Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Polish submarines: South Korea leads the big offensive

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For several years, the ORKA program of Polish submarines was adept at moonwalking, pretending to move forward, but remaining indisputably frozen, and letting the French of Naval group, the Germans of TKMS and the Swedes of Kockums, chase what seemed well be just a hare.

After this long and grueling period of delay, the program was relaunched, on the basis of new specifications, in spring 2023 , and opened to new non-European players. In particular, this new program seemed to have been designed to allow Poland's new key defense partner, South Korea, to participate in it, or even impose itself. Judging by the proposals made in recent days by Hanwha Ocean, Seoul has no intention of passing up the opportunity to record a first export success for its KSS-III Dosan Anh Changho submarine.

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Hanwha Ocean's very attractive offer for the Polish submarine fleet

It must be said that Hanwha Ocean did not hesitate to pull out all the stops to seduce Warsaw , regardless of the government that will preside over the final decision. Thus, the proposed submarines will be equipped, in addition to an AIP system, with Lithium-ion batteries. This is a probable response to Naval Group's recent announcement concerning its Scorpene Evolved , also now equipped as standard with these new, much more efficient batteries.

Polish submarines Scorpene evolved
The Scorpene Evolved, from Naval group, is natively offered with Lithium-ion batteries, in order to have greater diving autonomy, higher speed and the possibility of rapid and simplified recharging.

In addition, the South Korean proposal includes a very important industrial component, as is also the case for the proposals concerning the local construction in Poland of K-2PL tanks, K-9PL self-propelled guns and K239 long-range artillery systems. . The offer notably includes the construction of a complex allowing the construction and maintenance of the submarine fleet, and even its extension if necessary.

But the most differentiating point, compared to European offers, concerns the armament of the submarines offered by Hanwha Océan. In fact, Seoul is proposing nothing more, nothing less, than transposing to Poland its three-axis doctrine, designed to give South Korea a significant conventional deterrence capacity in the face of the North Korean nuclear threat.

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For this, the KSS-IIIs offered to the Polish Navy can be equipped with the same vertical silos, and the same cruise and ballistic missiles, which arm and will arm the South Korean ships . These will be able, according to the three-axis doctrine , to strike the adversary's nuclear launch sites, before they can launch their missiles, in order to reduce the number of potential vectors, to a number that can be contained by the country's (and NATO's) air and missile defenses.

Transposing the South Korean 3-axis doctrine to the European theater

This capability is so exclusive, while no European submarine is equipped with comparable munitions, that it seems attractive at first glance for Warsaw, which must face the rise in power of the Russian armies, including in the nuclear field. However, as we mentioned in an article devoted to the South Korean three-axis doctrine , it is very difficult to transpose to the European theater, facing Russia.

Hyunmoo 4-4 SLBM missile
South Korea's Hyunmoo 4-4 SLBMs are designed to eliminate potential North Korean nuclear strike launch sites, before they can launch their missiles.

LOGO meta defense 70 Submarine fleet | Defense News | Air Independent Propulsion AIP

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