the Republic of Korea did not disappoint. The South Korean fleet is completely ocean-going, with a global military reach. The country has only two times fewer destroyers than Russia has BODs, destroyers, frigates, and cruisers combined in all fleets, while these are relatively new ships, no older than 1996.
Armament is also at the level, especially in, as the wits say, “the most missile ships in the world” – giant destroyers of the “King Shojon” type with 128 missile cells. The only ship with a large number of missiles in the world is our nuclear-powered missile cruiser “Admiral Nakhimov”, but it is not yet known how much it will be upgraded, and secondly, we can no longer build such ships, and the Koreans have no problems with the construction of “Shojons”, three of them are in service, three more are contracted.
South Korea has long mastered the construction of universal amphibious assault ships – there are three such ships of the “Dokdo” type in service. This means that there is the possibility of landing a part of the amphibious assault forces from the air and basing attack helicopters. There are eight tank landing ships to help the Dokdo troika. But Koreans can land somewhere only if local allies are available, and always with aviation. To get rid of this addiction, South Korea should think about its aircraft carriers – and it is working on them. On the other hand, if it was impossible to use the troops, the South Koreans could use missiles deployed on ships as a means of influence – and they have these missiles.
Rocket Program and Hyunmu 4-4
The South Korean missile program is not as famous as the North Korean one. But this is not because the South Koreans cannot create missiles – they can and do. However, for many years in a row, South Korean missile ambitions were openly limited to the United States, which fundamentally does not want the emergence of independent centers of power in the world. Therefore, southerners cannot boast of such flight ranges as the northerners. They can be different.
In 1986, the production of the first South Korean ballistic missile “Hyongmu-1” (“Hyongmu” – the mythical celestial turtle-snake, guardian of the northern sky) began. This is a small missile with a range of only 180 kilometers, but it is a full-fledged weapon, reliable and proven, with a heavy warhead of 480 kg.
Today, along with the Hyongmu-1, South Korea also has the Hyongmu-2A, which, according to Western experts, is a variant of the Russian missile that is part of the Iskander complex.
In the late 2010s, the South Koreans presented a whole family of Hyunmu-3 cruise missiles, the ranges of which increased from 500 km for option A through 1000 km in option B to 1500 km in option C. South Korea immediately created a whole family of missiles for use from ground-based launchers, ships, submarines, and aircraft. Today, the Koreans have the opportunity to use all types of these missiles, and their number is such that a missile command has been created in the South Caucasian army – the embryo of the South Korean analog of the Strategic Missile Forces.
After Trump lifted the missile ban on South Korea, a new Hyongmu-4 ballistic missile appeared – a range of 800 km and a monstrous warhead of two tons. As stated – for the destruction of North Korean underground structures. Well, let’s see. There is every reason to believe that in the end, it will be a warhead weighing 500 kg that will fly very far.
And, judging by the numerical index, it was within this family that South Korea created an option for a submarine – and immediately with an underwater launch. And exactly by the time, the 4-4 variant was created, the first underwater carrier of this missile was already in service.
New submarine and its capabilities
The SLBMs are carried by Dosan An Changho class submarines. These submarines were created within the framework of the Korean Attack Submarine program – a Korean attacking (as in the Western world and around they call multipurpose) submarine. “Dosan An Changho” is the lead submarine in the series, its surface displacement is 3358 tons, underwater – 3750. The boat has an air-independent power plant and can remain underwater for many days. Six torpedo tubes can be used to launch modern Korean torpedoes, possibly anti-submarine missiles, or to lay Korean mines. The boat is well armed for underwater combat and has modern anti-torpedo protection. It is simply impossible to compare this boat with any of the Russian diesel engines, they are from different eras, although our newest Project 677 Lada may have some advantages. But exactly what some.
This is an analog of the same Russian or American installations but created according to Korean standards. The first two boats in the series are equipped with a six-cell launcher, all the next will have ten missiles in installations. Unlike the UVP on the Ash or Virginias, the Korean launchers are capable of firing ballistic missiles, as shown by the launch of the Hyunmu 4-4 from under the water.
I must say that “Dosan An Changho” can come to the western part of the Indian Ocean and create a lot of problems there for any country, inflicting a weak, but accurate missile strike on it, placing mines in important ports and then moving on to hunting surface ships … A country like the USA, China or Japan can do something with such a boat. That is, the Koreans will indeed be able to operate in the Third World, including with the help of these submarines, if they want. Especially if it turns out that this submarine is capable of supporting the operations of special forces.
It is of interest why South Korea needs a ballistic missile for submarines. The fact is that typical tactical tasks can be solved with a cruise missile, which is also much more accurate. If the flight range of a cruise missile and a ballistic missile is the same (in the case of Korea, this is so far), then the advantage of a ballistic missile is mainly the ability to deliver a preemptive strike due to high speed: a cruise missile flies to the target for hours, a ballistic missile – minutes. But here, too, questions arise about the accuracy of the SLBM. In North Korea, it is much more accurate to work out from a fixed base – from a ground launcher. The distances are short, the flight time will be short, and the accuracy is sufficient. SLBMs can have problems with this.
If we exclude various considerations of prestige such as “North Korea has ballistic missile submarines, but we do not,” it seems that South Koreans also want to have a tool for a quick pre-emptive strike in the future where their land-based missiles simply “do not reach.” Alternatively, while lightening the warhead of the missile and increasing its range, for some reason they want to shoot far. But what about accuracy? There is one concern on this score.
Until 1975, South Korea had its nuclear weapons program. The program has been closed, but the South Koreans are systematically caught in the pursuit of research. Today it is a “threshold” state, which is separated from nuclear weapons, if necessary, by a very short time. Not nine months like Japan, of course, but comparable.
With a nuclear warhead, 20-30 South Korean missiles will become a very significant factor in world politics, because submarines with a huge cruising range will be able to deliver them to any conceivable launch line, making it possible to reach any point in the world. And the accuracy, which is limited in SLBMs simply by its very nature (launch from a platform moving underwater), with a nuclear warhead will not be so critical. This is how the division will turn out: for tactical missions – cruise missiles with non-nuclear warheads, for operational and strategic missions – ballistic missiles with nuclear ones. It looks like an attempt to enter the “club” of the great powers. And if this is the case, then the chances of the Koreans for success are very high.
Russia has good relations with South Korea. Our country participated in the creation of its anti-aircraft missiles, and not only anti-aircraft, and not only missiles. In response, the South Koreans did not actively participate in any anti-Russian political actions – for all their friendship with the United States. The politicians of this country do not make anti-Russian statements.
The direction in which South Korea is developing its military power and military-political actions in the world suggests that it is a future military-political giant, while devoid of the psychological complexes of a loser, like Japan. Economically, it is already a giant. Launching their SLBMs is a clear “bell”. By the time this dragon “roars” somewhere for the first time, we’d better be good friends with this country. And the foundation for this should be laid now.
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