According to local media Yonhap TV News, the test was a success. This paves the way to the Republic of Korea (ROK) entering the “elite club” of countries able to design and field its own SLBMs. North Korea is arguably the 7th country in the world to have acquired this technology. All countries that have designed SLBMs so far are nuclear states. South Korea is notably the only country that will possess SLBMs without strategic nuclear weapons.
Details about the test are not fully open to the public, but it was reportedly conducted with a variant of Hyunmoo 2B missiles that can be fired within the range of 500 km. The ROK Navy expects to enhance strategic functions against North Korea by taking advantage of K-SLBMs (locally known as Hyunmoo 4-4) after the Moon-Biden press conference confirmed that both countries agreed to lift the ROK-U.S. Missile Guidelines on May 2021.
Another Korean media suggested that the actual cold launch test from the 3,000 tons Dosan Ahn Chang Ho-class (KSS III Batch 1) submarine is imminent, as the first submarine, capable of carrying K-VLS (Vertical Launching System) launchers for SLBMs, is known to be delivered to the Republic of Korean Navy within this month. The media quoted an informed source of the Korean military who said:
“The submarine Dosan Ahn Chang Ho only has torpedo decoy and SLBM launchers to test still, whereas tests of main equipment functions and sea trials have been completed. I heard that the submarine could be delivered to the Navy this month only after finishing the launching system test.”
Since the ROK Navy reportedly conducted its SLBM test-firing from a submerged barge this time and successfully completed a land-based launch test in the end of last year, the local press has speculated that the actual launch from the first 3,000 tons submarine (from a dived position) could be executed sooner or later, as Yonhap News Agency reported. In regard to this, an informed source from the military showed reservations and assumed a wait-and-see attitude to the media:
“I assume that the Navy is still not in the phase of being able to launch SLBMs from a dived submarine. As far as I know, however, technical development to acquire necessary capabilities is ongoing.”
The ROK Ministry of National Defense (MND) denied to provide details or confirm whether recent reports are true. The MND answered instead, “Selective confirmation on military assets is limited for security reasons. The Korean Armed Forces has been acquiring up-to-date and powerful assets to guarantee the peace of the Korean Peninsula based on strong military power, and will continuously develop.” Meanwhile, the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) only confirmed, “[the submarine] will be delivered very soon by completing a trial test for the torpedo decoy launching system.”
The first ship of the Dosan Ahn Chang Ho-class is fitted with 6 cold launch VLS (vertical launch systems) reportedly capable of launching both the Hyunmoo 4-4 SLBM and a submarine launched land attack cruise missile (SLCM) known as Hyunmoo 3C with a range of 1,500 Km. The follow-on class, known as KSS III Batch 2, will be fitted with up to 10 of those VLS, as Naval News reported previously. However, the MND still has not officially confirmed exact information about the development, size, and length of SLBMs, even whether the 3,000 tons submarines would be loaded with ballistic missiles.