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LP-X Dokdo (Landing Platform Experimental)
Amphibious Ship

The LPX project is the Korean Navy (ROKN)'s helicopter ship project for which Hanjin Heavy Industries has provided the general design package. The ROKN has a well-defined requirement for new amphibious ships to significantly enhance Korea's current AMW capability, both in terms of assault and OOTW operations. In a speech delivered in March 2001, President Kim Dae Jung stated that his administration was aiming to build a navy that "will defend the national interests in the five oceans and perform a role in defending world peace." By the year 2020, the ROK Navy plans to deploy two or three rapid response fleets, each comprising of 1 LPX, 1 KDX-III, 2~3 KDX-II, and possibly a number of FFX frigates and one or two AIP submarines.

By mid-2001 a substantial portion of Korea's W10 trillion weapon introduction projects were facing delay due to budget and political reasons. Budget authorities were been reluctant to earmark funds to the projects citing the economic slump. Major projects facing indefinite postponement are the Air Force's W1.8 trillion E-X (airborne early warning control system) project and advanced anti-aircraft missile SAM-X system and the Navy's new landing ship LP-X projects.

The ROK Navy has stated a need for at least one, but probably up to four, LPD-type units that to be procured under the LPX program. On 16 September 2002 a report by the Ministry of National Defense at the National Defense Committee of the National Assembly announced the construction of two 13,000-ton class amphibious vessels. And after some delays and funding troubles, 2 LPX ships had been approved by late 2004, with hope for more in the future.

The LPX program, similar to the Japanese Ohsumi type LPD, could be regarded as another effort to have a greater regional influence. A new design amphibious landing ship, the first LPX was planned for delivery in 2005. The ROK Navy desired the ship to have a large flight deck like a helicopter carrier; a flooding well deck to accommodate Amphibious Assault Vehicles (AAV's) and Landing Cushion Aircraft (LCAC) is being considered.

The New LPD will carry 700 troops, 10 helicopters, and 12 landing craft. An alternate load out would include 10 CH-60 helicopters, seven amphibious vehicles, six tanks and two small landing boats. This ship was initially projected to displace around 10,000 tons.

Due to the high technical standards of the LPX project, the ROKN wished to purchase advanced foreign manufactured systems. The ROKN established technical specifications first, and procurement was then made through open bidding procedures. In order to help develop their technical specifications, the ROKN received in advance technical information from foreign companies interested in participating in the LPX Project. It went without saying that companies whose technical specifications were specially adapted for this particular project had a greater chance of being selected as foreign procurement contractors by the ROKN.

As a result of continued collaboration, CAE Integrated Platform Management System (IPMS) was selected for the LPx. The IPMS for LPx will take advantage of the latest proven technologies and experience that CAE gained during the development and deployment of the IPMS on the German Navy F-124 frigates and the Royal Netherlands' Navy LCF programs. The project will be accomplished through collaboration with Doosan Heavy Industries of Korea as part of a localisation agreement. The CAE IPMS monitors and controls all the hull, electrical and mechanical devices of a ship, such as propulsion, electrical distribution, steering and battle damage control systems.

As of September 2002, SMART-L and SPS-48E were in competition for LPX's 3D VSR. SPN-46 and SPN-720 were also in the running for LPX's precision approach control radar. The ship's long range volume search radar will be Thales' SMART-L system.

In December 2002 Doosan Heavy Industries Construction Co (DHICO), S.E.M.T. Pielstick's Licensee in Korea, signed a contract for the supply of 30 MW propulsion plant with four 16 PC2.5 STC diesel engines for the first ship of the Korean Navy LPX program. The four engines will be built in Changwon by DHICO with the backup of S.E.M.T. Pielstick, in the frame of an industrial and co-operation agreement. The S.E.M.T. Pielstick 16 PC2.5 STC Diesel engine is a medium speed diesel engine rated at 7650 kW at 520 rpm equipped with the Sequential Turbo Charging (STC) system and fitted on resilient mountings. This contract is the result of 4 years' negotiations and close co-operation between all the partners, as the first request for proposal was issued on August 1998. This new order confirms the worldwide leader-ship of S.E.M.T. Pielstick Diesel engines for the propulsion of large Naval ships.

In 2003 AMS was awarded a contract by SangYong Information & Communication Corporation, Korea, for technical consultancy services in support of their local development of a Command Support System for the LPX Landing Platform Ship, designed for multi-helicopter operations and amphibious assault.

Being 200 meters long, 31 meters wide and displacing 14,000 tons [18,000 fully loaded], the ship will carry 700 troops, 10 CH-60 helicopters, seven amphibious vehicles, six tanks and two small landing boats. The ships can be used in a wide range of activities, including UN peacekeeping operations and disaster relief. For this reason, the LP-X is expected to usher in a new era of expanded Korean naval prowess, since it can be used for relief, transport, and other peacetime activities.

With a light displacement of 14,000 tons the LP-X is not only be the largest vessel in the Korean Navy but also substantially larger than the similar Osumi-class landing ship (8,900 tons) of the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force, and with a larger payload capacity as well, making it the regions largest of its kind. Previously, the largest ship in the Korean Navy was the 9,000-ton support vessel Cheonji.

The LPX is a high-speed amphibious ship, based on the concept of "over-the- horizon assault." As the name indicates, the "over-the-horizon assault" comprises a military operation in which an amphibious landing operation is conducted with high-speed air-cushioned vehicles and helicopters from beyond the horizon, where they can't be detected or attacked by the enemy. The conventional LST (landing ship tank) has to approach the coastline for landing, at the risk of being fired upon by the enemy.

The LP-X can carry a battalion of marines (about 700 men), 10 armored vehicles, up to 200 vehicles, 15 helicopters, and two LCAC hovercrafts capable of landing on enemy shores doing 40 knots -- a mix that enables it to launch troop landings from both sea and air.

The hull consists of four decks, this highest of which is the 1st deck [the flight deck], with the bridge superstructure. The flight deck can accomodated five UH-60 helicopters simultaneously. When the budget situation is improved, there is the possibilty that the NH-90 or the E101 Merlin will be adopted. An airplane hanger can be added for the UH-60 transportation helicopter and the AH-1 attack helicopter. An airplane shed spanning the lower deck is planned with multilayer structure and 2 formation elevator and 1 cadence elevator.

If it were equipped with a ski jump board module, 15-17 meters in length, it could operate short-range and vertical landing/take-off aircraft such as the Harrier or F-35B. Ships of this type are sometimes called a semi-aircraft carrier. The flight deck is coated with special Urethane to resist heat generated from aircraft. However, Korean military authorities have made it clear that they have no plan to convert the LPX into such a semi-aircraft carrier.

The 2nd deck is composed with the rooms of the dwelling sector, the command post and utility system of the crew. It will be able to accommodate a landing party with a strength 700 persons.

The 3rd deck includes the well-dock for loading the 2 LCACs. It is able to load 70 tanks or 200 truck, but normally the load is 10 helicopters and 2 tank companies, along with their support equipment. While being entirely mechanized, it will be able to accommodate 1 battalion strength and the equipment and armament.

At the lower part stern there is an entrance and exit door which is how the LCAC comes in and out. The LCAC is accommodated with a length and width of 26.4m X 14.3m. It loads the equipment with a total weight of 60-75 ton fullly loaded, and can sustain a speed 74Km/hr (40 knot). At this speed the cruise range is 320Km, and at 65Km/hr (35 knot) the range is 480Km. Generally it will be able to embark the individual basic load strength of 1 tank with 2 squads together. The LCAC is able to attempt landing in the coastal areas of 70% of the coasts. After landing it is able to operate in even until more deeply inland.

The LP-X is a multi-functional vessel. It can also function as a command vessel for the Navy's three-dimensional mobile operations. A combat commanding system, equipped with a digital C41SR function, can manage and control support vessels, aircraft and their weapons, on a real-time basis, so that the landing troops can make a prompt and effective response to the enemy's status. In other words, it can serve as a base vessel that commands a strategic mobile operation fleet consisting of KDX-III (Aegis vessel) and KDX-II (Korean destroyer) vessels and submarines. The LP-X can function as the flagship with a command bridge established on the deck top island. The battle command system with the digital C41SR function was purchased in 2002 for 52,900,000,000 won [about $50,000,000].

The radars, which are the eyes of the warship, include the SMART-L long range 3 dimension search radar, with a detection and tracking range of 400Km.

The armament includes a close defense weapon system center, and the RAM, which is only the third country in the world, after Germany and the United States. The - CIWS [Close-In Weapon Systems] GoalKeeper was purchased in January 2003 from Thales, and a per-set price of 13,000,000,000 won [about $15,000,000]. On the are in front of the bridge roof there is the space arrangement for the configuration of the ESSM.

Thales Nederland and the Commanding General of the Defense Procurement Agency of the Korean Ministry of Defense signed contracts for the delivery of five Goalkeeper systems to the Korean Navy. The total contract value is about 51 million euros. The first system is to be delivered within 28 months.

Two Goalkeepers will be installed on the LPX (Landing Platform). This ship is scheduled to be launched in March 2005 and will be operational in June 2007. The other three Goalkeepers are destined for the three KDXII - Batch 2 destroyers, for which the contracts for the Combat Direction System, including sensors, were signed earlier this year. With this order, the total number of Goalkeepers supplied to the Korean Navy will be 14.

Goalkeeper is Thales' answer to the need for close-in defence of ships against highly manoeuvrable missiles and aircraft. It is an autonomous and fully automatic system which detects and tracks its targets, opens fire and performs kill assessment for several targets simultaneously. Continuous search with track-while-scan provides an automatic and fast switch-over to the next-priority target in multiple-target scenarios, assuring the timely detection of small and supersonic targets, even in dense clutter and jamming environments.

On 12 July 2005, South Korea launched the first LPX amphibious landing ship at the shipyard of Hanjin Heavy Industries & Constructions Co. in Busan. The ship, named "Dokdo", is scheduled to be handed over to the South Korean Navy in 2007. At the moment of the launch, a wooden mock-up version of the Thales' SMART-L radar system took the place of the actual system that was still being tested in Hengelo, Thales-NL's headquarters. The Dokdo was named after South Korea's easternmost islets, and launched amid the patriotic fervor surrounding the spat with Japan over Korea's islets in the East Sea.

Japan said it would protest South Korea's choice of names. "It is truly regrettable that the name was used on the vessel despite repeated requests by the Japanese government not to do so," Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda told reporters. "I expect the (Foreign) ministry to protest strongly once again."

The Navy planned to develop another similar ship by 2010. This unit will be named after Marado Island, which is located 11 km offshore from Moseulpo harbor. It is thought of as the ending and beginning point of Korea. A monument stands recognizing it as the southernmost point of the country.

The third unit is to be named after Baek-ryong Island, which is located in the West Sea (Yellow Sea). Paeng-ryong-do / Baek-Ryong / Paek Ryong / Baeng-nyeongdo / Paik-Ryong Island is the spot closest to the 38th parallel on the southern side and the site of fierce combat during the Korean War. Spotted seals live on on the island, which is fortified as strongly as the mainland. Some think it is likely that the spy operations are still ongoing from the old spy bases on the island.

In May 2008 Defense officials from South Korea and Turkey held five days of talks on bilateral defense cooperation in Ankara. Turkey is seeking a big deck amphibious ship, and has turned to South Korea to build it. Turkey is seeking units of the the Dokdo class. High on the agenda is South Korea's cooperation on Turkey's shipbuilding program to develop amphibious large-deck landing ships and tank landing ships.

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