The DSME-built submarine 'Dosan Ahn Chang-ho' started its seat trials from Opko shipyard on June 10, 2019. It is the first vessel of the KSS-III Batch I program for the Republic of Korea Navy (RoK Navy).
The 3,000 tons submarine should be transferred to the South Korean fleet between 2020 and 2021 with an initial operation capability (IOC) set for January 2022.
With the KSS III program, South Korea has entered the elite club of the few countries able to independently design and build submarines, especially large ones (over 3,000 tons).
For the record, DSME received a contract from the South Korean Ministry of Defense worth $ 1.56 billion to build two large conventional/diesel electric (SSK) KSS III Batch 1 submarines on December 26, 2012. Then, on November 30, 2016, Hyundai Heavy Industries received a contract to build another boat of the first batch. Delivery of all three boats is scheduled for the end of 2023. In total, the plan is to introduce into the RoK Navy fleet nine KSS III submarines by 2029: including three ships of the second and third series each.
- Batch-I consists in the first two hulls to be built by DSME and the third submarine to be built by HHI.
- Batch-II will consist in three hulls with some design changes. They will be fitted with a greater level of South Korean technology. In May 2016, DAPA selected DSME for “KSS-III Batch-II Design and construction of the first hull”.
- Batch-III will consists in the three remaining hulls with more advanced technologies
However, the program of construction of the KSS-III submarines underwent repeated delays for technical and financial reasons, which is to be expected for such major programs.
The basic design for a rather large ( 3358 tons surface standard displacement, up to 3800 submerged, for the batch 1) SSK type submarine started in 2004 jointly by Hyundai Heavy Industries and DSME corporations. Local companies LIG Nex1, Hanwha and STX Engine are also involved in the project, as well as British companies BMT and Babcock who provide technical assistance.
Initially, a nuclear powered version was considered, but it was decided in the end that the submarine would be fitted with an air-independent propulsion system similar to the German fuel cell installation used on submarines of the German Type 214 (KSS-II) currently under construction for the South Korean fleet. The KSS-III Batch II vessels are set to feature advanced lithium-ion batteries of South Korean design.
The KSS-III Batch 1 submarine has a length of 83.5 meters, a width of 9.6 meters, and a draft of 7.7 meters. Its maximum submerged speed is 20 knots, and the cruising range at economic speed is 10,000 nautical miles. The crew consists of 50 sailors.
KSS-III Batch 1 submarines are fitted with eight 533-mm torpedo tubes as well as 6x VLS (vertical launch system) tubes. They would accommodate a future cruise missile (the Cheon Ryong with a range of 1,500 Km) in development by LIG Nex1 while the launchers would be provided by Doosan. It was announced earlier in the program that Spanish company INDRA was selected to provide its electronic defense system (ESM) PEGASO and Babcock of the UK would design and manufacture the Weapon Handling System for the Batch-I submarines. French company Safran is supplying the optronic masts for the class. Other South Korean content include the flank array sonars (provided by LIG Nex1) and the combat management system (provided by Hanwha).
Construction on first of class SS 083 ‘Dosan An Chang-Ho’ started with the first steel cutting ceremony held at the DSME shipyard in Okpo on November 27, 2014. The naming ceremony took place there on May 17, 2016. The boat was named in honor of one of the leaders of the Korean nationalist movement of the early twentieth century. The launch took place on September 14, 2018.
The keel laying of the second vessel SS 085 ‘Son Byong-hi’ took place at DSME shipyard on July 1, 2016. Hyundai Heavy Industries in Ulsan started construction of the third boat and final vessel of the first batch, SS 086 ‘Yi Dongnyeong’, on June 30, 2017.
In March 2019, the construction of the KSS-III Batch II project for the RoK Navy was approved.
Compared to the first batch, KSS III Batch II submarine are expected to have a longer hull (bringing displacement approx. from 3000t to 4000t), 10x VLS tubes (up from 6x), a greater level of South Korea systems and Lithium Ion batteries and High-Temperature Superconductor (HTS) motor technology for integrated full electric propulsion system