North Korea has started building a new “Sinpo-C-class” submarine at the Sinpo shipyard on the Eastern coast of the country, according to U.S military intelligence assets. Analyst from 38 North detected potential signs of ongoing shipbuilding at the Sinpo shipyard.
“Given the continued movement of components in the parts yards, a shipbuilding program is probably underway although the type of vessel remains unknown.”
Although a new submarine is potentially being built, there is no evidence of North Korea planning to conduct a SLMB test in the near future.
“While there is growing concern that the North may be planning a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) test in the near future, the current imagery does not indicate an imminent test. The SINPO-class submarine, submersible test stand barge and nearby test stand, however, appear capable of supporting a test at any time of Pyongyang’s choosing.”
The Sinpo-C-class submarine is believed to be capable of launching KN-11 submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) . The KN-11 SLBM operational range is being disputed among analysts but South Korean experts believes it could reach targets at up to 2,000 km by conducting more tests.
“Experts here said North Korea may conduct more SLBM tests to extend the missile’s working range to some 2,000 kilometers.”
The diesel-electric propulsion submarine is estimated at more than 2,000 tons and with a beam measurement of more than 11 meters. According to the U.S. military intelligence experts, this new North Korean submarine is the largest-ever built ship by Pyongyang’s regime since the Najin-class frigates.
This new submarine class is likely a successsor to the Sinpo-B-class (Gorae-class in North Korea) ballistic missile submarine (SSB).
North Korea has been particularly active in ballistic missile tests this year. Pyongyang’s regime also warned the U.S. of a possible “salvo of missiles” in the waters near Guam in reprisal for joint U.S.-South Korea military drills.
North Korea’s deputy United Nations Ambassador also warned the General Assembly of a potential nuclear war in the near future.
Although a new Sinpo-C-class SSB will enhance North Korea’s nuclear capability, it is very unlikely that it would do any difference at a strategic level. With the United States’ 7th Fleet and its allies in the region, the survivability of Pyongyang’s next submarine would be very low. The constant satellite imagery would also provide the necessary intelligence to conduct a pre-emptive strike on the shipyard by the United States and South Korean Air Force if needed.
That said, the development of a new submarine class by North Korea must be taken seriously as it will improve their capability to conduct the first strike if ordered by Pyongyang.