SEOUL — South Korea’s Navy took over its third Aegis-equipped destroyer from the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) on Aug. 30.
Built in September 2009, the KDX-III 7,600-ton Sejong the Great-class ship has undergone two years of sea trials and other operational tests, Navy and DAPA officials said.
The third ship was named after Ryu Seong-ryong, a prime minister of the Joseon Kingdom of Korea.
“The Ryu Seong-ryong ship will play a key role in leading the South Korean Navy’s mobile fleet,” the DAPA said in a news release.
The South Korean Navy created its strategic mobile fleet in 2010 in an effort to develop its blue-water capabilities beyond coastal defense against North Korea. The fleet is backed by 4,500-ton KDX-II destroyers, 1,800-ton attack submarines, P3-C maritime patrol aircraft and others.
The KDX-III destroyer can carry two midsized helicopters and sail at a top speed of 30 knots within a range of 1,000 kilometers. The ship’s SPY-1D radar can simultaneously track some 1,000 aircraft within a 500-kilomter radius, according to the Navy. The 166-meter-long, 21-meter-wide vessel carries about 120 missiles and torpedoes in its Mk 41 vertical launch system and domestically-built Korea Vertical Launch System.
“The Ryu Seong-ryong will be fully operational with the Navy in mid-2013 after nine months of final operational tests, including Aegis combat system ship qualification trials with allied nations,” a Navy spokesman said.
With three Aegis destroyers in service, the South Korean Navy has gained a solid edge over North Korea in terms of naval combat capability, he added. North Korea’s Navy is believed to have about 400 warships, but most of them are small and old.
The South Korean Navy is pushing ahead with introducing more advanced ships to develop its ocean-going force.
In a report to President Lee Myung-bak on Aug. 29, the Ministry of National Defense said it would launch one more 14,000-ton Dokdo-class landing platform helicopter by 2016. The 199-meter-long, 31-meter-wide vessel is the largest helicopter transporter in Asia, bigger than the Osumi-class landing ships (8,900 tons) of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force.
The vessel can serve as a light aircraft carrier to orchestrate the Navy’s mobile fleet as well as conduct international peacekeeping operations and disaster relief.
The ministry also unveiled a plan to build six 5,600-ton “mini-Aegis destroyers” between 2019 and 2016.