South Korea launches eighth 1.800-ton submarine

South Korea launched its eighth 1,800-ton submarine on Tuesday in an effort to reinforce its maritime combat capability in the face of North Korea’s growing threat including its submarine-launched missiles. 

The Lee Beom-seok submarine, named after a renowned independence fighter, was unveiled in the shipyard of its manufacturer Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co. (DSME) in Geojedo, 333 kilometers (207 miles) south of Seoul. 

It is scheduled to be deployed in late 2018 after a test and review process, the Navy said. 

South Korea is striving to catch up with the North in terms of submarine capability. Seoul currently has 15 submarines, nine 1,200-ton and six 1,800-ton vessels, far less than Pyongyang’s 70, according to the defense ministry.

The Navy plans to increase the number to 18 by 2019 and add nine 3,000-ton submarines in the 2020s. 

In 2000, South Korea began the new submarine project, dubbed KSS-II, and selected the German shipbuilder Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft's 214-type subs as its next-generation submarines. 

The KSS-II submarine, 65 meters (213-foot) long and 6.3 meters wide, has a crew of 40 and a maximum underwater speed of 20 knots (37 km/hour), according to the Navy. 

It is capable of striking aircraft and submarines, planting mines in enemy-controlled waters. It also carries long-range cruise missiles that could hit the enemy's core facilities. 

It is the eighth of nine same-class submarines whose orders placed by the Navy to Hyundai Heavy Industries Co. and Daewoo Shipbuilding in early 2000s, DSME spokesman Yoon Yo-han said.  

Hyundai Heavy has built five out of six vessels under the contract and Daewoo Shipbuilding has delivered all of three ships, he said.

The new submarine's name came from Gen. Lee Beom-seok, who fought for the country's independence from Japan's colonial rule (1910-45) and served as prime minister and defense minister after liberation. The Navy makes it a rule to name new submarines after patriotic heroes.  (Yonhap)