Public appearance of Navy's ASWUUV at South Korea parade

According to a video published by the South Korean MoD on September 26, 2023, at the military parade, South Korea presented its latest maritime defense innovation: the Anti-Submarine Warfare Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (ASWUUV).
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 Anti-Submarine Warfare Unmanned Underwater Vehicle or ASWUUV. (Picture source: South Korean MoD)

South Korea's investment in anti-submarine warfare comes as no surprise. Historically, their longtime adversary, North Korea, possesses one of the world's largest submarine fleets, comprising roughly 70 vessels.

Although not cutting-edge, these submarines have on several occasions showcased their potential to inflict damage. Notably, in 2010, a North Korean mini-submarine allegedly torpedoed a South Korean warship, ROKS Cheonan, leading to the vessel splitting in half and resulting in the tragic loss of 46 lives.

The development of the ASWUUV commenced in 2017, under the aegis of South Korea's Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA). In a collaboration between Hanwha System and DAPA, the UUV came to fruition. The conglomerate Hanwha Group, which acquired Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME), was instrumental in this development.

the final dimensions of the ASWUUV have been kept under wraps by the manufacturer. However, a life-sized model showcased dimensions of up to 10 meters in length and approximately 1.5 meters in width. The ASWUUV's 6.5 meters in length and 9 tons displacement suggest its classification as a large-displacement UUV.

Integrated with cutting-edge systems like passive and active sonars, acoustic sensors, and communication units, the ASWUUV is well-equipped to detect submarines.

Moreover, it incorporates a novel fuel cell system, analogous to the Air Independent Power (AIP) found in some of the latest submarines. This stands in contrast to the batteries most underwater vehicles employ.

Propulsion-wise, Hanwha System collaborated with Bumhan Fuel Cell, specialists in hydrogen fuel cell technology. Bumhan Fuel Cell showcased its hydrogen fuel cell technology for the ASWUUV at the DX Korea 2022 defense exhibition held in Seoul in September 2022. The company is optimistic about delivering the system to the South Korean navy by the end of the 2020s.

In its operational concept, the ASWUUV is intended to work alongside naval surface drones (Unmanned Surface Vehicles or USVs), other UUVs, and additional sensors on manned ships, indicating its potential utility in multistatic anti-submarine warfare.

As for weaponry, manufacturers have not revealed what arms this submarine drone will carry. However, speculations range from the ASWUUV being a high-tech "smart" torpedo, capable of independently detecting and attempting to destroy enemy submarines, to it being exclusively designed for submarine detection, relaying data to anti-submarine vehicles that will engage the target.