Seoul deploys second Aegis destroyer

June 10, 2011 at 6:19 AM
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SEOUL, June 10 (UPI) -- The South Korean navy has officially deployed its second Aegis destroyer, Yulgok Yi I, into service after the successful completion of nine months of sea trials.

The 8,500-ton KDX-III destroyer took part in a four-day military exercise near Ulleungdo Island, around 75 miles east of the Korean Peninsula in the Sea of Japan.

The Yulgok Yi I -- named after one of Korea's most prominent Confucian scholars in the 16th century -- is part of the government's Korean Destroyer experimental program, KDX. The vessel is sailing with South Korea's 7th Fleet.

South Korea signed the contract for the ship with Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering in June 2006. The vessel was delivered in August 2010 at DSME's main Okpo Shipyard on Geojedo Island off the southern tip of the peninsula.

Shipbuilding is the largest industry on the island, partly because of its mild climate year-round. Samsung Heavy Industries is in Gohyeon.

"Aegis destroyer Yulgok Yi I has the world's top class anti-ship, anti-aircraft and anti-submarine capabilities which will significantly boost the country's naval defense capabilities," a navy statement said.

South Korea launched its first Aegis destroyer, the King Sejong, in 2007 and it was commissioned in December 2008. As with the other KDX-III vessels, anti-ship capability is provided by 16 SSM-700K Hae Sung -- Sea Star -- long-range missiles, with similar performance to that of the U.S. Harpoon.

The Korean navy also signed a contract this year with Hyundai Heavy Industries to build a third, and final, KDX-III vessel by 2012, a deal which will complete the KDX program.

The KDX-III King Sejong the Great Class destroyers are the largest vessels of the KDX program, displacing around 11,000 tons at full load. They carry a wide array of American, European and Korean weapons, in particular the Aegis Combat System, developed by the Missile and Surface Radar Division of RCA, and now produced by Lockheed Martin.

Aegis was first used by the U.S. Navy but has been exported to the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, the Spanish navy and the Norwegian navy. The Aegis system also has been selected by the Australian navy for its new air warfare destroyers.

South Korea's other destroyers in the KDX program include three KDX-I Gwanggaeto the Great Class ships. At only 3,800 tons each, they are more similar to frigates. The last ship was commissioned in 2000.

The six KDX-II Chungmugong Yi Sun-sin Class ships are 6,085 tons at full load. They have a hull design licensed from IABG, a German research and design analysis business, and more advanced systems that include SM-2 air defense missiles. The vessels were commissioned from 2003-08.

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