North Korea recently released images showing a new class of submarine that will likely carry multiple submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs).

As a successor to their SLBM test platform, the Gorae, the construction of this system has been underway for some time and was first reported on by imagery analysts at 38 North, who identified submarine construction signatures next to the main construction hall at the Sinpo South Naval Shipyard.

Long before this new submarine was being built, North Korea began constructing what is likely a new training center near the Sinpo Shipyard for their submariners, to replace the smaller center they previously had nearby.

Photo: Planet Labs

Satellite imagery from Planet Labs shows that construction of this new training center has been nearing completion within the last two to three months, and once it is complete it will increase the training capacity of North Korea’s submarine fleet on their east coast.

Photo: Google Earth

Early construction:

Work on this recently identified site started nearly ten years ago, with the removal of a series of structures between 2009 and 2014.  Between 2014 and 2015, ground clearing and digging began which laid the foundations for this new training center, with it taking a more identifiable shape in early 2018.

Photo: Google Earth

The previous training center was reportedly located on Mayang-do, just opposite of Sinpo, and was noticeably smaller than the new site and their training center located at the Pipa-got naval base on North Korea’s west coast.

Kim Jong Un inspects an old east coast submarine training center | Photo: KCNA

Identification:

Kim Jong Un had previously visited the larger submariner training facility at the Pipa-got Naval Base on the country’s west coast in December 2014.

During this visit he saw submariners practicing safety training, which includes escaping from a sunken or underwater vessel in a large training pool which was next to the larger escape tower in the corner of the building.

An escape tower can come in various shapes and sizes that range from mobile units to larger standalone towers, and allows submariners to practice escaping from underwater vessels at various depths, often wearing bright orange suits as seen at both training centers.

West Coast Submarine Training Center at Pipa-got Naval Base | Photo: Google Earth

Inside view of west coast training center | Photo: KCTV

Additional inside view of west coast training center | Photo: KCTV

Using these signatures and other comparison sites located at various submariner training facilities around the world, this previously-unidentified construction activity was given away by the construction of two large training pools and a much larger escape tower on the building’s southeast side.

New training center at Sinpo | Photo: Google Earth

New training center at Sinpo | Photo: Google Earth

Inside view from British Navy escape tower Photo: British Navy, Photo by User:geni/Wikimedia commons

Expanding East Coast submarine capabilities:

With this construction activity now identified, it would seem that North Korea has long been planning to expand training capabilities on their east coast. However, like many of North Korea’s construction projects, the completion of this new training center (along with the construction of their new dry dock) was back-logged until around 2018.

Over the past two to three months, three-meter imagery from Planet Labs shows the addition of a roof over one of the training pools, and the stereotypical blue tiles that often adorn North Korean buildings.

With this new site nearing completion, and the release of images showing what is likely to be North Korea’s first deployable ballistic missile submarine, their intentions on expanding their submarine fleet’s capability on their east coast has become much more transparent.

It is more than likely that this new training facility will play a crucial role in training submariners for their new series of ballistic missile submarines.

Edited by James Fretwell and Oliver Hotham

Featured image: KCNA