The ā€˜Young Masterā€™ visited a North Korean Navy submarine base this week to ā€˜provide guidanceā€™ over military drills. There he inspected a buffet, a WWII tactical table full of toy-like boats, some bunk beds, political education hall and a portion of the Korean Peopleā€™s Navy archaic fleet of Romeo Class submarines belonging to navy Unit 189.

The ā€˜Great Successorā€™ inspects strangely abundant buffet line:

According to North Korean propaganda, while at the base Kim did the following:

He stressed the need to have a thorough knowledge of sea bottom of the operational theater and put big efforts into working out reasonable combat plans in advance to cope with possible situations. Guiding the maneuvers of subs, he set forth the tasks and ways for rounding off sub unitā€™s war preparations.

The Supreme Commander went round a library, soldiersā€™ hall and other places of the unit to acquaint himself with its politico-ideological education. It is needed to supply the must books to libraries on a regular basis and encourage reading among servicepersons so that they can have versatile knowledge and high cultural attainments, he said, adding: A shortcut to turning the whole army strong in the politico-ideological and moral aspects is to strictly establish a habit of studying hard as the anti-Japanese guerrillas did.


Also during the trip, he called for making 2015, the 70th anniversary of the Korean Peopleā€™s Navy, a year of reinvigoration for the fledgling service. This statement may not just be the normal grandiose political hyperbole we have come to expect from the ā€˜Hermit Kingdomā€™ as there are rumblings that North Koreaā€™s submarine force may be on a slow path to one day being able to pack a nuclear deterrent.

Ciggy and siting break in the barracks:


It may sounds ridiculous that such an antiquated submarine force could pack a nuclear tipped missile in the not so distant future, but really, it isnā€™t. Multiple reports state that North Korea is actively developing a newer submarine capability and with it a vertical launch system. Still, this capability, if fully developed, will most likely use reverse engineered elements from the Cold War era Golf Class submarine, along with some elements of Yugoslavian designs of a slightly more recent vintage.

A single boat, known as the Sinpo Class, is known to be under late development in North Korean, and this submarine would be the largest the country has ever operated. It is unclear whether this is just a one-off experimental prototype or a potentially inaugural boat of a new class.

The ā€˜Young Masterā€™ giving ā€˜field guidanceā€™ and giving command orders during an ā€˜exercise:ā€™


Even if North Korea put a new boat into operation, and it did house a credible vertical launch system, they would have to possess a warhead small enough to fit into the snug confines of a submarine launched ballistic missile. Although, there have been rumors that North Korea has made some strides in the respect in recent years, nothing indicates that its warhead miniaturization is truly reliable enough to become operationally deployable. Additionally, a ā€˜newā€™ North Korean submarine would still be fairly archaic by international standards, and the boat would most likely be comparatively easy to detect and track.

Kim checks out an old-school tactical battle-board, watches divers practice is what is probably a freezing cold swimming pool, braves the snow for discussion and executes another glorious ciggy break in a political education room:


Still, given all these limitations, if a even a single North Korean submarine set sail with a nuclear missile on board, no matter how questionable this submarineā€™s survivability is, it would set the region on edge, and if anything, would present a relatively high potential for an unintended disaster.

Successor in chief- the normal cadre shot in front of images of his father and grandfather.


Kim Jong Un checks out some naval hardware, supposedly taking in a torpedo loading drill during the tour:

The ā€˜Supreme Commanderā€™ eyes his dilapidated fleet of Romeo Class subs:


This ainā€™t Hawaii- the ā€˜Young Generalā€™ chats it up in the snow with some older Navy brass:

After a group shot with KPA navy Unit 189, the Secretary of the Workerā€™s Party Of Korea exits amongst a crescendo of applause, because, I mean hey, what other choice is there?:


Tyler Rogoway is a defense journalist and photographer who maintains the website Foxtrot Alpha for You can reach Tyler with story ideas or direct comments regarding this or any other defense topic via the email address