The South Korean Navy selected Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) to develop a conceptual project for a futuristic surface combat ship- “arsenal” Joint Firepower Ship ( – literally “naval missile base”) designed to carry ballistic missiles (apparently, medium or shorter range). This information comes from the South Korean broadcaster SBS. More than 80 ballistic missiles will be carried aboard each of these three ships, which the South Korean Navy intends to build to use to “conduct large missile strikes against critical military targets in the interior of North Korea.” This will be the primary goal of the construction of these three ships.
After a competitive review of the submissions from Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI), DSME, and other major South Korean shipbuilders, the South Korean fleet reached the decision. The South Korean defence procurement agency DAPA issued DSME a contract that calls for the submission and study of the “arsenal ship’s” preliminary design within a year to establish the ship’s conceptual parameters. The South Korean Navy will then award DSME a contract in 2024 to develop the ship’s full-fledged technical design and finalise the ship’s construction plans and schedules. It can be assumed that building a series of three proposed ships will be split between DSME and HHI following the South Korean fleet’s standard procedure. The constant maintenance of one unit’s combat duty at sea will be made possible by three ships.
The key concerns surrounding the layout and construction of the Joint Firepower Ship will be incorporated into the medium-term defence strategy that will be developed for the next year. SBS was informed by a source within the South Korean government that solutions should be accessible within the next five years.
Plans to build surface “arsenal ships” capable of carrying a large number of missiles capable of destroying ground targets were initially reported in South Korea in August 2019. However, there has been no further information about the development of this concept until the end of 2021.
According to SBS, the South Korean military views the planned ballistic missile “arsenal” ships as the foundation for the maritime component of the “Korean Massive Punishment & Retaliation Plan” (KMPR: Korea Massive Punishment & Retaliation Plan), which is one of the “axes” of the recently announced “Seoul’s three-axis strategy against the DPRK.” KMPR should contain ground-based (with Hyunmoo series ground-based ballistic and cruise missiles) and aviation (with operational-tactical air-launched cruise missiles KEPD Taurus and prospective South Korean development) components in addition to the marine component.
Ballistic missiles for the ship
On April 13, 2023, the 152nd Committee for the Promotion of Defence Projects, chaired by South Korea’s Minister of National Defence, approved a programme for the development and mass production of a ballistic missile for these ships, designed for the period 2024 to 2036 – apparently, 2036 is the planned year of commissioning for all three ships. The programme to build this rocket is budgeted at about $467 million.
The features of the ballistic missiles slated for development under this programme are unknown, as is the relationship between this programme and the programmes for developing South Korean submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). Presumably, it is the development of a medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM – more than 1000 km) or a lower range (up to 1000 km) based on ballistic missiles from the Hyunmoo series. It should be noted that the first ground-based Hyunmoo 5 IRBM tested in South Korea in 2022 has a range of up to 3000-3500 km in the configuration, with a light warhead weighing less than one tonne.