What is still being confirmed as of this writing is the version of the Pohang-class corvette to be given to the Philippine Navy (PN). There are currently 3 sub-classes for the entire class range, having different and improving configuration as the class matures. Also being confirmed are the included sensors and weapons system in the transfer.
|The South Korean government has approved handing-over a Pohang-class corvette to the Philippine Navy. Above is ROKS Gunsan (PCC-757).|
Photo taken from Koreadefense.net.
Understanding the Korean Naval Shipbuilding in the 1980s:
The late 1970s and early 1980s saw the massive industrialization efforts of South Korea gaining ground, backed by fast expanding economy and government support for self sufficiency. The ROKN embarked on a massive shipbuilding program to prove their gains and experience from the local manufacture of their earlier Chamsuri-class patrol boat (Tomas Batillo-class in the PN) in the 1970s. This led to the Fast Frigate Korea (FFK) and Patrol Combat Corvette (PCC) projects, which ultimately became the Ulsan-class frigate based on the HDF-2000 design, and Donghae-class corvettes(PCC Flight I) based on HDC-8000 design. The first ship of the Donghae-class, the ROKS Donghae (PCC-751) was commissioned to the ROKN in 1983, but according to Korean sources, the design encountered sea-keeping issues on the open seas due to the hull's small size, and it ROKN requested for a re-design of the PCC program using an enlarged version of the HDC-8000 design, and decided to end the production of the Donghae-class corvette at 4 units. The resulting design, the HDC-1200, which became a class of its own despite huge similarities with the earlier Donghae-class design. This design ultimately became the ROKN's Pohang-class corvette (PCC Flight II).
Compared to the older Donghae-class, the Pohang-class is 10 meters longer, and around 0.3 meters wider and deeper. This resulted to better sea-keeping attributes on open seas, and ROKN decided to continue the PCC program using the design. Improvements on machinery, habitability, weapons and sensors fit were also made to maximize the usage of the hull enlargement.
Note: A derivative design based on the Donghae and Pohang-class ships was made for the Korean Maritime Police (Coast Guard), called the Hankang-class, which is lightly armed and less capable than its naval counterparts.
|The ROKS Suwon (PCC-752), the 2nd ship of the Donghae-class corvettes.|
The Pohang-class corvette:
The Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) operated a maximum of 24 locally-made Pohang-class "combat corvettes", of which 21 are still in active service as of June 2014. Being a derivative of the Donghae-class, the Pohang-class provided increased size and improved performance, and improvements on sensors and weapons systems fit including accommodation for anti-ship missile systems. The lead ship of the class, ROKS Pohang (PCC-756), was commissioned to the ROKN on December 1984, while the last unit, ROKS Gongju (PCC-785), was commissioned on July 1993. Construction for the ship class was divided to 3 of South Korea's foremost naval shipbuilders in the 1980s, Korea Tacoma Shipbuilding (now Hanjin Heavy Industries), Hyundai Heavy Industries, and Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering.
Note: Hyundai Heavy Industries and Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering are both contenders for the upcoming new frigates for the Philippine Navy.
The class have the following details technical details:
Dimensions (length x beam x depth): 88.3m x 10.0m x 2.9m;
Displacement: 1,220 tons at full load;
Speed: 32 knots maximum using gas turbine;
Range: 4,000 miles at 15 knots
The Pohang-class is divided into 3 sub-classes, each being an improvement over the other:
PCC Pohang-subclass (PCC Flight II)
This is the so-called surface warfare version (ASuW), originally conceived as the only version with anti-ship missiles. The sub-class covering 4 ships (PCC-756 to PCC-759). These are equipped with:
- 1 x GE LM-2500 gas turbine, 2 x MTU 12V956 TB82 diesel engines at CODOG configuaration;
- Raytheon AN/SPS-64(v) surface search/navigation radar, Signaal WM-28 Fire Control System, Signaal LIOD optronic director, Signaal Sewaco ZK combat data system;
- 1 x Oto Melara 76mm/62 Compact gun, 2 x MM38 Exocet anti-ship missile launchers, 2 x Emerlec Twin 30mm guns, 2 x triple Mk. 32 324mm ASW torpedo tubes, 2 x Mk.9 Depth Charge racks.
PCC Gimcheon-subclass (PCC Flight III)
This is the anti-submarine warfare (ASW) version, covering 4 ships (PCC-761 to PCC-765, skipped PCC-764). Changes on the combat data system and secondary guns, and addition of another 76mm gun plus a hull-mounted sonar system, and absence of anti-ship missile system as compared to the earlier sub-class.
- 1 x GE LM-2500 gas turbine, 2 x MTU 12V956 TB82 diesel engines at CODOG configuration;
- Raytheon AN/SPS-64(v) surface search/navigation radar, Signaal WM-28 Fire Control system, Signaal LIOD optronic director, Raytheon AN/SQS-58 hull mounted sonar replacing the original Signaal PHS-32, Ferranti WSA 423 combat data system;
- 2 x Oto Melara 76mm/62 Compact gun, 2 x Breda twin 40mm/70 guns, 2 x triple Mk. 32 324mm ASW torpedo tubes, 2 x Mk.9 Depth Charge racks, 1 x Mistral / Chiron MANPADS launcher added later on.
|The ROKS Gimcheon (PCC-761), part of the ASW sub-class.|
PCC Jinhae-subclass (PCC Flight IV & V)
This is an improved re-design that incorporates the ASW and ASuW capabilities, unlike the earlier 2 sub-classes. The use of space-saving Harpoon tube launchers instead of the older MM38 Exocet boxed launchers enabled the ship to carry more missiles while also having the ASW capability. The diesel engine was also changed from MTU to SEMT-Pielstick brand. This sub-class covers 16 ships (PCC-766 to PCC-784, skipping PCC-770, 774, 780 and 784). PCC Flight V started from PCC-778, the difference being the Marconi and Radamec sensors system installed are licensed-built versions from Samsung.
- 1 x GE LM-2500 gas turbine, 2 x SEMT-Pielstick 12 PA6 V280 diesel engines at CODOG configuration;
- Marconi ST1810 surface search/navigation radar, Marconi ST1802 fire control radar, 2 x Radamec 2400 optronic system, Raytheon AN/SQS-58 hull mounted sonar replacing the original Signaal PHS-32, Ferranti WSA 423 combat data system;
- 2 x Oto Melara 76mm/62 Compact gun, 2 x Breda twin 40mm/70 guns, 2 x twin RGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missile launchers; 2 x triple Mk. 32 324mm ASW torpedo tubes, 2 x Mk. 9 Depth Charge racks, 1 x Mistral / Chiron MANPADS launcher added later on.
|The ROKS Wonju (PCC-769), a ship classified under the Jinhae-subclass.|
So far, 3 Pohang-class ships are out of service as of June 2014: ROKS Pohang (PCC-756) was decommissioned from the ROKN in 2009 and was turned to a museum ship in Pohang City, ROKS Gunsan (PCC-757) was decommissioned in 2011 and is awaiting decision on its fate after an offer to transfer the ship to the Colombian Navy did not push through. The most famous ship of the class, the ROKS Cheonan (PCC-772), was sunk in 2010.
Transfer to the Philippine Navy:
There is no definite information yet on which ship will be for transfer. According to the DFA and DND announcements, the specific ship for the PN is still in active service with the ROKN as of this writing. Usually a navy selects the older and worse-condition ship of the class for decommissioning ships, so the most expected ship that fits this bill would be either of the 2 remaining ASuW versions, the ROKS Gyeongju (PCC-758) and the ROKS Mokpo (PCC-759). It is to be noted that ROKS Gunsan (PCC-757) was already decommissioned from the ROKN since 2011, so it may not fit the description. The PN would be lucky if they receive a more capable version.
The expected transfer date is before the end of the year, and previous announcements indicated that ship's systems would be intact upon transfer unlike what the PN experienced with the Hamilton-class cutters from the US. There are confirmations from MaxDefense sources that the ship could be "almost entirely intact as it is depending on approval from foreign governments holding rights to approval of arms transfers", and if these approvals are met, we can expect the ship to be in the Philippines before the end of the year.
New systems for the PN:
A small ship in the eyes of many, it packs several naval systems that are currently not available with the PN. Assuming that the PN will get the earlier ASuW version, the following are expected to give the PN the technology and knowledge boost it needs:
|There are several systems in the ship that is not available in the PN's inventory or knowledge base. This small ship surely is helpful to the PN's goal to improve its capability.|
1. It uses the GE LM-2500 gas turbine engine - although the PN is not a stranger to naval application of gas turbines thanks to the Gregorio del Pilar-class frigates, the LM-2500 is somehing new to them. It is much modern, more powerful, and is one of the most widely used gas turbine engine for warship application in the world.
2. Presence of ASW weapons - the ship is equipped with ASW torpedo launchers and depth charge racks - weapons that the PN have not used since the early 1980s. This would re-introduce the organization to such weapons which are expected to be present in upcoming warships.
3. The anti-ship missile system - the PN has never equipped its ships with anti-ship missiles in the past, although it has been planning to do so since the 1970s. Although the ship's MM-38 Exocet missile is already nearing obsolescence, it could still be a good training and learning platform for the PN while waiting for plans to introduce newer systems.
4. Warship design that is younger than all its major surface action assets - it should be taken into consideration that the Pohang-class' design is far younger than the PN's World War 2-era warships, its Gregorio del Pilar-class frigates, and even its British made Jacinto-class ships. MaxDefense is not familiar with the Pohang-class' advantages in warship hull design, but it is expected to benefit from maturity of technology over older designs. This could provide the information and technology base for the PN's future ship design and building programs under the Naval Research and Development Center's (NRDC) project.
What the PN should be doing by now:
Being a warship with more capable systems than the Gregorio del Pilar-class frigates, the PN should be readying the crew that will be assigned to the ship. MaxDefense expects that South Korea will provide training to the initial PN crew. Instead of getting crew members from the Gregorio del Pilar-class frigates, MaxDefense suggests getting mixed crew members from the Rizal or Miguel Malvar-class ships plus those with experience from the Gregorio del Pilar-class frigates. They should all be provided with introductory training aboard the PN's frigates first before sending them to Korea. This could be done by using both the PF-15 and PF-16 simultaneously as training platforms for the next few months.
Aside from the ship crew, the PN must build up its maintenance and support base to maintain the ship's more complicated mechanical, electrical, sensors and weapons systems. MaxDefense expects the corvette to be more complicated than the US-made frigates, and this should be given attention by the PN.
|Inside a Pohang-class corvette's bridge. This is probably from a Jinhae-subclass version and may have some differences with the older ASuW version.|
Photo taken from namacha @ atwiki.jp
It is expected that the ship will need refurbishing and repair once it becomes available, its not new after all. It is a common practice for navies to stop refurbishing works once a ship is nearing its retirement date, even large organizations like the US Coast Guard does the same. The PN should already prepare the budget and start planning on the necessary works it needs to do with the ship based on previous/future inspections. It is not impossible that the ship may require some repair works as a precautionary measure before sailing on its own to its new home in the Philippines.
Aside from repairs, the PN should consider maximizing the use of the ship by upgrading it later on with better engineering, sensors, and weapons systems, and increasing its service lifespan. Not only is it needed to keep the ship in full readiness for several more years, but also to improve its capability as a front-line naval combatant, and in compliance of DND's rules on acquiring used assets.
For the PN high command, the approval of such transfer from South Korea should be followed with aggressiveness to get more. As more Incheon-class frigates come into service with the ROKN, they are expected to release more Pohang and Ulsan-class ships soon. These used but still capable Korean warships would be the best solution for the PN to immediately upgrade its fleet as a short to medium term solution, and this could only be attained if the PN can fight and lobby for government support to request the South Korean government to allow more transfers either as grants, donations, or priority sale. So far, MaxDefense can confirm that DND is in talks with South Korea's MoD not only for more corvettes, but other assets as well. Let's see the outcome of these talks and hopefully more good new will come in the next few months.
Of course there will be trade-offs on such request, and it may include our military's preference to acquire new military equipment from South Korea. It is to be noted that the AFP is in full-swing to acquire several weapons systems that South Korea is able to provide. MaxDefense does not see anything wrong with giving the South Koreans more access to our defense market as they have competitive defense products, for as long as these meet the AFP's operational requirements and price is reasonable and competitive.
It is expected that this deal would be discussed for some time until the ship actually arrives on Philippine shores. MaxDefense will provide more information regarding this deal later on.