According to local media Bemil Chosun, the most impacted program is the F-35A Lightning II with a reduction of about $250 million. On the naval side, the Maritime Operations Helicopter-II (MOH-II) and the KDX-III Batch II programs have both seen budget cuts ($166 million and $83 million respectively).
Despite the above cuts, South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) assures that delivery of F-35A aircraft and AEGIS combat system for the KDX-III Batch II destroyers will not be delayed since both programs are ahead on scheduled payment. The MND is negotiating to pay the remaining amount at a later date. The MOH-II program is set to be the only program to be delayed due to the budget cuts.
The MOH-II (also known as MOH Batch 2) program calls for the procurement of 12 anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopters for the ROK Navy for a value of about $800 million. Naval News understand that three designs are competing:
- Leonardo / AgustaWestland AW159 Wildcat (which is already in service with the ROK Navy)
- NHIndustries NH90 Nato Frigate Helicopter (NFH)
- Lockheed Martin/Sikorsky MH-60R Romeo
It appears by targeting foreign procurement programs with budget cuts, the MND tried to protect domestic programs. As a result, the “2020-2024 Mid-term Defense Acquisition Plan” remains largely unaffected…for now. The $241 billion budget for mid-term defense acquisition plan is divided into two categories: $86 billion for “Defense Capability Improvement” (New Acquisition) and $155 billion for “Operational Cost.”
Here are the main naval programs which are part of this procurement plan:
- Acquisition of 20 additional F-35A… or B variant for the future LHD (LPX-II)
- LPX-II program
- Joint Fire Support Vessel program (arsenal ship)
- KDX-III Batch II destroyer
- Son Won Il-class (KSS-II/ Type 214) submarine upgrade program
- Super Lynx upgrade program
- L-SAM program (including its naval variant)
About LPX-II and F-35B
South Korean shipyard Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) was awarded a contract for the LPX-II conceptual design in October last year. The LPX-II project aims to build a new versatile large-deck landing ship for short take-off and vertical landing fighter jets.
HHI is expected to finish the conceptual design by the second half of 2020, with commissioning with Republic of Korea Navy planned for the early 2030s. The vessel, displacing around 30,000 tons would be based on the existing Dokdo-class amphibious assault ship (LPX-I project) and would be able to accommodate around 20 F-35B STOVL fighters.
The LPX-II vessel will also deploy future Marine Attack Helicopters of the ROK Marine Corps, for which there is an upcoming competition between local company KAI (with the Surion MAH), Bell Helicopters (with the AH-1Z) and Boeing (with the AH-64 Apache). All three companies were showcasing their solutions at ADEX 2019. As ship to shore connectors it will likely deploy the future KAAV-II as well, for the which the design was unveiled at the air show.
About Arsenal Ship
According to daily newspaper The Hankyoreh, the arsenal ship will likely be modeled on the locally produced KDX-II destroyer. It will be loaded with a large number of precision-guided weapons, including ship-to-ground missiles, for hitting ground targets. It’s expected to begin its mission in the late 2020s.
An arsenal ship is a concept of a floating missile platform capable of carrying and launching large numbers (in the hundred) of cruise missiles via vertical launch system.
About KDX III Batch II
HHI announced on October 10 2019 it has signed a US$565 million contract with the South Korean Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) for the first of three Gwanggaeto-III Batch II (KDX-III Batch II) destroyers for the ROK Navy. Under the deal, HHI will deliver the first of three Aegis destroyers by November 2024. South Korea approved plans to construct the second batch of three destroyers with a budget of around US$3.3 billion in May 2019.
Based on the existing Sejong the Great-class the new AEGIS destroyers will feature several improvements including improved combat systems that can detect and track targets at greater distances and anti-ballistic missile capability with Raytheon’s SM-3 interceptors.
The KDX-III Batch II will be fitted with SM-2 as well and, possibly, the new SM-6 “multi-mission missile” capable of long-range Fleet Air Defense, Sea-Based Terminal defense, and Anti-Surface Warfare.
According to our information, the vessel will feature:
- 48x Mk-41 VLS cells
- 16x K-VLS cells
- 24x K-VLS II cells (which are larger)
K-VLS will be used to deploy K-SAAM (Korean Surface to Air Anti Missile), replacing the replace RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM). It features inertial mid-course guidance and a dual microwave and infrared homing seeker for terminal guidance. K-VLS will also deploy Hong Sang Eo (Red Shark) rocket-based torpedo (K-ASROC) and Haeryong Tactical Surface Launch Missile (TSLM) land attack cruise missile.
K-VLS II is being developed to launch the future long-range surface-to-air missile (150 Km range) Cheongung 3 (also known as L SAM). Naval News learned from a source at LIG Nex1, that the naval L SAM (which is still in conceptual phase) will only have minor modifications compared to the land-based variant. L SAM is intended to replace SM-2 in the ROK Navy.
Compared to the Batch I, which sports 16 anti ship missiles, the Batch II will “only” have 8 of them.