|President Moon Jae-in, front row third from left, salutes while participating in the launch ceremony of the Dosan Ahn Chang-ho submarine at Okpo Shipyard of Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) on Geoje Island in South Gyeongsang Province, Friday. Defense Minister Song Young-moo, left, and a group of ranking military and government officials joined the event to commemorate the launch of the nation's first 3,000-ton submarine. / Yonhap|
By Lee Min-hyung
GEOJE, South Gyeongsang Province ― The nation's first 3,000-ton submarine was launched Friday on this southeastern island city, featuring an increase in parts localization ratios and improved underwater sound propagation systems.
The vessel is named after Dosan Ahn Chang-ho, one of the nation's most respected independence activists during the 1910-45 Japanese occupation. Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) manufactured the next-generation underwater fleet. Dosan's grandson, Ahn Robert Alan, was also invited to the launch ceremony.
The Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) signed the submarine manufacturing contract with DSME in 2012, in a bid to enhance the nation's naval combat prowess by introducing the mid-sized submarine.
The vessel belongs to the first batch of the Korean Submarine (KSS)-III project. Starting from 2020, the Navy will start introducing nine Ahn Chang-ho submarines to replace existing smaller vessels, according to DAPA.
A group of high-ranking officials ― including President Moon Jae-in and Defense Minister Song Young-moo ― participated in its launch ceremony.
"The launch of the Dosan Ahn Chang-ho submarine displays our capabilities for national defense, and starting with the event, our defense industry will take a big leap forward," Moon said in a speech while joining the launch ceremony, Friday.
Of note is that the latest submarine has achieved a 76-percent parts localization ratio, a whopping growth from 33 percent during the 1990s when the KSS-I project was underway.
"We are on track to increase the localization ratio for the submarine manufacturing project," a DAPA official said. "Korea can now manufacture most of the key submarine components ― including the sound navigation and ranging (Sonar) ― without the help of overseas technologies. For upcoming projects, we are going to increase the ratio to hold tighter grip on naval defense capabilities."
Sonar systems are the most critical and high-tech part of submarines, serving as an ear of underwater fleets. The Navy's submarines here and abroad use the systems to detect enemy objects or underwater mines.
|Seen above is the Dosan Ahn Chang-ho submarine manufactured by Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering. Core parts for the 3,000-ton underwater fleet were designed and manufactured by domestic technologies. / Korea Times photo by Lee Min-hyung|
The KSS-III submarine is also equipped with local Sonar systems, allowing the Navy to reduce its maintenance costs and time by a huge margin, according to DAPA and the naval force.
"Starting from its initial development phase, DAPA has teamed up with the nation's leading defense organizations from industry and research circles," the official said.
"We have focused on self-developing such core info-tech systems in our bid to continue reducing our reliance on overseas players and tighten our technology competitiveness," he said.
It costs about one trillion won ($890 million) for DSME to manufacture one Ahn Chang-ho submarine.
The first Ahn Chang-ho submarine will be delivered to the Navy sometime between 2020 and 2021, and after a year-long naval test, the vessel will be ready to conduct military missions, according to the naval force.
The submarine comes with a length of 83.3 meters and is powered by a diesel-electric propulsion system. The vessel also has a maximum speed of 37 kilometers per hour.
According to the Navy, Korea is the world's fifth-largest submarine exporting countries after the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Russia. The defense procurement agency aims to increase its share down the road by continuously localizing parts and developing competitive submarine technologies.
The growth is outstanding in that the achievement came only about less than 25 years since the nation started manufacturing a submarine for the first time in 1994.