Home / Robert Farley / Rise of the South Korean Navy

Rise of the South Korean Navy


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.

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  • Scott P.

    Wow, a 6000-ton frigate/destroyer. The first destroyers, built by the RN in the late 1880s, were specified to displace 200 tons. Times sure have changed.

  • Robert Farley

    The KD-IIIs displace 11000 tonnes.

  • deptfordx

    Yeah, the last time this topic came around i went and had a look at WW2 ship types. Most modern frigates by tonnage are around light cruiser displacement in WW2 terms.

    I’m guessing it was originally a western cold war budgetary device. Six frigates sounds a lot cheaper than six cruisers, since which it’s just become the new standard.

    • Cody

      Are “cruisers” still things? I pretty much only ever hear about frigates and carriers.

      • deptfordx

        AEGIS Cruisers

      • Some Guy

        I say it’s time to reconvene the nations and demarcate some new terminology. I think the last time we did so was pre-WWII, which set them by displacement and main gun caliber.
        Since main guns are pretty much capped to 5″ these days, that’s pretty obsolete.

        • SpiderBat

          There’s been talk of reviving the Napoleonic rating system, counting VLS cells instead of cannon. Ticonderogas, Kirovs, and KD-IIIs would be first rate with >100 cells, Burkes and their Japanese cousins would be second rate with 96, etc.

  • Amanda in the South Bay

    There’s been very little difference in size between cruisers and destroyers for a long time. The last true cruiser the USN built was Long Beach.

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