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 North Korea new submarine (1) infographic
Graphic shows North Korea’s newly modernized Soviet-designed Romeo-class submarine.


North Korea new missile submarine

By Duncan Mil

September 8, 2023 - Kim Jong-un was present at the launch of North Korea’s latest “tactical nuclear attack submarine.” A radically modernised Soviet-designed Romeo-class boat, named Hero Kim Gun-ok, with hull number 841.

The diesel-electric-powered missile submarine has been officially unveiled and launched. The ceremony, which Kim Jong-un attended, took place at Sinpo submarine yard on North Korea’s eastern shore on September 6.

Although it will carry nuclear warheads, it is not a “nuclear submarine,” which refers to the propulsion system.

Significantly, the submarine has a missile compartment added with ten missile tubes. Given the Hermit Kingdom’s investment in ballistic missiles, it is likely that these are nuclear-capable. The forward four hatches are larger than the aft six, suggesting that the boat will carry multiple types of missiles -- a mix of short-range and longer-range submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) and land-attack cruise missiles (LACMs).

In particular, the new nuclear-capable cruise missile, the Hwasal-2, was adapted for submarine launch. The Hwasal-2 approximates to the U.S. Navy’s Tomahawk cruise missile.

The submarine appears to have had its bow crudely cut off and capped, while the aft section remains unchanged. This boat may be the same one seen in July 2019 -- the so-called Gorae/Sinpo-C version of a Romeo-class submarine.

H I Sutton wrote in Naval News: “One hypothesis is that the first Romeo submarine conversion, armed with three Pukguksong missiles, was not successful. And that this boat represents the latest thinking, emphasizing more yet smaller missiles.”

PUBLISHED: 08/09/2023; STORY: Graphic News; PICTURES: Getty Images