SEOUL -- South Korea will start building a new generation of 3,000-ton submarines installed with lithium-ion batteries which allows longer and speedier underwater operations than lead-acid batteries. Construction is to begin in the second half of next year.
The Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), a state body controlled by the defense ministry, said Wednesday that the preliminary design of a diesel-electric submarine carrying a lithium-ion battery has been completed. The new submarine will be equipped with improved sonar and combat systems.
South Korea's first 3,000-ton submarine capable of firing ballistic missiles was unveiled on September 14. The submarine named "Dosan Ahn Chang-ho" can sail at a maximum speed of 37 kilometers per hour with about 50 people aboard. It was installed with lead-acid batteries like conventional submarines which use diesel-electric engines or nuclear power reactors as their main power source.
Lead-acid batteries are relatively inexpensive and reliable, while lithium-ion batteries are more power-efficient and take up less space. Submarines using lead-acid batteries surface regularly to vent poisonous fumes created in the processes of cooling and charging.
For its submarine project, South Korea has tried hard to localize parts. Dosan Ahn Chang-ho cost about one trillion won ($892 million) with its localization rate standing at 73 percent.
In a three-stage military program, nine 1,200-ton submarines have been built with technical help from Germany. In the second phase, six 1,800-ton hybrid diesel-electric/fuel cell vessels have been built and the third phase calls for the construction of 3,000-ton or 3,600-ton submarines.
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