Hanwha Ocean's KSS-III Submarine Offer for the Philippine Navy

The Philippine Navy is now clearly venturing more into its investment in purchasing submarines from different shipbuilders that gave an offer of their products and service solutions, in which this also put the resolve of not only the capabilities of this service branch of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, but also to the current government policy of getting the entire military armed-up for external defense posture.

KSS-III, Philippine Navy, Hanwha Ocean, Jangbogo III PN, South Korea, Republic of Korea Navy
South Korean shipbuilder Hanwha Ocean upgraded its offer to KSS-III submarines for the Philippine Navy.
Image Source.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines is currently embarking on its greatest defense modernization package yet, as the Department of National Defense is now setting a budget amounting to around Php 2 Trillion, or US$35 Billion worth of defense package that will definitely boost the entire Philippine military for the upcoming years, with priorities aimed on both the Philippine Air Force and the Philippine Navy as all part of the country's adjusted Re-Horizon 3 phase.

This comes as the country's adjusted Re-Horizon 3 phase now being anchored on the "comprehensive archipelagic defense concept" whereby the entire Armed Forces of the Philippines are gearing itself more into projecting its power on areas of concern where the country's national interest and national sovereignty needs the most. This comes at the exact time as the Chinese assertiveness becoming more frequent in the West Philippine Sea.

Earlier in the year 2024, it has noted that the revisions Secretary of National Defense Gilberto Teodoro sought on regarding the Horizon 3 phase of the Revised AFP Modernization Program has approved by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., sticking to the newly formed aforementioned concept that has coined that is in line with the government's external defense posture policy. This led to defense-related developments such as this that are worth checking out.

Speaking of developments, the Philippine Navy clearly expressed and raised its interest once more about its acquisition of submarines to boost its power-projecting capabilities across the waters within and beyond the country's archipelagic confines. In this statement made by the Navy spokesperson for the West Philippine Sea, he provided a sign that the naval service branch organization will purchase at least 'more than one' unit of submarine for its fleet.

This is not surprising, as the Philippine Navy actually has plans to get at least two to three units of submarines, of which this has corroborated multiple times on this defense website every time submarines are into discussion. 

The only difference now is that from our final update last year on this acquisition project, South Korea's Hanwha Ocean upgraded its offer from what has initially been the DSME-1400 PN or the Chang Bogo-class submarines.

As this is an improvement over the previously discussed submarine product that Hanwha Ocean initially markets to the Philippine Navy, this topic will primarily cover the usual things that discusses about a defense-oriented product, which is from its development down to its actual operations and specifications as compared to other competitors to the project, which is now added by one more shipbuilder (this will come in a separate discussion).

With this, the details provided will help further understand not only the edge and capabilities that this submarine and its shipbuilder have in offering for the Philippine Navy, but also the corporate structure that made Hanwha Ocean became what it is today from an entity once known as Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Shipbuilding of South Korea, while covering also its package deal that other shipbuilders also offering, such as training of personnel and a submarine maintenance facility.

Hanwha, Hanwha Ocean, KSS-III Submarine, DSME-1400 PN Submarine, Philippine Navy, DSME, Daewoo, Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering
This shipbuilding company became part of Hanwha Group just recently.
Image screenshot from their website.

In our other article about the DSME-1400 PN improved Chang Bogo-class Submarines, we have discussed the origin and development of the shipbuilding firm that once called ‘Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering’ or DSME, a firm recently bought out by Hanwha Group and is now what called as “Hanwha Ocean”. 

This means that while some information on DSME already gets discussed, there is more about this firm for us to unfold and understand its current organizational setup.

Hanwha Ocean in its current form has formed just recently, whereby it became officially part of the larger Hanwha Group in 2023 after they successfully reorganize the newly bought DSME into their fold, and along with it comes the marketing upsell attempts that its predecessor have pushed for the Philippine Navy. 

And like the company’s transformation, their offer for the submarine acquisition project has also transformed that they are now marketing a far more capable one to compete in this program.

The formation to its current position took place a year or two earlier, before it became what is now Hanwha Ocean, whereby the parent company bought a controlling 49.3% stake of Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering, which faced troubling times about its finances and operations. 

The amount of the transaction on this largest sale of a shipbuilding company that took place in recent South Korean history amounts to around KRW 2 Trillion, or US$1.4 Billion as converted during the time of the sale.

This saved Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering from getting engulfed by a competitor and also a fellow South Korean shipbuilding company, HD Hyundai Heavy Industries, of which its deal has stopped by a veto made by the European Commission that prevents any monopolies from setting up in the long run. So, from this point of view, the acquisition of DSME by Hanwha Group guarantees that competition is ongoing and ensures that there will still be an entity that competes with the likes of HD Hyundai.

Even before the marketing made by then-DSME and now Hanwha Ocean to the Philippine Navy takes place, the latter’s defense relations with Hanwha is not new, at least that is the case for another subsidiary of Hanwha Group named as ‘Hanwha Systems Ltd’. 

This comes with the case of the Philippine Navy’s Jose Rizal-class Frigates and the succeeding warships purchased by the naval service branch from HD Hyundai, in which it comes with Hanwha Systems’ Naval Shield ICMS as its subcomponent.

Hanwha’s successful sale of its Naval Shield for the Philippine Navy may serve as a preference for this newly absorbed subsidiary that once called ‘Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering’ or DSME in terms of reputation that a defense materiel supplier has to the end user, giving both a chance and a leverage for them as part of the marketing of their submarines to the Philippine Navy. Although this only goes as a single factor in considering their offer to this specific type of acquisition project.

With the understanding of the story of how DSME gets absorbed and became part of the Hanwha Ocean now getting clear, let us now discuss to this next part of this topic, which is on the development and construction of the KSS-III submarines by then-DSME to the Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN), prior to the improvements that gets introduced along the way and eventually the version of the submarine that this shipbuilding firm sells to the Philippine Navy.

KSS-III, KSS-3, Batch 2, Batch II, South Korea, DSME, Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering, Hanwha Ocean, ROKN, Republic of Korea Navy, PN, Philippine Navy
Hanwha Ocean's forerunner DSME conducted a keel-laying ceremony of ROKN's KSS-III Batch II submarine.
Image retrieved from Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), via Image Source.

This South Korean-made submarine comes as the recent development made by both the country’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration or DAPA and then Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering or DSME, as a part of their continuous development of their indigenously built submarine development and production program, which traces back from the development of the Chang Bogo-class submarines, basically known as KSS-I on the South Korean submarine development phase.

Since the KSS-III submarine comes as the continuation of the submarine development employed by the South Korean Defense Acquisition Program Administration or DAPA, let us trace back to the development of the KSS-I submarines as a reference, with a full read available in a separate entry here. For reference, the KSS-I Chang Bogo-class submarines have its design traced back to the German Type 209 submarine, a vessel developed and produced by HDW or the Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (part of ThyssenKrupp).

Like the KSS-I Chang Bogo-class submarines, the KSS-II Son Won-il class submarines has also have its design traced back to the same German shipbuilding designer and manufacturer, whereby the design for this type of ships have patterned itself after the HDW Type 214 submarines, also used by countries like Greece with its four (4) Papanikolis-class submarines, Portugal with its Tridente-class submarines, and Turkiye and its Reis-class submarines.

The KSS-III submarines come differently from the two (2) submarine designs previously developed and produced by South Korea’s primary shipbuilding companies, whereby this comes as the first indigenously built submarine with a design that is also indigenously developed in South Korea. This is not surprising, considering that the country’s experience in producing and improving its submarines using the first two incorporated designs developed from Germany helped improve the country’s experience for this phase.

Speaking of recent developments, the first KSS-III designed submarine, the ROKS Dosan Ahn Chang-Ho (SS-083) achieved its first milestone as the then-DSME launched this first submarine on September 14, 2018 in the South Korean shipbuilder’s Geoje facility in the country’s port city of Busan. This milestone comes as a significant development for the South Korean shipbuilder, as they achieve this feat since the submarine’s first construction phase that took place in 2016.

Unlike the previous type of submarines that South Korean shipbuilders help develop and produce, specifically the KSS-I and KSS-II type submarines, the KSS-III may sport a new type of capability, of which this will add further to the war-fighting capabilities of this naval asset that goes beyond just attacking other naval assets at sea. This refers to its capability of carrying submarine-launched ballistic missiles or SLBMs, launched from its specially designed vertical launched system (VLS) cells intended for this purpose.

Ultimately, this shows the overall phases of submarine development as processed and planned by the South Koreans led by the Defense Acquisition Program Administration or DAPA, enabling them to have at least three (3) classes of submarines spanning three steps of design introductions. One submarine developed in the program comes as more capable and sophisticated than the last, and the vessels produced by South Korean shipyards primarily come with that country’s national security in mind.

BrahMos, KSS-III submarine, Vertical Launching System, VLS, Philippine Navy, Indian Navy, Dosahn Ahn Changho-class, Hanwha Ocean
South Korea’s Hanwha Ocean actively markets the KSS-III submarine design to India, with the BrahMos missile seen in the illustration.
Image Source.

Aside from the Philippines, Hanwha Ocean is actively marketing its KSS-III submarine design to other countries, as they are attempting to expand their market share in the global market not only for submarines but also for other military hardware that Hanwha group actively push, such as their Naval Shield Integrated Combat Management System that several Philippine Navy vessels have onboard. And with it comes the slight subsystems changes that can fit end-user requirements.

One of these marketing pushes is with then-Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME)’s offer to the Indian Navy, whereby they provided a variant of the KSS-III submarine to this country, of which this is called the P-75I submarine project. It competes with other naval shipbuilders that take part in marketing their respective designs for the Indian Navy to consider, such as the French Naval Group’s Barracuda-designed submarine, Navantia’s S-80 Plus submarines, Germany’s Type 214, and Russia’s Amur 1650 subs.

Initially, the submarine offer made by DSME does not come with Vertical Launching Systems or VLS cells for the Indian Navy to launch its missiles like the supersonic BrahMos missiles (see image above) that the Philippine Marine Corps gets for its shore-based defense prospects. This gets clarified later on that the Indian variant of the South Korean-made submarine may actually come with VLS systems, only that it will come less than what the Republic of Korea Navy variants typically come with.

Another country that South Korea sets its sights on related to its marketing prospects is the North American country of Canada, whereby it is competing against the Japanese Taigei-class submarines and the Spanish S-80 Plus submarines for the country’s requirements to replace its older submarines in its fleet with a contract price amounting to US$44.9 Billion or 60 Trillion South Korean Won. This calls for the requirement of at least twelve (12) diesel-powered subs that can replace the older Victoria-class submarines.

The Canadian deal, once pushed through, may help boost the South Korean submarine shipbuilding industry further, as this gets expounded further its submarine development, of which they may introduce a more-capable and better design later on, with several discussions surrounding the idea of South Koreans producing their own nuclear-powered submarines for their naval needs, although it only dwells on opinionated takes and not on the current path that the country’s naval branch pursues.

These deals may benefit the Philippines as well, if the country chooses the South Korean-built submarine for the submarine acquisition project, and if the two (2) aforementioned countries also opt to get this similar submarine design, whereby these countries comes with respective spare parts source, improving the logistical and maintenance and operational requirements of the submarines. This, of course, only comes in an ideal world format, with prospects being less likely to take place.

Overall, it shows the current push by both Hanwha Ocean, its predecessor Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering or DSME, and the South Korean government in promoting this submarine product for other countries to operate for, whereby it gives benefits for the South Korean shipbuilding industry in terms of submarine design, construction, and shipbuilding, while the respective end users receive the much-needed capabilities that the KSS-III submarine design have in its offer.

KSS-3, Korean Ballistic Missile Submarines, Philippine Navy, South Korea, Hanwha Ocean, North Korea, Submarine Acquisition Project
The KSS-3 submarine’s capability possesses a firepower potential intended to deter its rogue northern neighbor of North Korea, which also possess submarines of similar possessive firepower setup.
(c) H.I. Sutton, via Image Source.

As the KSS-3 submarine’s basic description of its capabilities, like its ability to function as a ballistic missile platform that carries Korean-made missiles of this configuration, gets highlighted, delving and understanding its comprehensive functionality deserves a discussion on this portion of the writeup. The focus on the submarines’ subsystems and subcomponents that come with this vessel helps deliver the information about what this newest South Korean submarine development comes in offering to potential customers.

The KSS-III batch II submarine’s specifications, itself being an improvement from the Dosan Ahn Chang Ho-class submarines of the Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN), come with the following information as provided by Naval News defense outlet - Displacement of 3,600tons (surfaced) and 4,000tons (submerged), 89.4 meters length, 9.7 meters beam, 7.6 meters draught, 6x 533 mm ATP torpedo tubes Babcock International WHLS for the likes of K761 Tiger Shark torpedoes, submarine-launched mobile mine, and 10x VLS cells.

Regarding the Philippine Navy’s version, the Jangbogo-III PN variant of the KSS-III submarine, comes with the following specifications - 77 meters overall length, 9.7 meters beam, 2,800tons (surfaced), 21 knots submerged speed, and accommodation of 31 to 41 Philippine Navy submariners and crew onboard the vessel. Like the advanced KSS-III submarine, it comes with 6 torpedo tubes of undetermined size and other details, and the propulsion system of the latest diesel generator, AC PM motor, and Lithium-ion battery.

The main feature and marketing point that Hanwha Ocean pitched to the Philippine Navy leadership lies in the capability that the Jangbogo-III PN has in its lithium-ion battery configuration, whereby the South Korean shipbuilder focuses on longer cruising range of the submarine upon submerging underwater, longer life cycle on the repetitive charging and operation of the batteries, and short charging time akin to the functionalities of modern smartphones that uses this modern technology.

Unlike the advanced variants introduced to the Republic of Korea Navy and marketed in countries like India, the Jangbogo-III PN submarines, based on the information provided, may initially not come with ballistic missile launch capability, explaining the absence of any mention of VLS cells onboard this submarine variant that the likes of the KSS-III batch II submarines have as initially designed. Still, this might still change as future developments may give emphasis on this capability as a deal breaker later on.

Finally, another thing to point up in the submarine version of the KSS-III design that the Philippine Navy sets to receive is that it does not come with an Air-Independent Propulsion or AIP system onboard the vessel, once again attributing it back to Hanwha Ocean’s main marketing point about its advanced lithium ion battery system. This is understandable as it will be the first time for the Philippine Navy to operate and maintain submarines and such a feature may come as the organization gets more experience.

To sum up, the Jangbogo-III PN submarine variant that Hanwha Ocean has provided to the Philippine Navy comes as smaller and less capable than the mainstream KSS-III variant that the Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) operates, but still come as more sophisticated and capable compared to its previous KSS-I (Jangbogo) submarines offer, itself being a smaller-designed submarine coming as a derivative from the Type 209 variant from Germany and offered to the Philippine Navy as the DSME-1400 PN submarine design.

KSS-3, Jangbogo-IIIPN, Scorpene-class, Hanwha Ocean, Naval Group, South Korea, Philippine Navy, Hanwha Ocean
India’s Kalvari-class submarines come as a subset of the Scorpene-class submarine design. 
Image gathered from Wikimedia Commons.

The Philippine Navy’s submarine acquisition project comes with stiff competition between shipbuilders that take part in this program, as the Hanwha Ocean of South Korea needs to provide a better offer for its package deal to this project compared to other shipbuilders. In context, other shipbuilders that take part in this project are France’s Naval Group and its Scorpene-class submarine, Spain’s Navantia and its S-80 Plus Isaac Peral-class submarines, and Italy’s Fincantieri shipbuilding company.

Before going to the specifics of comparing the Jangbogo-III PN submarine design to the offers made by other shipbuilders, Pitz Defense Analysis will cover first the advantage of this submarine to the previous submarine offer, which is the DSME-1400 PN submarine design pushed by Hanwha Ocean. From the tonnage alone, the Jangbogo-III PN comes heavier, as the DSME-1400 PN comes with 1,100tons surface displacement and 1,285 tons submerged displacement, compared to Jangbogo-III PN’s 2,800tons displacement.

Speaking of tonnages, the submarine candidate that almost has similar weight displacement to the Jangbogo-III PN among the ones presented in the Philippine Navy’s submarine acquisition project is the S-80 Isaac Peral-class submarines from the Spanish shipbuilder Navantia. The latter comes with both the surface and submerged displacement of 2,965 tons, which comes slightly heavier than the former, while being larger with 81 meters length, 11.6 meters beam, and 6.3 meters draught.

In comparison, the Scorpene-class submarines come as lighter and smaller vessel compared to the offers made by both South Korea’s Hanwha Ocean and Spain’s Navantia, whereby the weight displacement for this French-made vessel comes at around 1,700/1,750 tons, while having its dimensions of around 66.4 meters (67.5 meters for submarines operated by Royal Malaysian Navy), 6.2 meters in beam, and 5.8 meters draught (5.3 for the Royal Malaysian Navy variant).

One commonality found in all the offers made by aforementioned submarine shipbuilders to the Philippine Navy is that the submarines may not come with air-independent propulsion or AIP systems onboard, and instead stick once again to the lithium-ion battery technology like what Hanwha Ocean offers. This makes sense, as the Philippine Navy submarines may likely get deployed within the country’s territorial and EEZ waters that mitigate the absence of this crucial capability for diesel-powered submarines.

To add it up, the shipbuilders have their respective offers and packages that come as part of the offer aside from just providing submarine designs and specifications that already are competitive in their own right. All shipbuilders provided offers of submarine basing that accommodate the purchased vessels under this project, with the ones from Naval Group providing the fully comprehensive planning on this package. 

As for Hanwha Ocean, its package deal for its submarine deal aside from the delivery of Jangbogo-III PN vessels come with programs that may help support the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Self-Reliance Defense Posture or SRDP, of which the South Korean shipbuilder provides submarine training facilities for the future crew of the submarines to train and to get immersed on submarine operational simulation prior to their deployment into the real units purchased by the Philippine Navy through the Defense Department.

Fincantieri, U212, Philippine Navy, Todaro-class, Italian Navy
Italy’s Finantieri joins the fray by taking part in the submarine project.
Image Source.

The Philippine Navy is actively pursuing the acquisition of submarines that serve as an essential element of carrying out the national government’s current policy stance regarding the enormous shift the entire Armed Forces of the Philippines undertake from the usual counterinsurgency-related internal operations into territorial defense. The geopolitical implications pushed by different forces in areas like the West Philippine Sea make this push much needed by the planners within the leadership.

Amidst the backdrop of geopolitical brinkmanship employed by regional actors involved in either shifting or keeping the status quo in the Indo-Pacific region, the Armed Forces of the Philippines actively pursue its modernization of the Armed Forces even further, so much that the government revised its Horizon 3 phase that gets extended from 2028 to a full 10-year plan, which is until 2034. Adding to this revision is a defense package equating to Php 1 Trillion or US$35 Billion, sufficient for essential military hardware purposes.

Prior to this development, the Hanwha Ocean actively offered its DSME-1400 PN submarines for the Philippine Navy to consider, competing with the likes of Scorpene-class submarines of Naval Group and S-80 Plus Isaac Peral-class submarines of Navantia. The comprehensive package deal presented by Naval Group for submarine basing and support, and the enhanced capabilities of the submarines presented by Navantia, prompted Hanwha Ocean to upgrade its deal into the Jangbogo-III PN design.

The upgraded deal made by the South Korean shipbuilder come as an attempt at providing a better submarine offer plus after sales support that sees desirable for the leadership within the Philippine Navy to consider, itself an example of the benefits presented by the competitive bidding process as exhibited by the details provided under the Government Procurement Reform law of 2003 or the Republic Act 9184 and its 2016 Implementing Rules and Implementations (IRR). 

Regarding the provided specifications of the Korean-developed submarine, the Jangbogo-III PN submarine design comes slightly smaller than the original KSS-III submarine design that became the Dosan Ahn Chang Ho-class submarines of the Republic of Korea Navy, although its primary capability feature that Hanwha Ocean markets for the Philippine Navy to consider lies with its lithium-ion battery feature that enables the submarines to remain submerged without the need of AIP technology.

With the South Korean shipbuilder upgrading its submarine offer for the Philippine Navy leadership to consider, it remains to see how it fares out to the overall progress of the submarine acquisition project, as each shipbuilder comes with interesting offers that may define the direction of the country’s submarine fleet for the upcoming years. Also, with the entry of Italy into this submarine project further intensifies the competition, giving the leadership options to get the best offer for the amount allotted to the project.

Ultimately, the Philippine Navy is now keen on improving its capabilities even further, of which coupled with submarines, the service branch also has plans to purchase additional Frigates and Corvettes to supplement its surface fleet even further. While the preferences of Philippine Frigates and Corvettes come with South Korean‌ designs, there is a likelihood that European designs get presented later on, putting a competition as stiff and as intensive as the current push for introducing submarines to a country that currently lacks one.

(c) 2024 PDA.

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