A new North Korean ballistic-missile submarine unveiled Tuesday looks like a remodeled old Soviet Golf-class sub.
Judging from photos and video clips released by state media, they have similar bridges and bows. The Soviet Union deployed the Golf from the late 1950s until the early 90s. It was 98.9 m long with a submerged displacement of 3,500 tons and was capable of carrying three ballistic missiles.
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In the mid-1990s the North imported one Golf from Russia that hardly more than scrap but did not dismantle it. At the time, the fire control system was missing but the missile launch tube was intact.
The Golf had a range of 17,600 km, long enough for the new North Korean sub to sail out and launch Pukguksong-1 missiles with a range of 1,500 to 2,000 km close enough to the U.S. mainland.
State media showed blurred or pixelated images of the back of the bridge where the ballistic missiles could be loaded.
The North made it sound as if the sub’s deployment is imminent, but experts believe it is unfinished. It takes one to three years to test a new sub before it is deployed. Joseph Bermudez at the Center for Strategic and International Studies told Radio Free Asia that even if the North has built a new ballistic missile sub, it does not pose an immediate threat.
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CNN quoted Melissa Hanham at the Open Nuclear Network as saying, “It’s unclear exactly how far along the newly-pictured submarine is. [It] is still up in a warehouse, it hasn’t been put into the dry docks, it doesn’t appear to be finished yet.”