Asia Defense

South Korea Approves Construction of New Destroyers and Submarines

The South Korean government has approved the construction of three new guided missile destroyers and three diesel-electric attack submarines.

Franz-Stefan Gady
South Korea Approves Construction of New Destroyers and Submarines
Credit: ROK Navy/Screenshot

South Korea on April 30 approved the construction of a second batch of three KDX-III Sejong the Great-class multi-purpose destroyers and three more indigenously designed KSS-III (JangbogoIII-class) diesel-electric attack submarines (SSKs).

The Defense Project Promotion Committee of South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) approved the $6.3 billion procurement last month. The new destroyers and submarines are expected to join the Republic of Korean Navy (ROKN) in the late 2020s.

The three new KDX-III destroyers will be equipped with the Aegis combat system and an upgraded missile launch system that will enable the warships to conduct ballistic missile defense. The surface combatants will feature “improved naval and anti-submarine warfare capabilities,” according to DAPA.

The first batch of three KDX-IIIs, commissioned into the ROKN between 2008 and 2012, are in the process of being upgraded with the Aegis Baseline 9 combat system that will also provide them with upgraded air defenses and ballistic missile defenses. The new system will also boost the ships’ surface and undersea warfare capabilities.

The destroyers will reportedly be armed with the Raytheon SM-2 Block IIIB surface-to-air missile and SM-3 Block IB missiles, the latter of which is an upgraded variant of the original SM-3 missile fitted with an enhanced two-color infrared seeker and features an upgraded steering and propulsion capability.

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The first-of-class KSS-III, christened Dosan Ahn Chang-ho, was launched in September 2018. Overall, South Korea intents to build a fleet of nine KSS-III SSKs. As I explained last year:

The entire KSS-III class of subs will be produced in three batches. The first batch will include three boats, each fitted with six vertical missile tubes with the first two submarines to be assembled by DSME and the third to be built by South Korean shipbuilder Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI). The first three boats are expected to be operational by the early 2020s.

The next batch of three submarines, also fitted with a six-tube vertical launch system, is slated to be deployed by 2025, while the last three boats, reportedly boasting a displacement of over 3,500 tons and equipped with 10 vertical launch tubes each, will all be delivered to the ROKN by 2029. Each batch will reportedly see a gradual increase in the number of indigenous components used for the various sub-systems of the boats.

The KSS-III class will be the first ROKN SSKs capable of vertically launching ballistic or cruise missiles. DAPA has been partnering with South Korean defense firm LIG Nex1 to design and produce a new submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) for the subs.

The first KSS-III SSK is slated to be handed over to the ROKN by the end of 2020 or early 2021.