Republic of Korea
Navy Submarine Force:
Another Story of the Korean Miracle
By Rear Adm. Youn Jeong Sang, ROKN
Commander, Submarine Flotilla 9
“Dive one hundred times, surface one hundred times”—a vision once set forth by an infant submarine force—has become the creed of daily operations of the ROK Navy submarine flotilla. For 20 years, this creed has been the basis of successful clandestine operations and the homing beacon for submarines to navigate safely. The same passionate motivation and impetus that lifted Korea from the devastation of the Korean War to the ranks of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member states has driven the ROK Navy Submarine Force to success. Even more impressive is that, while it took the Korean economy over 50 years to reach its current status, it took the submarine force only 20.
The Beginning and Rise of the Submarine Force
The submarine force began as a submarine squadron subordinate to the Component Flotilla. With the addition of submarine assets, the squadron was upgraded to a submarine flotilla on October 1st, 1995. Four submarine squadrons and one education and training squadron were established later as subordinate units of the flotilla.
In 1992, the ROK Navy introduced its first Type 209-class submarine, the ROKS Chang Bogo (SS 061), manufactured in Germany. According to the initial plan to obtain the technology to domestically manufacture future submarines, the construction of subsequent Type 209-class submarines took place in Korean shipyards. As a result, the Submarine Flotilla today has about a dozen submarines of Type 209 class and Type 214 class combined.
The delivery of ROKS Lee Chun (SS 062)
Up to now, Korea has deployed submarines overseas to participate in a total of 19 combined exercises with allied and friendly forces. Through such events, the ROK Navy was able to confirm its clandestine operation capabilities and promote interoperability with allied forces.
Meanwhile, the capability and facilities for maintenance and repair were also considered a vital part of operating a submarine force. Today, Korean submarines receive maintenance and repairs on a regular basis at the naval shipyard as well as going to the shipyards of domestic shipbuilding companies for more technical repairs.
A submarine is only as good as its crew. For a country starting from scratch, we had to rely on the support and coordination of advanced submarine-operating navies to receive basic submarine education and training. Selecting the best and the brightest, the ROK Navy sent a team to Germany for 18 months to receive education and training. Meanwhile, back home, submarine recruits went through a similar course which adopted parts of the German course model. In addition, the ROK Navy invited retired U.S. Navy submarine commanding officers as instructors. Such efforts in the initial phase of building a submarine force established a firm foundation for the ROK Navy to further develop by adding and applying Korean ingenuity and effort.
The Importance of Education and Training
Cultivating a crew who will act both as the spear and as the shield is essential because they are the pride of the submarine force and the ‘invisible power’ of the navy. Therefore, education and training aimed to make every Submariner an expert in submarines has always been a top priority. A Submariner undertakes six months basic submarine education and training and six months onboard training in order to gain submarine qualification.
ROK Navy Submariners on Control Training
By applying its accumulated knowledge on Type 209-class submarines, the Submarine Flotilla has become the only country in the world that has a complete Type 209-class submarine tactical and control training facilities. This is an impressive advancement if we look back to the days when we relied on foreign navies to train submarine recruits.
Moreover, the ROK Navy is now capable of providing submarine training and education for other navies. In 2011, a submarine crew of the Indonesian Navy completed the basic submarine course at the Education & Training Squadron. As a country that received support from advanced submarine-operating countries, it is a duty and a mission for Korea to do the same for navies that need our support.
The Way Ahead
For the past 20 years, the ROK Navy submarine force has developed with the support of friendly forces and the application of Korean effort and creativity. The Submarine Flotilla’s future focus can be described as the pursuit of the following:
(1) The ROK Navy submarine force takes on new challenges to maintain peace and stability in Northeast Asia. The upgrade of the flotilla to a submarine force command in 2015 will be a robust kick-off for this effort. With the introduction of mid-sized submarines, the ROK Navy will gain enhanced capabilities that will surely benefit interoperability among friendly forces in the region.
(2) It is committed to regional cooperation in rescuing distressed submarines and continues to develop the cooperative system for submarine rescue among allied forces in the region. Korea had the honor of hosting the 12th Asia Pacific Submarine Conference in September 2012, a discussion forum that included international experts in submarine safety, escape, and rescue.
(3) The ROK Submarine Flotilla will continue to strengthen ties and cooperation with friendly countries in the region, supporting friendly navies that ask for the provision of submarine education and training at our Type 209-class submarine training facilities. We also look forward to supporting our allies with education and training on the flotilla’s Type 214-class submarine training facilities, which are pending completion.
In 2011, the ROK Submarine Flotilla celebrated ROKS Chang Bogo’s impressive record of navigating 200,000 miles accident-free. The flotilla slogan ‘Dream, Challenge and Creation’ has been the engine of such progress and will act as the guideline for the future too. The Submarine Flotilla will continue its dedication to the peace and prosperity of Korea and its commitment to creating a new chapter in the history of submarines.