North Korea | Boosting its Navy with nukes – Fleet size and new weapons
Andreas Pogiatzi
Published on 08/09/2023 at 15:14

North Korea has built, launched and put into service its first “tactical nuclear-armed attack submarine” as part of its efforts to increase the power of its Navy, the official KCNA news agency reported today.

The ceremony to unveil the new submarine was presided over by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who said equipping his country’s Navy was “an urgent task of the time”.

The new weapons system will boost the country’s “nuclear deterrence”, “qualitatively, quantitatively and substantially,” improving “regional and global peace and security”, according to the North Korean agency.

According to the same source, Mr. Kim stressed that his country will build more submarines, including nuclear-powered ones.

The new submarine, dubbed Hero Kim Kun Ok, “opens a new chapter in the strengthening of the naval forces” of North Korea, according to KCNA.

During the ceremony, the North Korean leader referred to the “tactical and strategic plan to continuously strengthen” Pyongyang’s naval arsenal with submarines and surface vessels and with nuclear weapons “in the future.”

Also read: N. Korea | Second attempt to launch spy satellite fails

The North Korean leader inspected the submarine yesterday before it made its first cruise. The vessel appears to be a modified Romeo-class submarine with 10 launch tubes, likely armed with ballistic and cruise missiles. South Korean officials said it appears the new submarine may not be fully operational, but did not elaborate.

Last month, the North Korean leader denounced the announcement by the US, South Korea and Japan that they would hold frequent joint military exercises, which he said confirmed that his country’s Navy urgently needed to become much more powerful.

The existing fleet of submarines will be modernized so that they can routinely carry nuclear weapons, he further announced.

The new submarine joins the fleet patrolling the waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, KCNA said.

Analysts had pointed to indications that a submarine was initially being built in 2016, while in 2019 state media reported that the head of state had inspected a vessel under construction that attracted his “special attention”.

North Korea has also repeatedly tested submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) ​​and submarine-launched cruise missiles.

Tomorrow Saturday, North Korea celebrates the 75th anniversary of its establishment.

What we know about the North Korean Navy

According to Reuters, citing US officials, the Korean People’s Navy (KPANF) has about 470 surface vessels, including vessels equipped with guided missiles, torpedoes, small patrol boats and fire support vessels.

It has about 70 submarines, including the Romeo class of Soviet-era design and small size subs.

The Navy also has about 40 support vessels and 250 landing crafts.

North Korea’s Navy is divided into two command fleets covering the country’s east and west coasts, and about 60% of the force is south of Pyongyang.

“North Korea’s naval power has the ability to launch a surprise attack at any time,” according to the South Korean military’s 2022 Defence White Paper. “However, its capability for deep-water operations is limited because its force consists primarily of small, fast vessels.”

Pyongyang’s new weapons

In March and April, North Korea test-fired what it said was a nuclear-capable offensive unmanned submarine.

Named “Haeil” (‘tsunami’), the new system is intended for secret missions in hostile waters and for attacking naval strike groups and major operational ports with underwater explosions, according to state media.

Analysts said the weapon’s operational concept was similar to Russia’s Poseidon nuclear torpedoes, a new class of weapon intended to cause devastating, radioactive explosions in coastal areas.

However, a report by Washington-based “38 North” at the time said the weapon’s slow speed and limited range made it significantly inferior to existing nuclear ballistic missiles and cruise missiles.

In August, Kim inspected a new Amnok-class corvette, a patrol ship that state media said was capable of firing nuclear-head cruise missiles.

“Their submarines simply won’t be able to survive as long as their land forces,” said Vann Van Diepen, a former US government weapons expert who works with 38 North. “And they’re going to have a hard time deploying enough missiles at sea to make much of a difference.”

Also read: North Korea | Pyongyang confirms it has launched an intercontinental ballistic missile




Pin It on Pinterest

Share This