South Korea has test-fired a homegrown submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), Yonhap news agency reported yesterday, as it seeks to build up its forces to defend itself from the nuclear-armed North.
Pyongyang has long sought to develop SLBM technology, and in January showed off four such devices at a military parade overseen by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, with the Korean Central News Agency calling them “the world’s most powerful weapon.”
However, while North Korea has released pictures of underwater launches, most recently in 2019, analysts believe that was from a fixed platform or submersible barge, rather than a submarine.
Photo: AFP / South Korean Ministry of National Defense
The South Korean Agency for Defense Development last week carried out underwater ejection tests of the SLBM from a new, locally developed 3,000-tonne class submarine fitted with six vertical launching tubes, Yonhap reported, citing unnamed military sources.
The SLBM is believed to be a variant of the country’s Hyunmoo-2B ballistic missile, with a range of about 500km, and is to be mass produced for deployment after another round of tests, it added.
South Korea joins only a handful of countries to have successfully developed an SLBM.
Seoul on Monday allocated nearly 1.5 trillion won (US$1.3 billion) for defense technology research and development next year in a budget request submitted to parliament.
If approved, it would represent a 76 percent jump in the research budget of the Defense Acquisition Program Administration, which would be used to “actively develop cutting-edge, future technologies,” a press release said.
Pyongyang is also looking to further enhance its submarine forces. In January, Kim told the Workers’ Party of Korea congress that the North had completed plans for a nuclear-powered submarine.
Any such vessel is likely to be years away from going into service, but analysts say it could be a strategic game changer, enabling Pyongyang to launch a surprise strike underwater even if its land-based forces had been destroyed.
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