For this week’s Diplomat contribution I discussed the impressive growth of the ROKN:
South Korea’s robust shipbuilding industry (the world’s largest) helps support and underwrite the ROKN’s expansion and modernization. Four Dokdos and six KD-IIIs are planned, although actual construction may not match these numbers. If it does, however, this would represent one of the most potent naval warfare squadrons in the world, potentially capable of conducting many different missions in the region. The KD-IIIs and Dokdos are supported by a force of nine modern large frigates (designated destroyers), all displacing from 3500-6000 tons and specialized for surface and sub-surface warfare. Another fifteen 3000 ton frigates are in the ROKN’s plans
Much like the PLAN, the ROKN has taken advantage of every opportunity to develop experience with distant, long-term deployments. South Korea is a regular participant at RIMPAC, as well as other significant multilateral exercises. Also like the PLAN and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF), the ROKN has maintained a continuous presence in support of CTF 151’s anti-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia.
As one reader suggested, the gap between South Korea and Brazil, a state seemingly well-positioned to take on a larger maritime role, is huge.