Surface Forces: South Korean Warship Exports

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June 30, 2022: In southeast Asia, the Philippines has ordered more warships from South Korea. This time it is six OPVs (Offshore Patrol Vessels). This came after a competition involving proposals from Australia, Turkey and several other nations. The South Korean entry was the export version of the new HDP-1500 OPV. The export version is customizable but the basic features are an 81 meter (260 foot), 1,700-ton ship with a top speed of 38 kilometers an hour and endurance of 28 days. There are accommodations for 51 personnel, including the 41 crew. Standard armament consists of a 76mm cannon and four CIWS (Close In Weapons Systems) for missile defense and other threats within a few thousand meters of the ship. There is a landing pad and hangar for a helicopter. Under the helipad there is space for additional weapons or equipment in four cargo spaces. The HDP-1500 can be equipped with anti-ship missiles or to hunt and attack submarines as well for mine-clearing. The Philippines needs the OPVs to patrol the South China Sea waters that China is seeking to steal from the Philippines.

These OPVs are not the first warships purchased from South Korea. There are two South Korean frigates and two corvettes. South Korea has also sold warplanes to the Philippines as well as other military equipment. South Korea has also donated some weapons, including warships, to the Philippines, which is an ally in the coalition opposing Chinese expansion throughout the region. Donations were recently retired South Korean ships like the two Pohang-class corvettes. The first one was delivered in 2019 as an incentive for the Philippines to order more new corvettes and frigates from South Korea. The 1,200-ton Pohangs are small ships, with 24 built in the 1980s. They are old ships but well-armed and can stay at sea for about ten days at a time. Filipino crews were impressed because the South Korean ships compared favorably to donated American warships.

Since the 1990s South Korea has become a major developer, manufacturer and exporters of modern weapons. At home, South Korea builds most of the warships, artillery and armored vehicles for their own armed forces as well as a growing number of the helicopters and combat aircraft. South Korea is now the sixth largest arms exporter worldwide and the tenth largest economy. Giving away retired warships is customary with the existing providers of warship exports. In the last decade the first generation of South Korean built warships were ready for retirement from South Korean service. With some refurbishment and upgrades, these retired ships are good for another decade of service with less affluent navies that can use them.

 


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