The South Korean military strongly indicated the possibility of developing three 4,000-ton nuclear submarines during the Monday presentation of its 2021-2025 defense plan, which requires 300.7 trillion won of the defense budget in total. Nuclear submarines are considered as one of the key strategic weapons to address North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats and keep neighboring countries in check.
The military is conducting a project to deploy nine submarines weighing 3,000 to 4,000 tons by the early 2030s. The first submarine, SS-083, was launched in 2018 and will be deployed on site in 2022. While the first six submarines are decided to use conventional propulsion methods – diesel engine and fuel cells – the propulsion type for 4,000-ton submarine numbers seven to nine has not been determined yet.
“It is inappropriate to discuss it at the moment. We will have a chance to talk about it at a more appropriate timing,” said a military official to a question asking the possibility of 4,000-ton submarines to have nuclear propulsion. His answer leaves such a possibility open, which is why some say that the military has practically made a decision to build 4,000-ton submarines equipped with a nuclear propulsion system.
South Korea is deemed to meet all technological conditions to develop nuclear submarines thanks to its world-class submarine design and building technologies comparable to Germany’s and capability to manufacture small nuclear reactors for 3,000 to 4,000-ton submarines. Once a decision is made, nuclear submarines similar to the Barracuda-class submarine of France can be developed and deployed in six to seven years. “Once the support of the U.S. for collecting low enriched uranium to build nuclear submarines is obtained, the development process can be done with a breeze,” said a military source.
The strategic necessity of nuclear submarines is also growing. As North Korea is close to completing the development of a new 3,000-ton submarine equipped with multiple submarine-launched ballistic missiles and China and Russia have been deploying new nuclear submarines recently, South Korea should also have “corresponding military power.” “Nuclear submarines that overpower conventional submarines in stealth and striking power provide military strength to keep North Korea and neighboring countries in check,” said a military source.
Sang-Ho Yun email@example.com