Hyundai Heavy Industries was set Tuesday to hold a ceremony launching a new frigate named after a warship torpedoed by North Korea in 2010. The ceremony for the 2,800-ton frigate, Cheonan, was scheduled to take place at the shipyard of Hyundai Heavy Industries Co. in Ulsan, some 410 kilometers southeast of Seoul, as the Republic of Korea Navy still has potent memories of the North’s deadly attack. The 1,200-ton corvette Cheonan sank near the Northern Limit Line, a de facto western inter-Korean sea border, in March 2010, after a North Korean midget submarine fired a torpedo at it, killing 46 sailors.
In March, President Moon Jae-in made public a decision to christen the new frigate the Cheonan during an annual event marking the West Sea Defense Day commemorating Navy sailors’ contributions to maritime security. The unveiling of the Cheonan carried a symbolic meaning for the survivors of the attack and bereaved families who have wished to see the new warship named after the ill-fated corvette and commissioned to fulfill its unfinished mission of safeguarding the maritime border. Some 100 people, including Defense Minister Suh Wook and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Boo Suk-jong, were set to join the event to transfer the frigate onto the water for the first time.
The frigate, Cheonan, is the seventh Daegu-class warship produced as part of South Korea’s guided missile frigate acquisition program, code-named FFX Batch-II. The Daegu-class is based on the preceding Incheon-class frigate, as a part of weapon system modifications, the superstructure has been significantly changed. The hangar and a helicopter deck on stern has been enlarged to support the operation of a 10-ton helicopter. Eight Daegu-class ships are planned, with the final goal of 20-22 frigates (of all types) in the ROKN. The Daegu-class frigates are to be built by Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) and Hyundai Heavy Industries.
The Republic of Korea Navy seeks to procure eight vessels in total under the program designed to replace the aging fleet of 1,500-ton frigates and 1,000-ton corvettes. The new vessel is equipped with a 5 inch (127 mm)/L62 caliber Mk 45 Mod 4 naval gun, a 20-mm Phalanx close-in weapon system, 16-cell Korean Vertical Launching System (K-VLS) that is able to deploy the K-SAAM, Hong Sang Eo anti-submarine missile, and Haeryong tactical land attack cruise missiles, as well as hull mounted and TB-250K towed array sonar systems. The Cheonan is expected to be delivered to the Republic of Korea Navy in 2023 and put into service the following year.