South Korea currently owns some of the world’s best and most advanced shipyards. That civilian strength is beginning to create military leverage, and recent years have seen the ROK take several steps toward fielding a true open-ocean, blue water navy. Their new KDX-II destroyers, KDX-III AEGIS destroyers, LPX amphibious assault ships, and KSS-I/KSS-II (U209/U214) submarines will give the nation more clout on the international stage, but what about the home front? North Korea’s gunboats have launched surprise attacks on the ROK Navy twice in the last decade, while its submarines continue to insert commandos in South Korean territory, and committed acts of war by sinking ROKN ships. To the west, Chinese fishing rights are a contentious issue that has led to the murder of a Korean Coast Guard official on the high seas.
Hence the Future Frigate Experimental (FFX) program. It aims to build upon lessons learned from ROK naval shipbuilding programs in the 1980s and 1990s, and replace 37 existing ships with a modern class of upgunned inshore patrol frigates. A contract to build the lead FFX frigate Incheon was issued in December 2008, and South Korea continues to work to define the program, including the forthcoming Batch II design.