Pyongyang is modernizing once obtained decommissioned Soviet diesel submarine capable of carrying ballistic missiles either for active service or as a test bench for constructing a similar sub of its own, South Korean government sources say.
North Korea “imported a Soviet-era Golf-class diesel submarine and modified it,” Yonhap news agency has reported, citing a government source.
The Soviet Union constructed various modifications of Golf-class diesel-electric submarines, also known as ‘Project 629’, starting from 1958. The sub was capable of carrying three single stage liquid-propellant ballistic missiles (types vary on different modifications of the subs), with one nuclear warhead and six torpedo tubes, which could use nuclear torpedoes as well.
Twenty-three Golf-class submarines were constructed in the USSR over the years. At least one of them was lost in an incident: in 1968, a Golf II class submarine, the K-129, dived too deep in waters northwest of Hawaii and imploded. The crew of 98 all perished. In July 1974, part of it was recovered by the US in an unprecedented operation dubbed Project Azorian.
By 1990, all Golf-class submarines were decommissioned. Ten of them were allegedly sold to North Korea in 1993. And now it appears that North Korean engineers have been busy learning Soviet technology for the last 20 years and have got the sub seaworthy again.