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SS Romeo Class Project 13

Most of the submarines employed by the DPRK are of a 1940s or 1950s Soviet design. By the mid-1990s they included 21 or 22 ships of the Chinese version of the Soviet Romeo class and four Soviet Whiskey class diesel attack submarines. In addition to these submarines, the DPRK reportedly had nine new SANG-O class coastal submarines and between 48 and 67 midget submarines.

The Type 033 submarine is a copy of the former Soviet R -class submarine ( Soviet code: Project 633 ) . This type of submarine is a diesel-electric conventional submarine designed and built by the Soviet Union in the 1950s. Its prototype dates back to the Second World War German U -boat. At the end of World War II, the Soviet Union acquired several XXI-type U- boats, thus obtaining the key technology of U- boats. The 033 design was a relatively successful type of submarine designed by the former Soviet Union after World War II, and at that time belonged to the world's advanced level. The 033 submarine has undoubtedly played a pivotal role in the development history of the Chinese navy submarine: it has realized a leap from assembly to imitation in China, and has laid a solid foundation for the development of Chinese submarines in the future; a large number of equipped 033 submarines, as the PLA The main submarine of the Navy for a certain period of time formed an asymmetric advantage in the offshore environment, and made great contributions to the security of New China's maritime borders.

North Korea deployed 22 Type 633/033 submarines, of which 12 were based on the completion of semi-finished Chinese products made at Jiangnan Shipyard, provided free of charge to North Korea, and assembled under the guidance of Chinese technical staff to complete. This assistance project was code-named "Project 13". After transfer of four Romeo class submarines from China in 1973 and 1974, North Korea began to produce its own Romeos. As of 1994, it was still producing these submarines at a rate of one every two years. Although these are generally similar to the late 1950s Soviet version, those more recently produced are likely to have numerous changes in equipment, possibly with a significant performance improvement over earlier versions. It is also significant to note that almost all of these submarines are less than 20 years old, which means most should be in a condition to at least get underway and conduct basic submerged operations.

In 1971, in order to strengthen preparations, North Korea requested the Chinese government to help them deploy the Type 033 conventionally-powered submarine. On 06 September 1971, the Chinese and North Korean governments signed an agreement in Beijing for China to provide North Korea with a complete set of military industrial projects at no cost, in which it was determined that China would provide 12 Type 033 submarines. In October 1971, the Chinese study delegation headed by Liu Huaqing and its submarine assembly inspection team went to North Korea. According to the economic assistance sequence for the DPRK at that time, it was "Thirteen", so it was called "Thirteen Project".

On 14 March 1972, China's Sixth Machinebuilding Department issued Peninsular production tasks, built by Jiangnan Shipyard. It was planned to deliver three, four, and five semi-finished products and complete sets of equipment in three years starting from 1973. At the same time, it was required to send technical personnel to North Korea to instruct the submarine assembly and receive training from North Korean interns. In order to ensure the overall progress of North Korean assembly, Jiangnan Shipyard decided to change the three submarines built in the factory for the PLA Navy to the first batch of aid to North Korea. The semi-finished hull construction started in May and June 1972, and it was struck to start shipping to North Korea in early 1973. At the same time, it is stipulated that factory-made parts and mechanical and electrical equipment are processed and arranged according to foreign aid requirements.

At that time, there were many problems with the Type 033 submarine in terms of materials, equipment and labor. In order to avoid the mutual influence between foreign aid tasks and in-plant production, the arrangement of "Assisting North Korea-In-factory-Aid Korea" was adopted to make the submarine inside the plant. In addition to submarines, Jiangnan Shipyard also undertook a total of 38 non-standard process equipment production tasks for 9 single projects of North Korean submarine assembly plant, including shell plate correction machine, rib splicing platform, pressure shell cutting machine, slipway Large-scale process equipment such as beams, main plane milling machines, various boring rows and discharge cars. The first 9 items that were not standard equipment in December 1972 began shipping to North Korea.

In order to dispatch personnel to the DPRK to comply with the actual construction requirements of the 13th Project abroad, the Jiangnan Shipyard Foreign Aid Office put forward specific requirements and suggestions to the technical department, professional ability and business level of the professionals to ensure that the dispatched personnel have higher Quality. From 1973 through 1978, the Jiangnan Shipyard organized 244 professional and technical personnel and workers, sub- 17 batch to North Korea to carry out technical guidance assembly submarine, equipped with a strong team of cadres. North Korea's six shipyards could only build boats of about 500 tons, with simple equipment and low technical level. The North Korean government sent nearly 1,000 demobilized soldiers and artisans to work in the six shipyards, and asked China to train them to become the backbone of the submarine assembly technology.

The technicians of the Jiangnan Plant tooke various forms to provide professional courses to North Korean cadres and technicians according to different objects, teaching business management, plan management, product management, construction technology, inspection standards and other contents. Focused on training some production backbones through practical operations, such as welding. Since the theory alone cannot be used for practical operations, training courses such as hand welding, automatic welding, stainless steel welding, and brazing have also been held. They teach hands-on training from all positions such as top welding, top welding, horizontal welding, and vertical welding. Once workers passed the examination and appraisal, then they would gain a certificate to work. A total of 55 qualified first-class welders, 11 automatic welders, 14 stainless steel welders, and 8 braze welders were trained. They were all able to operate on the boat and became the first backbone of the North Korean welding team.

The successful completion of the 13th Aid Project for North Korea enhanced the traditional friendship between the peoples of China and North Korea and raised the technology of North Korea's shipbuilding industry to a new level. The Korean party and government highly valued this unpaid assistance, and awarded the Ministry of Six Machinery to the DPRK technical instructors 5 labor medals, 43 second-level national flag medals, 99 third-level medals, and 24 merit medals.

In the shallow littoral water, a submarine crew will be able to take advantage of the geography, topography, oceanography, environmental factors and heavy shipping volume that combine to pose a significant technical and tactical ASW problem. In a Korean MRC, the DPRK submarine force will have an advantage because of its familiarity with the regional environment. In addition, even a Romeo class diesel is quiet and provides little Doppler effect when operating slowly on the battery.

In the early 1990s North Korea bought a total of 40 Russian submarines for scrap, apparently including roughly 30 Soviet-era Romeo-class submarines. Spare parts from these submarines could be used in North Korea's own aging Romeo class submarines.

The threat of the North Korean submarine force, with its obsolete submarines, may easily be dismissed by a capable navy. For the Joint Task Force (JTF) Commander in a major regional conflict (MRC) involving North Korea, however, this submarine force could affect many operational level decisions. The Falkland Islands War showed that a Small, tactically ineffective submarine force could impact the operational commander's decisions just by being at sea and unlocated. In a Korean MRC, the North Koreans could do the same, except the North Korean submarine force is several times larger.

From open source literature on U.S. Antisubmarine Warfare (ASW) methods and littoral ASW problems, the North Koreans can learn how to best keep the submarines unlocated. Using these lessons, the North Koreans can develop a submarine employment plan that can impact the JTF Commander's decisions involving operational design and operational function, such as movement, maneuver, protection, and logistics. In a worst case, the North Korean submarine threat could make all maritime operations so risky as to virtually suspend use of the seas in the Korean region until the threat is eliminated. The only effective way to counter this threat is to neutralize the submarines before they leave port. Failing in this, it becomes a time consuming and asset intensive operation to regain control of the sea or to provide protection for those ships in threatened areas.

Length 252 ft
Beam 23 ft
Draft 20 ft
Propulsion Diesel electric
2 shafts
Maximum Speed 16 kts surfaced
13 kts submerged
Missile Launchers None
Torpedoes 53cm; 8 tubes (6 bow, 2 stern)

DPRK Romeo DPRK Romeo

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Page last modified: 30-06-2021 11:42:44 ZULU