(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead as ceremony takes place; ADDS more details in paras 2, 10)
By Oh Seok-min
SEOUL, Sept. 28 (Yonhap) -- South Korea on Tuesday launched a new 3,000-ton-class homegrown submarine capable of firing ballistic missiles, the third of its kind designed to boost underwater defense capabilities, the Navy said.
A launch ceremony for the new submarine, named after a prominent Korean independence activist, Shin Chae-ho, took place at the shipyard of Hyundai Heavy Industries Co. in the southeastern city of Ulsan, attended by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Boo Suk-jong and several other military and industry officials, according to the military.
It is the third and the final of three Changbogo-III Batch-I submarines South Korea has been building with its own technologies under a 3.09 trillion won (US$2.77 billion) project launched in 2007. All of them are capable of firing submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs).
The first Dosan Ahn Chang-ho submarine was launched in 2018 and was deployed last month, and the second one, the Ahn Mu, was launched in November last year and is expected to be delivered to the Navy around next year, officials said.
The 83.5-meter-long and 9.6-meter-wide latest submarine is capable of carrying 50 crewmembers and can operate underwater for 20 days without surfacing, officials of the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) said, adding it is scheduled to be delivered to the Navy in 2024 after test operations.
"The submarine has a strong capability of deterring provocations as it can be equipped with SLBMs test-fired earlier this month," the Navy said in a release. "Some 76 percent of its parts are locally produced, which allows for maintenance and other technological support in a timely manner."
Earlier this month, South Korea unveiled its first homegrown SLBM by announcing the successful test-launch from the Dosan Ahn Chang-ho submarine. Officials say the submarines of the class have six vertical landing tubes capable of firing SLBMs.
North Korea is also pushing to boost its SLBM and submarine capabilities. It unveiled several new types of SLBMs recently, and has been working to build a new submarine believed to be a 3,000-ton one capable of carrying the missiles. But experts say North Korea has yet to be successful in underwater ejection tests of those systems.
In response to the South's SLBM, the North's missile development agency chief said last week the asset is "clumsy" and is in the elementary development stage.
Pyongyang has urged the South to stop securing advanced weapons, calling such moves hostilities against it. Early Tuesday, the North test-launched one short-range missile into the East Sea, just two weeks after firing two ballistic missiles, the South Korean military said.
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