Classified as a destroyer but some consider it a frigate, as Gwanggaeto the Great-class’s full load displacement is only about 3,900 tons.

Undoubtedly, the South Korean Navy is a formidable force in the Asia-Pacific region. The Korean Navy has an extremely large warship force, including up to 16 submarines, 12 destroyers, 13 frigates, 13 corvettes and 14 amphibious ships. One of the ROK Navy’s efforts to transform it from a coastal defense force to a blue water navy has included the Gwanggaeto the Great-class destroyers, also known as KDX-I.

Classified as a destroyer but some consider it a frigate, as its full load displacement is only about 3,900 tons. The vessel is 135.5 m long, the beam is 14.2 m, and the draft is 4.2 m. A total of three destroyers were built between 1994–2000, including Gwanggaeto the Great, Eulji Mundeok, and Yang Man-chun.

The Gwanggaeto was designed to replace the old destroyers in the ROKN that were transferred from the US Navy in the 1950s and 1960s. It was thought to be a major turning point for the ROKN in that the launching of the first KDX-I meant that ROKN finally had a capability to project power far from its shores. After the launching of the ship, there was a massive boom in South Korean international participation against piracy and military operations other than war.

Propulsion is by way of a COmbined Diesel And Gas (CODAG) arrangement, including 2 x Ssang Yong Motor Company 20V956 TB82 diesel units paired with 2 x General Electric LM2500-30 marine gas turbines. These engines are tied to a pair of shafts under stern that provide for speeds reaching up to 30 knots. The combination arrangement allows the operator to switch from gas to diesel and back to accomplish the actions of dash and cruising – and effective fuel-saving system for modern warships. Operational ranges are out to 4,500 nautical miles.

The warship’s profile sees a single deck gun at the forecastle with an imbedded bank of missiles ahead of the bridge superstructure. Atop the superstructure is the communications and sensors system with some of the installations set about a lattice-style main mast. Aft of the main superstructure is a split “Y-style” smoke funnel exhausting the propulsion scheme. Aft of this is the secondary superstructure and helipad, which can support up to two medium sized helicopters, such as Super Lynx.


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