Babcock to supply WHLS for South Korea’s sixth KSS-III submarine

KSS-III diesel-electric attack submarine (SSK) ROKS Ahn Mu
KSS-III diesel-electric attack submarine (SSK) ROKS Ahn Mu.

Babcock has won a contract from South Korean shipbuilder Hanwha Ocean to manufacture and install its Weapons Handling Launch System (WHLS) on the Republic of Korea Navy (RoKN)’s sixth KSS-III diesel-electric submarine, the company announced on 31 January.

“Our patented air turbine pump offers several advantages. It is compact and highly efficient as it uses less firing air, meaning the system is quiet and has lower maintenance requirements than other handling and launch systems,” said Babcock.

Babcock also supplied its WHLS for earlier boats in the KSS-III class. The system can also be found in Australian, Canadian, Spanish, and UK submarines.

The first and second KSS-III boats – ROKS Ahn Mu and ROKS Ahn Mu – were commissioned into RoKN service in August 2021 and April 2023 respectively while a third boat is expected to be commissioned in 2024.

The South Korean Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) noted that the KSS-III submarines are an important part of the national Kill Chain pre-emptive strike system, which forms a key pillar of the country’s operational plan to incapacitate the North Korean leadership in a conflict.

The KSS-III programme achieved an important milestone in September 2021, when lead boat ROKS Dosan An Chang-ho successfully carried out a SLBM launch for the first time. Dosan An Chang-ho was commissioned into RoKN service in August that year.

KSS-III Batch I submarines measure 83.5 m-long and displaces around 3,300-3,700 tonnes when submerged, while Batch II boats batch displace about 4,100 tonnes submerged and have an overall length of about 89 m. The boats are equipped with a hydrogen fuel cell-based air-independent propulsion (AIP) system for extended endurance, and have a maximum stated speed of 20 kt and cruising range of 10,000 nautical miles.

by Jr Ng