South Korea’s plans for an Arsenal Ship first emerged in August 2019 at the same time as the light aircraft carrier project (then known as LPX-II project). However, virtually no information on the arsenal ship was published ever since, to the point where its funding was a question mark as CVX took center stage earlier this year. This was until this fall and the JCS announcement.
The ROK JCS explained during the National Assembly’s administrative inspection that it is planning to expedite the introduction of Korean arsenal ships through research and requirement verification, based on serious consideration of the necessity of arsenal ships.
At the National Defense Committee of the National Assembly, the JCS added that “the Korean Armed Forces will publish the ROK-US joint 4D Operational Guidelines and modify its couteractive strategy paper on weapons of mass destruction (WMD).” According to local media, 4D operational concept includes the overall improvement in detecting, destroying, and defending from North Korean nuclear and missile threats.
The Korean military plans to deploy three 5,000 tons arsenal ships by the late 2020s, equipped with over 80 land attack cruise missiles to strike land-based targets as a “sailing missile base”. However, critics of the concept argue that such ships are relatively vulnerable, difficult to defend and easily detectable by the enemy.
Arsenal Ship or SSG(N) ?
The arsenal ship project was abandoned by the US Navy due to its security strategic risk of carrying too many costly missiles in one ship. Despite the precedent of the United States, the ROK Navy has been considering the option of arsenal ships as a strategic asset by dividing the number of missiles that the Korean military already possesses on its soil, and maneuvering at sea as a means of massive retaliation against North Korea. The operational efficiency is still in question as the public sees that missile-loaded submarines (SSG or SSGN) are more strategically efficient and lethal.