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The Korean Attack Submarine program, KSS meaning Submarine, is a three-phased project to build up the Republic of Korea Navy (ROK Navy)'s submarine arsenal. Before the KSS program, the submarine fleet of the ROK Navy consisted of midget submarines, such as the Dolgorae class submarine and SX 756 Dolphin class submarine, which had limited capabilities for inshore operations. The KSS program sought to acquire submarines that can deter hostile submarines and surface ships; protect friendly naval bases and sea shores communications; carry out reconnaissance missions.
Through the first phase, KSS-I, the ROK Navy acquired nine 1,200-ton Chang Bo-go class submarines (장보고 급). For the second phase, KSS-II, the ROK Navy plans to acquire nine 1,800-ton Type 214 submarines equipped with Air-independent propulsion (AIP) the lead ship of her class, ROKS Sohn Won-il (SS 072) was launched at a shipyard of Hyundai Heavy Industries on June 9, 2006. The first batch of these submarines is a one of three, the second batch will be a one of 6 and a $16 million deal has been awarded to SAAB for the electronics that are going to be used for the vessels delivered in the second batch submarines. The third part of the program, KSS-III began in 2007. This class will have significant improvements when compared to its predecessors. A total of nine 3,000-ton KSS-III submarines are expected to be built in South Korea with indigenous technologies (i.e. not going under license as the previous KSS-I and KSS-II submarines).
In May 2009, South Korea decided to delay by two years its KSS-III project. The project is expected to cost around 800 millions dollars (597 millions euros).
The first KSS-III ship will be ready for service by 2022. The previous plan was to have an operational unit ready by 2017. Due to the relatively heavy displacement of the ship (3000~3500 tons) and the fact that it will be built with local Korean technologies (sensitive technologies might be blocked from export) this new class of ship will have the Vertical Launch System, the first submarine in the Republic of Korea Navy to have this kind of capability. It will also have many other improvements compared to its predecessors.
Since the class is still at an early stage of development as stated above there are many competing designs for the class, mainly the Diesel-electric powered version and the Nuclear powered version. The diesel-electric version is cheaper than the nuclear powered version and there is a smaller probability of accidents. However sponsors for the nuclear powered version of the submarine say that in order to tackle threats beyond North Korea, such as PLA SSBNs, they need a submarine with endurance only provided by nuclear power.
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