By Jung Sung-ki
The Ministry of National Defense plans to deploy 3,000-ton attack submarines after 2020, a two-year delay from the original Defense Reform 2020 initiative, a report said Sunday.
A revision of the military modernization program unveiled in 2005 will be finalized by next month and sent to President Lee Myung-bak for approval, according to sources. The revised plan has been criticized for being too focused on the Army over the Navy and Air Force.
According to Yonhap, the updated reform plan will also call for deferring the procurement of an air tanker by one year to 2014. The introduction of high-altitude unmanned aerial vehicles, originally planned for 2011, will be implemented by 2015, it said.
A ministry official denied the notion that the reform package has been readjusted only to help the Army's acquisition programs, while playing down air and naval buildup plans.
``Should a war break out on the Korean Peninsula, the South Korean Army is to take charge of combat operations backed by U.S. naval and air support,'' the official said, asking not to be named. ``In that context, the procurement of ground weapons systems is crucial. But it's not correct to say the ministry is just leaning toward army programs. We're just readjusting or delaying the timelines for air and naval buildup programs."
The development of a 3,000-ton KSS-III submarine is a key part of the Navy's modernization programs.
The KSS-III sub is to be fitted with domestically built submarine combat systems aimed at automating target detection, tracking, threat assessment and weapon control, according to Navy officials.
The 1-trillion-won heavy attach submarine will also be armed with indigenous ship-to-ground cruise missiles and be capable of underwater operations for up to 50 days with an advanced Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) system, they said.
The AIP system has improved the submarine's underwater performance and gives it stealth capability.