East Asian navies boost surface combat capabilities

The navies of Japan and South Korea have held individual ceremonies in Tamano and Ulsan on 22 March to mark major milestones for their latest frigate construction programmes.

The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) commissioned the frigate JS Kumano. Built by the newly set up Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Maritime Systems – which was established in October 2021 and takes over the government sector business of Mitsui E & S Shipbuilding – JS Kumano is actually the second vessel in Japan’s planned build programme of 22 3,900 tonne Mogami-class multi-mission frigates.

The 132.5 m-long vessel was launched in November 2020 following nearly 13 months of construction. According to the JMSDF, Kumano will feature extensive automation that makes it comparatively more compact than other vessels of the same class and can be operated by just 90 personnel.

The frigate is armed with a 127 mm main gun, two Japan Steel Works 12.7 mm remote weapon stations, a Raytheon SeaRAM close-in weapon system, vertical launch system (VLS) for weapons such as the navalised Type-03 surface to air missile (SAM), and eight canisterised Type-17 anti-ship missiles.

Organic mission equipment includes the Mitsubishi Electric OPY-2 multifunction radar and Hitachi OQQ-11 and NEC OQQ-sonar systems as well as the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries OZZ-5 unmanned underwater vehicle as well as a currently undisclosed unmanned surface vehicle.

“As a total ship integrator, we will continue to focus on developing new escort vessels that are not bound by conventional frameworks, responding to customer issues such as labour saving, unmanned operation, cyber security, and reduction of life cycle costs,” the company stated.

Meanwhile, South Korea’s Hyundai Heavy Industries launched the eighth and final frigate ordered under the Republic of Korea Navy’s FFX Batch-II programme, the future Daegu-class ROKS Chuncheon. The FFX Batch-II vessels were built to replace the navy’s ageing 1500 tonne frigates and 1000 tonne corvettes.

A senior navy official noted that the 2,800 tonne frigate has been provided with “enhanced anti-submarine capabilities” thanks to its advanced sonar systems and hybrid propulsion that reduces underwater radiated noise.

According to the Defense Acquisition Program Administration, Chuncheon will enter sea trials prior to delivery at the end of 2023.

by Jr Ng