South Korea Munitions and Weapons Systems 


Aircraft Navy Land Warfare
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Airborn Early Warning - AEW



Defender 500


Navy       Return to Top

The mission of the navy during peacetime is not only to deter war, but also to protect national and maritime sovereignty, and perform activities that support national foreign policies and enhance national prestige. Its mission during war is to guarantee the safety of our activities at sea by protecting the sea lines of communications (SLOCs), the life line of the country, and exercising control over the sea. At the same time, it must prevent enemy activities at sea, and carry out surprise amphibious operations against the enemy's side and rear areas.

The independence Armed Corps established on November 11, 1945 was the origin of to-day's ROK Navy. In January 1949, the first 600-ton warship (PC) was purchased from the US, and the Marine Corps was established. During the Korean War, the ROK navy along with allied forces played a decisive role in winning the war by protecting sea lines of communications, securing the control of the sea, and successfully conducting the Inchon Amphibious Operation. In 1963, a destroyer was introduced, and in 1972, a Korean high speed boat was built. In 1975, Korean combat ships were built to re-invigorate its naval force. In the 1980s, the ROK Navy began to change its character by establishing close cooperation with Pacific nations through several combined exercises such as the "RIMPAC Exercise" to be the "Ocean-Going Navy." In 1993, the ROK introduced and built submarines, and in 1995, introduced maritime patrol aircraft P-3Cs to increase antisubmarine capabilities. Now it had started to take on the features of an "Ocean-Going Navy" of the 21st century by building and commissioning Korean versions of a destroyer(KDX), a heavy landing ship(LST), a mine laying ship(MLS), and a mine hunting ship(MHC).

The navy remains a small force primarily dedicated to protecting the nation's territorial waters and islands, respectively. There is one large naval base at Chinhae, and seven small naval stations located at Cheju, Inch'on, Mokp'o, Mukho, Pukp'yong-ni, P'ohang, and Pusan. Both the navy and marine corps were subordinate to the chief of naval operations, who was a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The navy consists of the Navy Headquarters, Operations Command, and Marine Corps Command, and separate commands for aviation, amphibious operations, mine warfare, training, and logistics--all subordinate to the first vice chief of naval operations. It possesses 67,000 troops including the marine corps, 200-some vessels including submarines, and about 60 aircraft.

The navy, with nearly 40,000 personnel, is organized into three fleets under the Operations Command: in the East and Yellow Seas and the Korea Strait. Each fleet command possesses combat vessels such as destroyers, escorts, and high-speed boats. Also, the Operations Command possesses vessels and aircraft in order to conduct main component operations including anti-submarine, mine, amphibious, and salvage operations and special warfare.

During the 1980s, the navy's modernization program focused on antisubmarine warfare and the deployment of new types of indigenously produced submarines, frigates, missile-equipped fast attack craft, and patrol boats.

In 1990 South Korean shipbuilders were building two indigenously designed naval vessels, and they had coproduction agreements with United States, Italian, and German companies for several other types of ships. Four shipbuilders--Hyundai, Daewoo, Korea Tacoma, and Korean Shipbuilding and Engineering-- constructed South Korean-designed Ulsan-class frigates and Tonghae-class corvettes for the navy. During the 1980s, Korea Tacoma, a South Korean-owned subsidiary of the United States Tacoma Boatbuilding Company, produced one class of patrol gunboat and one class of landing ship for the navy. The Kirogi-class patrol boat was a larger model of the Tacoma-designed Schoolboyclass patrol boat manufactured in South Korea during the 1970s. The Kirogi-class patrol boat, a 170-ton vessel, required a thirty-one-person crew and was equipped with five guns: one 40mm single-barreled Bofors on the bow, two 30mm twin-barreled Emerson Electrics in the stern, and two 20mm Oerlikon twin-barreled guns behind the bridge. The Kirogi-class patrol boat, with a range of 700 kilometers and a maximum speed of 38 knots, was well suited for its inshore patrol mission.

On 12 February 1999 the Defense Ministry announced that the Korean Navy will have three Aegis-class destroyers within 10 years under a medium-term defense procurement project. Each of the 7,000-ton destroyers will cost about 1 trillion won, or approximately $840 million. Design of the warship will start in the year 2001 and the first will be launched in 2009 or 2010, according to ministry officials.

The Mulgae-class landing ship, another naval vessel designed and produced in the United States by Tacoma Boatbuilding Company, was ordered by the navy to augment a small amphibious fleet that comprised several models of obsolescent transport craft produced in the United States during World War II and transferred to the South Korean navy in the 1960s and 1970s. The Mulgae-class landing ship was designed to carry an infantry company with its weapons, mechanized and wheeled vehicles, and other supplies. It had a range of 560 kilometers and a maximum speed of 13 knots. In 1986 South Korea's Kangnam Shipbuilding Corporation began construction of the Swallow/Chebi class minehunter, which was based on the Italian-designed Lerici-class. At that time, the South Korean navy had only eight United States-produced Kunsanclass minesweepers in service with the three fleets. The Swallowclass minehunter had new types of sonar and mine countermeasure equipment that was expected to improve the navy's capability to locate and to eliminate minefields in international shipping lanes during wartime.

In the late 1980s, production of submarines designed by the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) was initiated. Three 150-ton submarines designed by the Howaldswerke Shipbuilding Corporation were in service with the navy in 1990. Howaldswerke also had plans to provide technical assistance for the construction of three Type 209 submarines, about 1,400 tons each. South Korean military planners were interested in using submarines to protect critical shipping lanes from North Korean submarines in wartime.

The navy has implemented projects to secure submarines since the late 1980s, and in June 1993 it commissioned the Changbogoham, a 1,200-ton imported submarine. In April 1994, the navy commissioned and deployed the Ichonham, the first submarine to be built with domestic technology. This was no doubt a dramatic development for underwater operations. The navy plans to secure new-model submarines annually, loaded with modern weapon systems in order to lay the foundation for underwater force capabilities, considered to be relatively inferior to other fields.

Naval vessels deployed with the Eastern, Western, and Southern fleets were equipped with modern sonar equipment, depth charges, and torpedoes to counter more effectively North Korea's growing submarine force. Two types of United States-produced and one type of French-produced shipborne surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles were used by the navy on its destroyers, frigates, and fast attack craft. United States-produced Harpoon surface-to- surface missiles, with a ninety-kilometer range, were deployed on Gearing-class destroyers, Ulsan-class frigates, and Paegu-class fast attack craft derived from the Ashville-class. Frenchproduced Exocet surface-to-surface missiles, with a seventykilometer range, were employed on Donghae frigates and Kirogiclass fast attack craft. Paegu fast attack craft were equipped with United States-produced Standard surface-to-air missiles.

The Naval Aviation Command and the Naval Amphibious Command operated small fleets of aircraft and landing craft, respectively, to support naval fleet and marine corps operations. Twenty-five Grumman S-2 aircraft, twenty-five Hughes 500-MD helicopters, and ten Bell SA-316 helicopters were shore based. They were deployed for surveillance of surface ships and for antisubmarine warfare.

Republic of Korea Navy Official Homepage

Land Warfare       Return to Top


Type 88 K1

Armored Vehicles

KIFV K-200 KAFV KM-900



K9 Kooryong


Anti-Aircraft       Return to Top

K-30 KSAM Pegasus