bfont color=d74600[Exclusive]/font/b Navy to Create Strategic Mobile Fleet in Feb.
By Jung Sung-ki
The Navy plans to establish a strategic mobile fleet of two Aegis destroyer-led squadrons by next February in a bid to develop blue-water operational capability beyond coastal defense against a North Korean invasion, a Navy source said Monday.
The fleet will participate in combined or multinational maritime exercises, including the annual Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC) to be held in waters off Hawaii, from next year, the source told The Korea Times.
Each mobile squadron will initially consist of a 7,600-ton KDX-III Aegis destroyer, three 4,500-ton KDX-II destroyers and maritime aircraft, he said.
When a forward-deployed naval base is built on the southern island of Jeju around 2014, the fleet is expected to be boosted by 2,300-ton next-generation FFX-I-class frigates, Type-214 1,800-ton submarines and other support vessels, he added.
"After its inauguration early next year, the mobile fleet will evaluate and demonstrate its performance in RIMPAC and other exercises at home and abroad," the source said on condition of anonymity.
During RIMPAC, in particular, the Sejong the Great KDX-III destroyer will test-fire ship-to-air SM-2 Block IIIA/B Tactical Standard Missiles for the first time as part of Aegis combat system ship qualification trails (CSSQT) with allied nations, he said.
CSSQT is a series of at-sea exercises and tests to verify whether shipboard combat and weapon systems have been installed properly, and can be operated and maintained safely and effectively by the crew.
"The CSSQT will help settle and improve the operational capabilities of the Sejong the Great to an extent," he noted, adding it will be the first missile firing and interception exercise for the South Korean Navy amid a growing North Korean missile threat.
The Navy has two of a planned three KDX-III Aegis destroyers with the lead ship, Sejong the Great being deployed since last December. The second ship, Yi I, was launched last November for commissioning late this year.
The Aegis combat system, built by Lockheed Martin, is the world's premier surface-to-air and fire-control system, capable of conducting simultaneous operations against aircraft, ballistic and cruise missiles, ships and submarines. Only a few countries, including the United States, Spain, Japan and Norway, deploy Aegis warships.
The KDX-III is one of the most advanced Aegis warships. Its SPY-1D radar can simultaneously track about 1,000 aircraft within a 500-kilometer radius, providing 360-degree coverage.
The 166-meter-long, 21-meter-wide ship can carry 128 anti-air, land-attack and anti-submarine missiles in its vertical launch systems.
Among the missile systems for the KDX-III are SM-2 Block IIIA/B ship-to-air missiles with a range of 170 kilometers, locally developed Cheonryong ship-to-ship surface cruise missiles with a range of more than 500 kilometers, Hongsangeo ship-to-submarine torpedoes with a target range of 19 kilometers, and Haeseong ship-to-ship missiles with a range of 150 kilometers.
Other major armament includes 150-kilometer-range Hae Seong (sea star) ship-to-ship missiles, RAM Mk 31 guided missiles, a 30-mm "Goalkeeper" system for engaging incoming sea-skimming anti-ship missiles, and a five-inch/62-caliber Mk 45 Mod 4 lightweight gun.
The $1-billion stealthy destroyer is also equipped with the domestically-built SLQ-200(V) SONATA electronic warfare system.
The destroyer can carry two mid-sized helicopters and sail at a top speed of 30 knots with a range of 1,000 kilometers. It carries a crew of 300.