North Korea may have acquired a new submarine, according to an American researcher who based his findings on a review of commercial satellite imagery from 2010 until now.
Joseph Bermudez, chief analytics officer of AllSource Analysis, says the imagery revealed “the presence of a previously unidentified submarine moored in the secured boat basin at the Sinpo South Shipyard.”
He made the comment in an article he wrote for the 38North website, which is run by the U.S.-Korea Institute at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
The shipyard is the primary manufacturing facility for North Korean submarines, and is the headquarters of the country's Maritime Research Institute of the Academy of the National Defense Science. It is responsible for “research and development of maritime technology, naval vessels and submarines, and naval related armaments and missiles,” Bermudez wrote.
The submarine has a length of about 67 meters and a beam of 6.6 meters, suggesting a dived displacement in the 900-1,500 ton range.
It appears to be equipped with a rounded bow and a conning tower located amidships, but there are no visible diving planes, according to Bermudez. He added that no torpedo or missile tubes are readily discernable on the bow or deck of the submarine.
Bermudez says it is too early to identify the possible missions intended for this new class of submarine or the position it could occupy in the North Korean navy’s future submarine forces.
According to a white paper released by South Korea’s Defense Ministry in 2012, North Korea is known to have 70 submarines.
(Jee Abbey Lee contributed to this report, which was produced in collaboration with the VOA Korean service.)