Korea plans to double Aegis power

December 2, 2013
ROK Navy’s Aegis-equipped destroyer DDG-993

ROK Navy’s Aegis-equipped destroyer DDG-993

By Kim Tae-gyu

Korea plans to build three more Aegis destroyers to double the total number to six at a time when the country faces multiple challenges including the North Korean threats and lingering territorial disputes with both Japan and China.

A military source who is familiar with the issue said Sunday the decision to augment the Navy would be made during a Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) meeting slated for Dec. 22.

“The Navy requested three additional Aegis ships a year ago and the JCS was poised to discuss the issue at last month’s meeting,” said the source who asked not to be named.

“The matter was delayed last month for some reason but recently military leaders appear to have put it on the front burner in consideration of recent tensions in the Northeast Asian region.”

The Navy operates Aegis destroyers mainly to counter North Korean missile threats.

Strengthened naval power has been on the lips of officials as Japan has continued to claim Korea’s easternmost islets Dokdo under the leadership of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who took power late last year.

New concerns surfaced last month as China unilaterally declared an air defense identification zone, which overlaps with those of Korea and Japan. Beijing wants any airplanes crossing the zone to obey its instructions to avoid military action.

The air zone includes the submerged rock Ieido, an anchor for a Korean research station built in 2003.

If the plan for the Aegis ships gets approval, around 3 trillion won is expected to be spent for deployment in the mid 2020s.

To grapple with North Korean provocations, South Korea started building Aegis destroyers in 2004 and currently has three of the 7,600-ton warships — the King Sejong the Great, the Seoae Ryu Seong-ryong and the Yulgok Yi I.

They were jointly produced by U.S.-based Lockheed Martin and Korea’s Hyndai Heavy Industries, which signed a memorandum of understanding to build mid-sized warships equipped with Aegis for export.

The 166-meter-long destroyers are equipped with the state-of-the-art Aegis radar system as well as missiles and torpedoes in vertical launch systems. With some 300 crew, it can also carry two mid-sized helicopters and sail at a maximum speed of 30 knots per hour.

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