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Incheon FFX Future Frigate / HDF-3000 type Frigate

The HDF-3000 type Frigate is the latest multi-purpose combatant designed by HHI in late 2000 under ROKN FFX Program. The modern, powerful, stealthy frigate will replace HDF-2000 Ulsan Class Frigate which had been operating as major force of ROKN ever since delivery by HHI in 1980 HDF-2000H is derivative and 2nd generation of HDF-2000 with helicopter landing deck and hangar, applying stealth technology.

The new Incheon FFX was a planned class to replace Ulsan and other smaller frigates. The frigate, designed for anti-ship, anti-submarine and anti-aircraft warfare, features incomparable seakeeping and maneuverability. Advanced design concept afforded wide option for weapon combination and convenient maintenance. The ROKN planned to deploy a total of nine 2,500 ton class frigates by 2018. As of 2007 the delivery of one ship per year was slated to begin from 2010-2018. In fact, the first commissioned in January 2013.

The Ulsan, the first frigate possessed by the ROK Navy, deployed in 1981, thereby being 26 years old by 2007, the same classes of which had not been constructed since the building of Cheongju-ham in 1993. By 2007 a total of 9 ships of the class were currently being operated. Patrol frigates are also 14~25 years old so that the future frigates (FFX) are to be constructed to replace existing Ulsan class frigates (FF) and Donghae/Pohang class combat patrol craft corvette (PCC) by 2020. Existing frigates had demerits in that they are weak in anti-air defense and cannot load helicopters. The new ships will realize localization of a detection sensor for performance improvement, increased anti-air warfare capability, and availability of helicopters to improve flexibility in anti-submarine warfare capacity and mission capability.

In late 2006 the Republic of Korea Navy selected Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) as the preferred designer for the Future Frigate (FFX) program. The timeline for the FFX Program was as follows:

  • Request for Proposals for construction issued to HHI by early 2007;
  • A construction contract award in 2008;
  • The first six units (Phase 1) built through 2015, with the first unit being commissioned in 2011;
  • Phase 2: Nine ships built from 2015-2023;
  • Phase 3: Nine ships built from 2021-2028, completing the class at 24 units.

Initially the new frigates were planned to have the following subsystems:

  • Indigenous 3D radar similar to the SMART-S Mk2;
  • Two Ceros 200 multisensor directors;
  • Indigenous sonar;
  • Eight SSM-700K surface-to-surface missiles;
  • One Rolling Airframe Missile launcher;
  • One 76mm gun;
  • One Korean Close-in Weapon System;
  • Korean lightweight torpedoes.

In February 2007 Thales Underwater Systems was awarded a contract from STX Engine CO Ltd, Republic of Korea, for an industrial cooperation aiming at the full scale development of a new Hull Mounted Sonar (HMS) for the FFX frigate program to replace the Ulsan Class. The contract covers an industrial cooperation for design, development and manufacturing of the antenna and dome for HMS sonar, with final contract completion in 2009. Thales Underwater Systems has been a major force in the development of advanced anti-submarine warfare sonar systems for more than 40 years during which time it has established a leading position in medium frequency HMS design. The HMS is a high power and high performance keel mounted sonar, its design is largerly based on the Thales off-the-shelf products. The high performance HMS is the result of continuous efforts and improvements in the sonar domain resulting in a smart sonar system adopted by many navies.

On 26 December 2008 Hyundai Heavy Industries was awarded a contract to build the lead ship of thenew 2,300 ton-class frigates to begin service in 2011. The Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) signed the contract worth about 140 billion won with Hyundai, which had been in charge of the basic design of the state-of-the-art frigate. The first six FFX ships were to be built by 2015 to replace the current nine Ulsan class frigates in service. According to one report, the Navy wants to launch a total of 24 to 27 FFX vessels by 2020 as part of efforts to bolster its coastal defense operations.

Preliminary designs indicated the new frigates would be around 335 feet in length with a cruising speed of 18 knots. The FFX, with a full load displacement of 3,200 tons, will carry a Lynx anti-submarine helicopter. It will have a crew of 170 and sail at a top speed of 32 knots. Its operational range is 4,500 nautical miles. The ship will have conventional diesel/gasoline propulsion.

The FFX is expected to help strengthen the Navy's littoral operations regarding anti-air, anti-ship and detection capabilities as it will carry various indigenous or newly developed technology, such as combat command systems, 3D search radar and towed array sonar. The ship's sensors are mainly Korean products, ranging from hull-mounted ASW sonar that want into development not too long ago and a TASS. Several versions of the 3D radar is being considering, including the MFR on K-MSAM system and enlarged version of the 3D pencil-beam radar developed for the PKM-X.

The ship will be armed with light torpedoes and anti-ship missiles as well as a 127mm gun, they said. It will also be equipped with RAM Mk 31 guided missiles and a 30-mm ``Goalkeeper'' system for engaging incoming sea-skimming anti-ship missiles. No surface-to-air missiles and anti-submarine missiles or vertical missile launching system were initially planned. In the future, a naval version of K-MSAM (40km range) missile system along with the K-ASROC SUM may be offered in the VLS upgrade.

Hyundai Heavy Industries, the worlds largest shipbuilder, held a launch ceremony 04 May 2011 for the next generation frigate, Incheon. The launch ceremony was attended by Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Kim Sung-chan, Hyundai Heavys president & CEO Mr. Lee Jai-seong and other government and military officials. The frigate was named after the city Incheon. The Incheon frigate has greatly improved capabilities with its weapon and sensors including five inch guns, anti-surface missiles, anti-aircraft missiles, torpedoes and anti-submarine helicopter. The frigate also has sonar for enhanced submarine detection and 3D navigation radar.

In addition, the military vessel uses stealth technology to minimize the exposure to electromagnetic waves, infrared signature, and underwater radiation noise. The Incheon frigate, measuring 114 m long, 14 m wide, and 25 m deep, can sail at a maximum speed of 30 knots with a cruising range of about 8,000 km. The frigate, ordered in December 2008 and due for delivery to the Korean Navy in December 2012, is the first of the next-generation vessels being built to replace the existing frigates and corvettes.

On 18 July 2013 Hyundai Heavy Industries Co. unveiled the South Korean Navy's second 2,300-ton frigate with improved warfare capabilities against North Korea. The launching ceremony took place at Hyundai Heavy's shipyard in the southeastern city of Ulsan, attended by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Navy chief and other senior officials. The naval ship was named after Gyeonggi Province that surrounds the capital Seoul and the western port city of Incheon, which has a strategic importance for defense. The Gyeonggi will be delivered to the Navy next year and deployed for operation in 2015, officials said.

About 20 frigates will be built to replace the country's aging patrol combat corvettes and escort ships by 2020, the Navy said in 2013, although at that time the FFX program appeared to be running a couple of years late, and would need to increase the build rate to at least three per year to come close to that goal. The "Incheon" class frigates will replace the aging fleet of "Pohang" class corvettes and "Ulsan" class frigates, and take over multi-role operations such as coast patrol, anti-submarine warfare and transport support. Since constructing and delivering the first Korean-built frigate ROKS Ulsan in 1980, Hyundai Heavy has grown as a leading naval ship builder by delivering 57 naval ships including the first and the third Korean Aegis destroyers, 3 KDX-II destroyers, 5 frigates, 3 submarines, and 24 patrol & salvage ships.

By March 2013 Hyundai was offering the Philippine Department of National Defense (DND) varieties of the "Incheon" class frigates. The talks with the South Korean defense manufacturer came about when the DND decided to not go ahead with the planned purchase of the Italian "Maestrale" frigates due to questions of cost and hull aging.

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