On the opening day of the ADEX 2023 exhibition in Seoul, Hanwha Ocean has confirmed that its proposal to supply diesel electric submarines to the Royal Australian Navy still stands, despite the AUKUS arrangement for nuclear-powered vessels.
The original offer, made before the AUKUS announcement last September, was intended to replace the Collins-class submarine Life of Type Extension (LOTE) program. Hanwha Ocean said the delivery of a number of its KSS-III (Jangbogo-III) Batch II submarines, to be built in Korean yards, would remove the risk associated with the Collins LOTE.
The company’s Head of Naval and Special Ship Overseas Marketing Team, Jason Kim, told ADM that the offer could now also de-risk Australia’s plans to acquire leased Virginia-class submarines from the US in the 2030s; and new SSN-AUKUS submarines, which are not to begin construction for the Navy until at least 2040.
Hanwha Ocean and Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) are building the KSS-III for the Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) in three batches. Three Batch II boats are still to be delivered and the first Batch III boat will be delivered in 2028.
Kim said the Hanwha yard can build two submarines simultaneously and has the capacity to expand the facility to produce four boats at the same time. He said the production cycle for each submarine is around 50 months.
The KSS-III Batch III boats will have an Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) system which uses a PH1 hydrogen fuel cell that allows the submarine to remain submerged for over 20 days.
The submarine also has six Vertical Launch System (VLS) cells, capable of launching Hyunmoo-4 Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBM).
Hanwha is also proposing the KSS-III for Poland and the Philippines, and sees Canada as a potential customer. Ottawa’s Canadian Patrol Submarine Programme (CPSP) is looking for at least four – and as many as 12 – submarines to replace its Victoria-class SSKs and is expected to make a decision in the 2026-2027 timeframe.
Kim said Hanwha Ocean is also considering the establishment of a ‘Jangbogo User’s Group’, which would set up support centres around the world.
“It is an alternate solution for Australia to consider,” Kim told ADM. “Our technology is rock-solid.”
Disclaimer: The writer is staying in Seoul as a guest of the Korean Government.