Surface Forces: South Korea Seeks To Become A Contender

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November 18, 2016: South Korea has agreed to build two frigates for the Philippines at a cost of $169 million each and these will be smaller versions of the South Korean FFX (Incheon class) frigate. The first FFX entered service in 2013 and five are now active. The FFXs are 3,200 ton ships and are each armed with a 127mm gun, eight anti-ship or cruise missiles, three torpedo tubes, a RAM anti-missile/aircraft launcher, and a Phalanx anti-missile gun system. There is space aft for two helicopters. The ships are highly automated, requiring a crew of only 140. Top speed is 61 kilometers an hour. Range is 8,000 kilometers. Most of the equipment (including electronics) and weapons are locally built. South Korea plans to build 18-24 FFXs. The five FFXs cost about $233 million. South Korea planned to export the FFX to many navies who want high quality, low cost, warships. Meanwhile, South Korea has also developed a slightly larger FFX II frigate and subsequent FFXs will be this version. But for export customers South Korea will make smaller versions as it is doing for the Philippines. This approach was pioneered by European shipyards and later adopted by Russia.

In 2013m before the South Korean order the Philippines ordered two newly built Italian Maestrale class frigates for $208 million each. The Maestrales are 3,100 ton ships, each armed with four anti-ship missiles, short range anti-aircraft missiles, a 127mm gun, two autocannons for defense against missiles, and eight torpedo tubes. Two helicopters can be carried. These ships are well equipped for anti-submarine operations. Top speed is 59 kilometers an hour and crew size is 225. Italy has some older Maestrales for sale at a much lower price but the Filipino navy is full of second hand ships, and the government wants some new ones to help persuade China to be less aggressive regarding claims on many shoals and uninhabited islands off the Filipino coast. All four of the new frigates are to be in service by 2020 and many nations will be noting how well the less expensive South Korean ships perform compared to the Italian ones. South Korea is determined to become a major player in the defense related exports sector and so far has been successful.

 


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