There could be more than one North Korean nuclear missile submarine under construction

At the beginning of September, the KCNA news agency announced the launch of a new North Korean submarine, then presented as a tactical attack nuclear submarine, and named Hero Kim Gun-ok.

In fact, it turned out that it was an adaptation of a Soviet model dating from the end of the 50s, called Romeo by NATO, absolutely not equipped with nuclear propulsion and reputed to be not very discreet.

The launch of the North Korean submarine Hero Kim Gun-ok

On the other hand, the new North Korean submersible seems well equipped with vertical launch tubes, making it possible to implement short-range ballistic missiles, as well as intermediate-range cruise missiles, each of which can potentially carry a nuclear charge. .

Therefore, if the presentation of Hero Kim Gun-ok has been quite exaggerated by Pyongyang's propaganda, the military potential of the ship is indisputable, in particular to neutralize Seoul's new three-axis doctrine supposed to provide a conventional response to the nuclear threat. North Korean.

North Korean submarine Hero Kim Gun-ok
North Korean submarine Hero Kim Gun-ok launched in September 2023

If that were not enough, it appears that North Korean shipyards have begun construction of at least one additional missile submarine, this time equipped with KN-26 Pukguksong-3 ballistic missiles, more imposing and with a greater range than those implemented aboard the Hero Kim Gun-ok.

New North Korean submarine potentially armed with Pukguksong-3 SLBM nuclear missiles

In any case, this is the conclusion reached by the world-renowned specialist in submarines and underwater warfare, HI Sutton, in an article published on his blog on September 17.

He bases his reasoning on the very significant differences observed between the ship launched at the beginning of September, and the one whose photos were revealed in 2019 on the occasion of Kim Jong-Un's visit to the shipyards responsible for building submarines for the North Korean Navye.

In both cases, the ships are obviously derived from the Soviet Romeo class, although the Hero Kim Gun-ok appears longer and more imposing than previous ships.

Kim Jong-Un's 2019 visit to observe the construction of the Sinpo-C class

Thus, the ship observed in 2019 and called Sinpo-C class, sports a silhouette relatively close to that of the Chinese Type 033 derived from the Soviet Romeo. On the other hand, the submersible's kiosk was considerably lengthened and raised, so as to accommodate three Pukguksong-3 medium-changing ballistic missiles, 8 meters long.

Kim Jong-un North Korean Sinpo-C class submarine 2019
Kim Jong-Un visits North Korean shipyards building Sinpo-C class submarine

If the Sinpo-C is indeed armed with three heavier and longer-range missiles, therefore potentially classified as strategic, this would also explain the strange classification of tactical attack nuclear submarine given to Hero Kim Gun-ok.


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