South Korea Conducts Ejection Tests of the SLBM, Becomes First Nation with ‘Most Potent’ Conventional Missile Submarine

Foreign Affairs

Seoul: South Korea’s development of a conventional submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) is a ground-breaking move, which analysts say would have implications for North Korea, the US alliance, and even the prospect of nuclear weapons in South Korea.

Last week, South Korea conducted ejection tests of the SLBM from its recently launched Dosan Ahn Chang-ho KSS-III submarine, Yonhap news agency reported, showcasing a unique capability. It is the only nation to field such weapons without nuclear warheads.

The South Korean government says the conventionally armed missile is designed to help counter any attack by North Korea as also  reducing the country’s reliance on the United States.

South Korea’s sub-launched missile, believed to be a variant of the country’s ground-based Hyunmoo-2B ballistic missile, with a flight range of about 500 kilometres (311 miles), is smaller than the nuclear-tipped SLBMs developed by the North.

H.I. Sutton, a specialist in military submarines, said the South’s technology is more advanced, however, and called the combination of an SLBM with the submarine’s quiet Air Independent Propulsion system a potential “game changer.”

“In these respects it is the most potent conventionally powered and armed submarine in the world,” he wrote in a report for Naval News.

South Korea’s SLBM is one of a wide range of conventional missiles that the country is developing to augment its “Overwhelming Response” doctrine, said Ankit Panda, a senior fellow at the US based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

“The SLBM is nominally justified in these terms, granting South Korean planners a highly survivable conventional second strike option in the face of North Korean attack; these missile systems would punish North Korea’s leadership in the case of an attack on the south,” he said.