Sep 3, 2010

Future of the South Korean Navy

One of the seven largest navy of the world by 2022...

Personnal strenght (+/- 72 000):
+/- 68 000:
(including +/- 28 000 south-korean "marines", +/- 45 000 regular sailors and +/- 19 000 conscript).

+ 4500 (maritime police).

2 LPH/LHD (up to 4):
2 Dokdo Class
18 000 tons LPH, a modern LPH design (derived from dutch Thales Netherlands design studies). "Dokdo, Marado-Island", commissioned by 2007/2011. With probable +/- 30 year service life expected, to be retired by 2037/2041.

2 bigger & improved ships were planned by late 2010’s (likely a 30 000+ tons, full F-35 capable).

Others Amphibious ships:
4 Go Jun Bong class
"Go-Jun-Bong, Bi-Ro-Bong, Hyang-Ro-Bong, Sung-In-Bong), 2600/4300 tons LST style, commissioned by 1994/1998. With probable 35+ years service life expected, to be retired by late 2020’s decade. Likely one of these current ship will be “loaned” to the Royal Malaysian navy .

4 Alligator LST.

Very likely a new program of medium amphibious ships (+/- 3000/5000 tons) was underway, but sorry I not find data about it !

43 landing crafts (2006/2007 estimates + updates)
- 6 LCT, 20 LCVP, 10 LCM.
+ 3 LSF-I (project 12 061E Murena-E).
+ 4 LSF-II (Indigenous built US LCAC).

12 Destroyers/Frigates
3 Sejong the Great class (KDX-III)
"Sejong-the-Great, Yulgok-Yi-I, Kwon-Yul", 11 000 tons, enlarged design derived from US Arleigh Burke IIA flight, a very extremely powerfull AAW ship design, even more capable than the current US aegis CG/DDG ships !, commissioned by 2008/2011. With probable 35+ year service life expected, to be retired by 2043/2046.

Up to 6 "KDX-IIA" by 2022
A second batch of 3 KDX-III, originally planned toward 2018/2022 was finally cancelled because the future south Korean navy needs change rapidly, from very high-end warships (very powerful/ expensive) to a mid-end warships (+/- powerful but cheaper, more affordable in greater number). Consequently, the further three 11 000 tons KDX III was cancelled and replaced by 6 newer 5600 tons KDX IIA (improved KDX II with Aegis).

6 Chungmugong Yi Sun-Shin class (KDX-II)
"Chungmugong-Yi-Sun-Shin, Munmu-the-great, Dae-Joyeong, Wang-Geon, Kang-Gamchan, Choi -Young). 5000 tons. Commissioned by 2003/2008. With probable 30 year service life, to be retired by 2033/2038.

3 Gwanggaeto the Great class (KDX-I)
"Gwanggaeto-the-Great, Eulji-Mundeok, Yang-Manchun". 3800 tons. Commissioned by 1998/2000. With probable 30 year service life, to be retired by 2028/2030.

9 Light frigates (to be replaced by fewer/bigger ships):
9 "Ulsan"
"Ulsan, Seoul, Chungnam, Masan, Gyeongbuk, Jeonnam, Jeju, Busan, Cheongju", 2300 tons, commissioned by 1981/1993. With probable 30+ year service life, all to be retired by 2011/2023 and partially replaced by a newer series of six 5600 tons KDX-IIA frigate (improved KDX-II with Aegis system) by 2018/2022.

+/- 23 Corvettes:
22 Pohang class
1200 tons corvette, in 3 batch :
- 3 Batch 1 (SUW), "Gunsan, Gyeongju, Mokpo", commissioned by 1984/1986.
- 17 Batch 2 (ASW): "Gimcheon, Chungju, Jinu, Yeosu, Jinhae, Suncheon, Iri, Wonju, Andong, Bucheon, Seongnam, Jecheon, Daecheon, Sokcho, Yeongju, Namwon, Gwangmyeong", commissioned by 1987/1991.
- 2 Batch 3 (AAW) "Sinseong, Gongju", commissioned by 1992/1993.

1 Donghae class
"Anyang", 1000 tons, 1983. Likely to be retired soon (3 others similar ships recently decommissioned).

The FFX project (up to 24 ships ?):
These 22 “Pohang” corvettes and 1 “Dong Hae” corvette will be replaced by a newer class of frigate (the FFX project). As usual, this new class of frigate will be much bigger (3200 tons), better armed (a 76 or more likely a 127mm gun, a CIWS system, one helico with hangar) and build in massive number (12 to 24 ships).

The recent "Chenoan disaster" highlight the need for a stronger ASW suit for the future South Korean ships. It is clear that the South Korean Navy will try to integrate in these new vessels a stronger anti submarine capability. If unfortunately the CURRENT FFX design does not include a ASW VLS missiles (to carry Red Shark missile), because the first ship of this series is scheduled for 2012, it is very likely that the first "batch"of 6 vessels (to be commissioned by 2012-2015) will have the original design.
A very likely second "batch" (12 to 24 vessels ? between 2015/2022), probably benefit from greater improvements (superstructures modified, maybe slightly enlarged with a "pluggin" few hull meters added, to more easily insert VLS).

+/- 75 Fast attack missikes crafts (expected to fall in number & growth in size):
Gumdoksuri class
570 tons fast craft intended in 2 batch:
- 24 PKX-A (or Yun Youngha class), a missile patrol ship.
- 18 PKX-B, a patrol boat (Yoon Youngha, Han Sanggook, Jo Chunhyung, Hwang Dohyun, Suh Hoowon, Park Donghyuk, others future craft not yet named). Maybe others "batch" ? planned by late 2010's ?. Intended to replace the ageing "Chamsuri" FAC.

+/- 75 Chamsuri class
170 tons.

12 Submarines (toward a domestic capacity in 2020 ?)
3 (+6) Sohn-Won-Yil class
"Son Won Il, Jeong Ji, An Jung Geun", 1900 tons, type 214 SSK. Commissioned by 2007/2009.
6 others subs was ordered to be commissioned by 2014/2018.

9 Chang Bogo class
"Chang Bogo, Lee Chun, Choi Museon, Park Wi, Lee Jongmu, Jeong Un, Lee Sunsin, Na Daeyong, Lee Eokgi", 1800 tons, type 209 SSK. Commissioned by 1993/2001, with probable +/- 30 year service life expected, to be retired by 2023/2031.

Likely +/- 3 newer 3000+ tons SSK (of a indigenous design) were expected by early 2020 with a 4th ship maybe to become the 1st south Korean SSN by mid 2020’s ?

+/- 11 Coastal submarines:
2 "Dolgorae" class.
9 "Dolphin" class.

+/- 10 Minewespeers:
1 "Wonsan" class minelayer ship.
3 "Yangyang" class Mine-hunter.
6 "Ganggyeong" class coastal mine-hunter.

+/- 10 Auxiliary's (estimation):
3 "Cheonji" class combat support ships.
1 "Cheonghaejin" class submarine rescue ship.
2 "Pyeongtaek" class salvage/rescue ships (ex us Edenton class).
1 "Sinsegi" class intelligence ship.
1 "Sincheonji" class AGS ship.
1 "Dadohae" class, midget submarine tender ship.

Naval Aviation (estimation):
19 Aircrafts: 16 P3C (8 P3C, 8 P3CK); 3 Cessna F406, 8 S-2E tracker (some in reserve).
38 Helico (+9): 10 UH-60P; 23 Lynx (11 Mk 99, 12 Mk 99A); 5 Alouette III + 9 Hughes 500 (South-Korea Maritime Police).

South Korea Maritime Police (2006/2007 +/- "inacurate" estimates):
1 PSO:
1 "Sumjinkang".

10 PCO:
1 "Han Kang".
3 "Mazinger".
6 "Sea Dragon".

33 PCC
(4 Burkhansan, 7 Hyundai type, 22 Sea Wolf/shark).

+/- 20 PCI
18 Seagull PBI

Several KCH 100 tons patrol boats.

65 KCG 50 tons patrol boats (commissioned by 2002/2006).

South-Korean Marines Corps (estimates):
+/- 28 000 troops.
60 M-47 tank.
+/- 100 AAV amphibious armored vehicles (42 AAV-7A1, 60 LVTP-7).
Some 105 & 155mm guns.

With a continuously growth, the South-Korean navy was expected to reach a considerable size by 2022:
- Two 30 000+ tons LPH.
- Two 18 000 tons LPH.
- 30 to 42 ! major surface combatant (3000+ tons) : Three 11 000 tons KDX-III, Six 5600 tons KDX-IIA, Six 5000 tons KDX-II, Three 3800 tons KDX-I, Twelve to Twenty-fourth 3200 tons FFX.
- Around 18 Submarines : 9 type 214, +/- 7/8 type 209, 1 or 2 SSK(X).

A considerable size helped by the economic/strategic/politic weight of some “Asiatic Giant/Tiger” country by 2020 (China, South-Korea, India, Indonesia, Singapour, Malaysia, Thailand) and by the continual decline of some “western” navy.

Next editorial: Future of the Iranian Navy

As usual, It may be that in my opinion, I forgot programms ? (or made few mistakes ?, especially in small crafts/auxiliary's/Coast Guards strenght), then said it ! Feel free to comment and give your opinion !


  1. Nicely done, thanks. You might want to add numbers of persons in the service if that is available. Lots of Navies around 30-40,000 now. I think the Korean navy may be larger than British, French, or Japanese navy in terms of personnel now.

  2. Hi Mike,
    let me tell you that this is an excellent picture of the South Korean Navy!
    A few months ago, I wrote an article about the KDX-I, II and III's (you are right, these are very powerful ships) and I can confirm that this Navy is undergoing an impressive process of strengthening.
    Leaving from the amphibious ships, passing by the escort ones and, at the end, the submarines.
    Only few things; when we talk about the landing crafts, I think it could be interesting mention 3 LSF-I (Landing Ship Fast), akas Project 12061E Murena-E, and 4 LSF-II, indigenous built american LCAC for the Dokdo LPD class.
    The second one; most of this process of increasing in quantity and quality is finalized to the definitive transformation into a “Blue water navy”; this will be made by the creation of 2 to 3 “Strategic Mobile Fleets” (each composed by 1 KDX-III and 3 KDX-II/I, in the future KDX-IIA, also possibly backed by LPDs, FFX frigates, KSS submarines and P-3 airplanes). First, too much attention and resources to this vision could bring problems if you look at its main threat: the North Korean Navy that is a typical “Green Water Navy”. Finally, this process should consider the need of more auxiliary (replenishment/logistic support) ships and, most of all, more experience as well a change in the way South Korean Navy will think/plan/operate in the future.

  3. Hi Giovanni,
    THANKS for your details !
    ("landing-crafts" data updated)