Speculations of the ballistic submarine construction have been under scrutiny by U.S. intelligence in recent weeks, according to a report by The Diplomat. Based on U.S. intelligence estimates, the “submarine’s submerged displacement is thought to be in excess of 2,000 tons with a beam measurement of 11 meters.” If completed, the SINPO-C will be the largest vessel ever constructed for the North Korean Navy since the Najin-class frigates,The Diplomat adds.
The SINPO-C appears to be a follow-on to a current SINPO-class experimental ballistic missile submarine, 38 North states. Also named Gorae-class by South Korean intelligence, the SINPO-class submarine has experienced improvements earlier this year, with the introduction of a new launch tube. Last summer, North Korea conducted submarine-launched ballistic missile ejection tests near the Sinpo shipyard, The Diplomat reports.
Throughout this year, gantry and tower cranes have been carrying massive circular objects—with diameters as long as 7.1 meters—around the Sinpo South Shipyard, which has been the primary manufacturer of large submarines for Pyongyang, 38 North reports.
The commercial satellite images also show what appears to be a launch canister support or a launch canister, which might also indicate that North Korea seeks to carry out ballistic missile tests that began last July.
But as 38 North reports, ejection tests are expected in the future for submarine-launched ballistic missiles Pukguksong-1, a possible Pukguksong-3 and other missiles.