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SSG Golf Class

In January 1994 Russia signed a deal with North Korea to sell a total of 12 [initially reported as 10] Foxtrot-class (Project 641) conventional attack submarines and Golf II-class (Project 629) ballistic missile submarines. The basic design of the Golf submarine is based on the 641 Foxtrot, and the Foxtrot's electromechanical installation for surface and underwater navigation, the hydroacoustic system, the radar facilities and the radio communication systems were incorporated into the Golf without change.

Former British Navy Capt. Richard Sharpe, stated in the foreword to the 1994 Janes Fighting Ships that the Golf submarine sale raised concerns about their missile capabilities. It is possible that the missile tubes may be adaptable for other weapons, including ballistic missiles, he stated.

The deal had been arranged by the Japanese trading company Toen Shioji. The submarines had been decommissioned from the Russian Navy in 1990. The Russian Navy insisted that the submarine's missile launch tubes were inactivated under Russian military observation.

In February 1994 pressure from the international community led Russia to halted the delivery of these submarines to North Korea. In April 2004 the Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry [MITI] ask Russia send a special representative to North Korea to monitor the scrapping of the submarines.

As of May 1994 only one has been delivered to North Korea, by which time the issue faded from the headlines. At that time there were still conflicting reports as to whether the weapon systems had been removed from the submarines. It was not clear when North Korea took possession of all the submarines, though the deal seems to have been completed by the late 1990s.

The 12 submarines in question were reportedly rust-eaten and semi-submerged. But by some accounts the submarines still had significant elements of missile system, including launch tubes and stabilization sub-systems. North Korea could nonetheless cannibalize the submarines for parts and insights to improve its own submarine and missile launch technology.

The the SS-N-4 Sark was the first Soviet submarine launched ballistic missile SLBM, a Scud-derivative originally deployed on the Golf submarines. At 15.5 meters in length, the Nodong-1 is one meter longer than the SS-N-4, and would not fit in an unmodified Golf launch tube. The modification may be a shortening of the missile, which would also shorten the range of the missile. It is not unreasonable to assume that North Korea may have had access to SLBM technology as the precursor to the SS-N-4, the R-11FM, was transferred to China in December 1959. China still uses the Golf-class submarine as an SLBM training and test platform. Additionally, it should be noted that the Russian scientists recruited in late 1992 were from the Makeyev Design Bureau, which is responsible for the design of all modern Russian SLBMs.

As of mid-2016 there were no reports of either Foxtrot or Golf submarines in North Korean service.

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Page last modified: 25-07-2016 11:28:30 ZULU