Knowing South Korea's "Improved" Chang Bogo-class Submarine Offer to the Philippine Navy In Detail

Procuring submarines is one of the aspirations that a navy has in its long list of multiple acquisition projects, as having such assets enable the maritime branch of an Armed Force to deploy these underwater assets that are difficult to detect by other navies, and effectively having a deterrence that may disrupt maritime incursions of other country's warships at the time of war.

In this manner, let us discuss one of the candidates of the Philippine Navy's Submarine Acquisition Project, which was already tackled in multiple instances here on our blog website, only that this time around, it is from the country that has produced Missile-Guided Frigates for the Philippine Fleet's Offshore Patrol Force.

An image of a Chang Bogo-class submarine that is currently serving
in the South Korean Navy.
Image Source.

The discussion on submarine acquisition traced back to when the Armed Forces of the Philippines was still on the Horizon 1 phase, at least, here on Pitz Defense Analysis wherein we made a 2017 article that provides an overview to the Philippine Navy's Submarine Acquisition Project while showing multiple candidates from France's Scorpene-class submarines to Russia's submarine offers.

Just recently, a contingent belonging to the Department of National Defense, led by Assistant Defense Secretary for logistics and acquisition Jesus Rey Avila, visited the facility of Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME) in South Korea, as both countries aim to improve relations in areas that involve cooperation, such as in defense sector given the fact that the Philippines bought Korean-made military equipment in the past.

Aside from the visit, it was also reported that DSME has offered its 1,400-ton submarine to the Philippine Navy under the Submarine Acquisition Program, even though France offered its Scorpene submarines earlier this year, with the French Navy has committed to help the Philippine Navy in the creation of its submarine force as discussed during the high-level talks between two navies in Paris when a Philippine Navy contingent led by then VAdm Giovanni Carlo Bacordo visited the country and inspect naval facilities there.

Moreover, let us take note that the Naval Group has set up a Representative Office in Manila last 2019, committing further as it wanted to secure the deal for the Submarine Acquisition Project through its Scorpene offer, now seeing a challenge from a competitor like South Korea's DSME wherein it offers its submarine candidate, which will be the main topic of this article discussion.

With this development regarding the Department of National Defense's increasing interest in Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering's submarine product, let us discuss the submarine in detail, from the shipbuilder down to the product itself, which it came to understand the product offer better, and to describe on how will it fare with the competition like the Scorpene-class Submarine of the French shipbuilder Naval Group.

This is a screenshot of DSME's website, showing its shipbuilding facility. Check the website here.

Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering or DSME are just one of the largest shipbuilding companies in South Korea, going alongside Hyundai Heavy Industries (which is the shipbuilder that helps produced the Jose Rizal-class Frigates for the Philippine Navy), and Samsung Heavy Industries, which formed South Korea's three largest shipbuilding companies that feed a portion of its economy.

Like any other South Korean shipbuilding mentioned, DSME catered for both civilian and military customers that seek its products across the world, like constructing large container vessels such as this one for the German logistics conglomerate Hapag Lloyd, several crude carriers for other prospective clients, and a portion of South Korean Navy's surface and subsurface assets currently in service in its fleet.

The company was said to be established in 1973 at Okpo Bay, Geoje Island, which is situated in the southernmost tip of the Korean peninsula, and currently obtains a shipyard in the area aside from the ones operated by Samsung Heavy Industries that helped provide jobs and livelihood for the locals that have lived in the island, with the continuous cash inflows due to the number of orders these shipyards received from clients across the globe.

DSME achieved one of its milestones by producing South Korea's first locally-produced submarine, which was the ROKS Chang Bogo (SS-061), way back in the 1990s, which was followed suit by Hyundai Heavy Industries when it first built its own submarines for the South Korean Navy, coming in the form of a licensed Type 214 submarine, which was designed by Germany's Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (a subsidiary of ThyssenKrupp).

With regards to its submarines, its successful export came when Indonesia and DSME agreed on a deal of procuring such assets, which were soon named by the Indonesian Navy as the Nagapasa-class submarines, wherein these boats were assembled in Indonesia by no other than PT PAL Persero, the primary shipbuilder that produced the Tarlac-class landing platform docks to the Philippine Navy.

An Egyptian Navy HDW Type 209/1400 submarine in service. Obtained via Wikimedia Commons.

While Chang Bogo-class submarines are considered a product made in South Korea, it is undeniable that their design directly originated from Germany, in which a company like Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (a subsidiary of ThyssenKrupp Marine) produces a vessel known as the Type 209 submarines, with the Chang Bogo being a variant under this class of submarines.

The design of Type 209 was inspired by the earlier variants of submarines that have produced by HDW, originally intended for the German Volksmarine in the 1960s as they were seeking a new submarine during that time that will satisfy their specifications seen as the improvement on the earlier variants such as the Type 206, Type 205, and the Type 201 which is the first postwar submarine of Germany.

With regards to the Chang Bogo-class submarines, its design was derived from the earlier variant of the German-made HDW Type 209/1200 type, as opposed to the later variants such as the Egyptian Navy's HDW Type 209/1400 (although this design was the one provided for the Nagapasa-class), as seen on the image above, with the modifications and upgrades were made by Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME) to suit South Korean Specifications later on (more unto that later).

The first boat under this class of submarines was first laid in 1989, launched in 1992, and entered service in the South Korean Navy a year later in 1993, and is currently in service within the South Korean fleet ever since, with now having additional orders for these submarines intended for Indonesia's Naval Fleet, known locally as the TNI-AL or Tentara Nasional Indonesia - Angkatan Laut.

Apparently, the one offered for the Indonesian Navy is an improved Chang Bogo-class variant known as the DSME-1400, in which the design and specifications are more enhanced than the original Type 209/1200 Chang Bogo-class that the South Korean Navy has in service, and it goes reminiscent to the one shown in the image above.

The improved variant may also be the one that Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering will be providing for the Philippine Navy's submarine acquisition project, as this came with four (4) MTU 12V 493 diesel generators that can help the vessel travel at 21 knots underwater while having a speed of 11 knots when sailing at the surface.

Qualifying pre-requisites of at least having two users using such type of submarines and also being used by the country of origin, the Chang Bogo-class submarine is eligible in presentation as a product candidate of DSME for the Philippine Navy's Submarine Acquisition Project, wherein it is heavily competing against the like of France's Scorpene-class submarines, with it having more navies using such type of vessel across the world.

The specifications of the Chang Bogo-class Submarines.
Image Source.

Upon checking the specifications, particularly in its dimensions and displacement, it goes reminiscent of Type 209/1200 submarine from Germany, or some would call it the U-209/1200 submarine since the Chang Bogo-class' design was derived from the 1967-developed design that is a proven one from ThyssenKrupp Marine, itself used by several navies across the world.

Meanwhile, the Scorpene-class submarines from Naval Group, and Daewoo's main competitor for its Chang Bogo submarines for the Philippine Navy Submarine Acquisition Project, is a recent design that has a deeper operational diving depth of 350 meters,  a longer hull of 63.5 meters, and a heavier displacement for both surfaced and submerged levels.

For reference, DCNS/Naval Group's Scorpene-class submarines came with a surfaced displacement of 1,450 tons and a submerged displacement of 1,590 tons, as opposed to those for Chang Bogo-class submarines described in a table above (1,400 tons apparently for the improved variant), with both surfaced displacement and submerged displacement difference being at 350 tons and 305 tons, respectively.

Other armaments include mines, of which the Chang Bogo-class possess 28 mines while the Scorpene-class came with 30 mines. The Scorpene submarines possess an additional capability of launching Exocet anti-ship missiles on its torpedo tubes. The Type 209/1200, in which the original Chang Bogo-class submarines were derived, does not have any of these added armaments.

These variations in armaments, specifications, and capabilities, may help define a candidate vessel's edge over the other, especially with the stiff competition between the South Koreans and the French in securing this deal that will define the capabilities of the Philippine Navy may soon have, especially the ones that go with the Armed Forces of the Philippines' desire of having a minimum credible defense posture.

Chang Bogo submarine's main competitor to the Philippine Navy Submarine Acquisition Project.
Image Source.

The Philippine Navy's submarine acquisition project is just one of multiple projects that the Armed Forces of the Philippines, along with the Department of National Defense, is pushing to obtain its requirements of having an effective deterrence, especially in terms of external defense with the threat coming from China getting hotter as time passes by.

This offer made by Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering or DSME is just one of the candidates that are being pushed for this procurement program, with its main competitor Naval Group from France also offered their own submarine product at the aims of securing the contract for the deal and eventually, gaining a new customer in the region that increases the chances of being chosen for future purchases once again.

In the Southeast Asian Region, let it be noted that the Philippines' southernly neighbor Indonesia possess these improved Chang Bogo-class submarines from South Korea, locally known as the 1,400-ton Nagapasa-class submarines, wherein it is expected to boost their naval capabilities in the long run, given that it provides a useful reference for the Philippines since both share similarities in the archipelagic form of geographical setup.

With the highly competitive environment that the two main suppliers for the submarine acquisition project promote, it came with the benefit that the Philippine Navy will join the submarine club that is brewing in the region as the country lags behind at this form of capability that will give enemy navies a hard time in detecting these underwater assets.

So, it will be interesting with regards to the outcome of the Philippine Navy's submarine acquisition program, especially that both of the competing classes of submarines being offered will give the boost for the naval branch's capabilities at one way over the other, bringing the aim of fulfilling the duties and responsibilities of the organization in delivering its mandate of defending the nation and its citizenry.

Update 8-15-2021: Some portions in the article are added or edited for more accurate details, particularly on the improved Chang Bogo-class variant "DSME-1400" build of the Nagapasa-class submarines, which is also the ones offered for the Philippine Navy.

(c) 2021 PDA.

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