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Incheon FFX Future Frigate

The frigates are named after a metropolitan city, province or the seat of a provincial government.

The new Incheon FFX is 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.

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.

By mid-2016 plans called for arming the Incheon-class ships with land-attack missiles that have a range of 150-200 kilometers. The missiles, to be mounted on the ships starting in September 2016, will allow the frigates the ability to attack key targets in the DPRK's interior. Initially, the plan was to arm batch 2 Incheon-class ships with the tactical missiles, but the government, after conducting feasibility studies, decided to retrofit the batch 1 ships. The missiles will be housed in angled canister launchers on deck. The first batch consisting of six frigates had an empty displacement of some 2,300 tons and were launched starting in 2011. The sixth and last frigate of batch 1 would join the fleet early in 2017.

Incheon-class escort ship Batch-1 does not have KVLS, and Batch-2 and Batch-3 are equipped with 16 KVLS. Eight silos are equipped with 32 Hagung missiles, and eight are equipped with Red Shark anti-submarine rockets. In addition, a short-range tactical fleet guided projectile that can be launched through KVLS is under development and the range can reach up to 200 km. Currently, the guided missile is being developed in both the slant type launched through the anti-ship missile launch tube and the vertical type launched through the KVLS, and the slant type was developed and deployed in 2016.

Daegu-class FFX II - Batch II

The second batch of ships are heavier with an empty displacement of 2,800 tons. The new ships are 122 meters long, 14 meters wide and 34 meters high, with a maximum speed of 30 knots and can be equipped with a maritime helicopter. Especially, for the first time in the ROK naval battlefield, the hybrid propulsion system is applied to reduce underwater radiated noise, so that the submarine detection capability and survivability were improved compared to the existing 2,500 ton class FFG-I escort.

The Incheon-class escort ship is equipped with a SPS-550K radar developed by LIG Nex1 . SPS-550K is an AESA radar developed on the basis of a low-grade radar, and was previously known for importing 3D radar SMART-S Mk2 from France and localizing it in LIG Nex1 . The internal transmission module itself is completely different from the SMART-S MK2. The basic performance is also superior to the SPS-550K.

The Defense Acquisition Program Administration delivered a second next-generation escort ship to the Navy on 07 Janaury 2021. The 2,800-ton Gyeongnam is equipped with a hybrid propulsion system combining an electrical motor and a gas turbine, which generates less noise and reduces detection risks. With a stealth technology applied, the vessel is also more capable of avoiding enemy radar detections. The DAPA said it will deliver six more next-generation escort vessels to the Navy by 2023 as planned.

Ulsan-class FFX Batch III

FFX Batch IIIHyundai Heavy Industries signed a detailed design and construction of a leading ship for a total of KRW 400 billion (about USD 325 million) on 16 March 2020. This is the FFX-3 escort ship, the first of the six 3500t-class new escort ships built by the Korean Navy. Hyundai Heavy Industries had designed and built 80 warships and submarines to date, including the first Korean warship 'Ulsan-Ham' in 1975, the Korean Aegis ship 'Sejong the Great', and the next-generation escort ship 'Incheon', The escort ship will be delivered to the Navy in 2024, which is being built at the Ulsan shipyard. The new frigate boasts a large body of 129m in length, 15m in width and 3500t in weight. It can operate at a maximum speed of 55 km/h.

The design uses hybrid propulsion system that combines gas turbine and electric propulsion. Hyundai Heavy Industries explained that it is possible to escape from the threat of detection of submarines with low-noise electric propulsion, and in case of emergency, high-speed operation using gas turbine propulsion. Observers estimated that the Ulsan-class new escort ship would exceed 4000 tons, which is equivalent to China's 054A type.

The radar of the Ulsan-class Batch-3 escort ship was developed by Hanwha. It is a radar capable of performing multiple missions such as detection and tracking of anti-aircraft and anti-ship targets, and support for engagement. It integrated the S-band and X-band into a three-dimensional phased array radar. Similar concepts have not been put to practical use in countries like China and the United States. The S band is a UHF and SHF frequency band of 2 to 4 gigahertz, and is used for mid- and long-range anti-aircraft surveillance radar. The X band is an 8 to 12 gigahertz frequency band, and is used to track ballistic missiles with a wavelength of about 2.5 cm.

The FFX-3 escort ships are armed with Hagung fleet anti-aircraft missiles, long-range anti-submarine torpedo sharks, and fleet-to-surface missiles. Overall, these ships are capable of performing various missions such as anti-aircraft, anti-ship, anti-submarine and land attack.

In total, the country's fleet intended to accept eight frigates of the FFX type of the second series, after which it is planned to switch to the construction of even more modern ships of the FFX type of the third series (Batch III). Six of these frigates would be completed by 2026.

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Page last modified: 13-09-2021 14:44:39 ZULU