(Revised July 31, 2014. See bottom of the page for the complete revision history)
After my discussion with the Navantia representative about the Avante 2200 Combatant Frigate, their entry into the new Frigate bidding of the Philippine Navy (PN), I proceeded to the Hyundai display area at the Asian Defense and Security (ADAS) 2014 exhibit at Pasay. Navantia’s area was already sizable, but Hyundai’s was even more so, approximately 50% bigger than Navantia’s, and they had more scale models on display, around half a dozen or. I really wasn’t sure which of the ships they entered into the bidding, so I looked for a Hyundai representative to ask about it.
There were three Hyundai reps wearing business suits in the booth, one of them was talking to another attendee while the other one was not so friendly looking, in fact he was kinda constantly scowling, so I turned to the third person who looked like a newbie and thus seemed more accommodating. I called his attention and asked him which of the models they entered the bidding, and he promptly took me to the model of the HDF-3000 Frigate.
The HDF-3000 is Hyundai’s designation of the first three Incheon-class Frigates it built for the South Korean Navy. The first one was commissioned just last year in 2013, while the last two ones will be commissioned later this year (2014). These first three Hyundai-made ships are known as “Batch I” while the next three ones will be built by another Korean company, Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME) and are known as “Batch II”. Other important characteristics of the HDF-3000 are as follows:1 2
Displacement: 3,000 tons
Length: 114 m
Beam: 14 m
Draft: 4 m
‘As Is Systems’
As it is right now, the HDF-3000 has a couple of features that would meet the current bid requirements already, and these are:
- Speed and Range – In terms of performance, the HDF-3000 exceeds the speed requirements of the bidding as it has maximum speed of 30 knots while the requirement is only for 25 knots, and it also faster than the 28 knot maximum speed of one of its rivals, the Avante 2200 Combatant (A2200C). Its range of 8,100 km @ 18 knots also comfortably exceeds the requirement of 8,100 km @ 15 knots.
Main Gun System – I mentioned to the Hyundai representative that the gun should be 76 mm caliber, but he corrected me and said that it will be 127 mm caliber instead. The South Korean Navy uses the Oto Melara 127 mm Gun, but for us we have never had a MODERN gun of this large a caliber before on a ship. We already have the Jacinto and Del Pilar class of ships using the 76 mm gun, so for easier logistics and support it makes more sense to use it also for the new Frigates. But on the other hand, a 127 mm gun will have longer range and better “hitting” power against all types of targets, hence it is possible that Hyundai offered this as their main option for the ship, but I think it is likely that the Navy will go with the 76 mm gun instead.
Torpedo Launchers – The ship has two triple Torpedo launchers, one on each side, but instead of the standard combination of Mk 32 Triple Torpedo Launchers and Mk 46 Torpedoes found on most ships, the HDF-3000 will likely be using the South Korean-made Doosan KMK32 Mod 5 Triple Launchers3 in conjunction with the K745 Chung Sang Eo (Blue Shark) Lightweight Torpedo.4 This torpedo actually has a longer stated range of 19 km instead of the only eleven km for the Mk 46.
Softkill System – The ship uses the South Korean license-built version of the DAGAIE Mk 2 Decoy System,5 hence the addition of the letter “K” into their designation so it ends up being called the KDAGAIE Mk 2 Decoy System. The bid requirement only calls for six decoy launchers, three on each side, but the KDAGAIE system can exceed this comfortably as it can have as much as 20 launchers, ten on each side. In terms of number of rounds it is superior to the six launcher per side used on the A2200C.
Main Radar System – The ship usually has a Thales Smart-S Mk2 3D Radar (the same radar as the A2200C) which exceeds the specifications as it has the combined operation of an Air and Surface Search radar, but I wasn’t able to confirm with the Hyundai rep if this will really be used. It is also possible that their bid will use the unnamed LIG-Nex1 3D Radar6 intended for use with the next batch of Incheon-class ships which will likely be cheaper since they are locally produced in South Korea. Nevertheless the Smart-S has an estimated detection range of at least 81 km for an aerial target with a Radar Cross Section (RCS) of 5 m^2. Detection range for a surface target with an RCS of 30,000 m^2 is at least 32 km, better than the AN/SPS-73 Radar on the Del Pilar class ships which can only detect the same size target at around 22 km.7
- Anti-Ship Missiles (AShM) – The ship carries two quad launchers for AShMs, comfortably exceeding the two twin launcher requirement, although I’m not sure if Hyundai will stay with the two quad launcher configuration or change it to a two twin-launcher system. The ship will use the South Korean made SSM-700K Hae Sung (C-Star) Anti Ship Cruise Missile8 which actually has a slightly longer stated range of 150 km compared to the 140 km range of the RGM-84 Harpoon Missile.
Surface to Air Missiles (SAM) – The ship’s SAM system consists of a single Mk 49 Launcher holding 21 rounds of the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM). Each RAM has a warhead of around nine kg and a range of nine km, and is license-built in South Korea by the company LIG-Nex1.9
Sonar System – I was also unable to confirm with the Hyundai rep the exact details of the sonar system of the ship, the only detail I can confirm about it is that it will be hull-mounted as shown on the model at the ADAS 2014 exhibit. It will either be the unnamed Thales Sonar system used with the first batch, or it will be the unnamed LIG-Nex1 Sonar system6 for use with the next batch of Incheon-class ships.
Close In Weapons System (CIWS) – For CIWS, the ship uses the Phalanx CIWS, which exceeds the requirement for a stabilized gun that can be controlled with the ship’s Fire Control System as the Phalanx has its own radar. It is also better than the A2200C’s proposed 30 mm gun on a Remote Weapons System (RWS) mount due to its much higher rate of fire.
Endurance – The endurance of the HDF-3000 is listed as 45 days10 which came as a minor shock to me as this is higher than the endurance of most vessels designed for long endurance patrols, like Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV) for example which have endurance of only around 30 days. What’s strange is that endurance and range usually go together, like the Floreal for example has an endurance of 50 days and a range of 15,000 km at 15 knots, but in the case of the HDF-3000 it has a very long endurance but has a relatively short range of only around 9,100 km @ 18 knots, which means that to maximize its endurance, it will have to spend longer times on stationary positions and/or moving at very slow speeds. This is not necessarily a bad thing, just a little bit unusual to me.
Notice that unlike my blogs about the modified Floreal and modified A2200C, this “Modifications” section won’t be as extensive as the HDF-3000 fits the bid requirements very well, almost to a tee. This lends credence to the speculation that the bid specifications were made with the HDF-3000 in mind.
- Helipad Capacity and Enclosed Hangar Space – The ship has an enclosed hangar space but current rating for the weight it can support is less than ten tons, hence this will have to be upgraded to meet the specifications.
I specifically asked the Hyundai representative when he showed me the model of the HDF-3000 if the RAM and Phalanx will really be included, and he said “Yes”. I was initially still skeptical about this, after all, Navantia have had to cut some corners to fit the Avante 2200 Combatant into our budget, but later after doing a little bit more research and reflection, I can see why this might be possible. For one, the RAM is license-built in South Korea, hence costs for it should be lower than if they were built by the Raytheon Company in the US.
Another is that labor and manufacturing costs in South Korea would be significantly lower than if they were built in Europe like in Spain, for example, as European-standard design and manufacturing also mean European-standard pricing. Also, the ship itself is designed differently and may actually have lower manufacturing costs than a ship like the A2200C. Lastly, the HDF-3000 uses mostly South Korean-made equipment and weapons like the K745 Torpedoes, KDAGAIE Decoys and SSM-700K Missiles, and possibly also the radar and sonar sensors. So the only expensive west-made item they had to spend for is the Phalanx, which costs USD 14 million each,11 and with the savings they made in other areas, it may really be possible for them to offer the Phalanx to us.
Compared to the modified Floreal-class, the HDF-3000:
– Is SUPERIOR as it already fits the bid requirements almost perfectly, while the Floreal needs a lot of upgrade;
– Has a sleeker and cleaner lines in terms of appearance;
– Has slightly less endurance;
– Has much less range;
– More manpower intensive requiring a crew of 145 versus 88;
– Is built along military specifications instead of commercial specifications, making it more weapons and equipment “dense” than the Floreal for the given space;
– Has a similar DAGAIE decoy system.
In its original state, the A2200C would’ve been superior to the HDF-3000 with its Vertical Launch System (VLS) and Towed Array Sonar System (TASS), but since those have been downgraded, the fight is much closer. Compared to the modified Avante 2200 Combatant, the HDF-3000:
– Has a slightly faster maximum speed;
– Has considerably longer endurance;
– Has a better decoy system carrying more rounds per side, ten versus six;
– Has a better CIWS, if Hyundai will really offer the Phalanx;
– Probably will have a better SAM system;
– Uses non-western, locally produced weapons and equipment like the SSM-700K missile, K745 torpedo, etc.;
– More manpower intensive requiring a crew of 145 versus 92;
– Less sleek or clean lines.
The bigger crew on the HDF-3000 is a concern, indicating a lower degree of automation for most of the ship’s systems. Since it requires almost 58% more men to operate, it also means an almost 58% higher manpower cost.
The Floreal can still be the dark horse in the competition if it can maintain its endurance and range advantage, although making all those upgrades while still using commercial specifications might be tricky.
Between the A2200C and the HDF-3000, it looks like it’s a choice between a ship with lower operating cost but less performance and slightly less capable equipment/weapons, or a ship that has slightly better equipment/weapons and better performance but much higher operating costs. As for future growth, both ships will likely be able to fit a VLS if need be, even the HDF-3000. It can be located behind the HDF-3000’s main gun as it seems there is enough space there as can be seen on the picture of a model of it on the ADAS 2014 exhibit. The countries behind both companies will also be able to provide “freebies” in terms of excess ships if needed, probably more Pohang-class ships from South Korea and the Descubierta-class ships from Spain.
This ends the highlights of my ADAS 2014 experience, I wasn’t able to discuss as much with the Hyundai rep about the ship as he wasn’t as engaging as the Navantia representative in presenting their ship’s features. I suspect it’s because his English is not really that great, just passable. I apologize for again missing out on some details as I wasn’t really prepared, going to the exhibit was sort of like a last-minute situation.
I hope organizers will officially open future defense exhibits to the public at least in the last day or so instead of vacillating between allowing the public or not like they did in this exhibit. They can charge much higher entrance fees, say at least P200-300, if they want to limit foot traffic to manageable levels.
As for the HDF-3000, unfortunately among the confirmed candidates it is just not my personal favorite because I just don’t think it’s as sleek or clean looking as the A2200C, and it’s just too manpower intensive requiring a much larger crew leading to higher operating costs. But this is just my opinion, of course, and admittedly the HDF-3000 does have better performance and better equipment/weapons which means it could be the frontrunner among the ships that were confirmed to be candidates in the bidding.
In the end it is the Navy who is in a best position to decide which ship is best for their operations as they have all of the accurate data available to them. Anyway, whatever they choose, all Filipinos will still end up being the winner in that we will be buying our first brand-new Frigates in the history of our republic.
* July 27, 2014: Originally posted
* July 31, 2014: Added better information about the HDF-3000’s endurance, revised some sentences related to it.
Incheon Class Frigates / Future Frigate Experimental (FFX), South Korea,
- Chung Sang Eo (Blue Shark) torpedo, (https://web.archive.org/web/20140807162315/http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chung_Sang_Eo_(Blue_Shark)_torpedo) ↩
Dagaie/Sagaie – Archived 12/2000,
- LIG-Nex1 Product Brochure, (https://web.archive.org/web/20130530032711/http://www.lignex1.com:8001/images/pr/data/bro/be.pdf) ↩ ↩
- Smarter (and Simpler) Radar in Harpoon, (https://web.archive.org/web/20160313125508/http://clashofarms.com/files/smarter%20radars%20for%20hpn.pdf) ↩
ASM/SSM-700K Sea Star (Haesung / Haeseong / Haesong),
- RAM Missiles to Be Developed Locally, (https://web.archive.org/web/20161115091345/http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2015/04/286_53838.html) ↩
- NAVAL SHIP CONCEPT DESIGN FOR THE REPUBLIC OF KOREA NAVY: A SYSTEMS ENGINEERING APPROACH, (https://web.archive.org/web/20161115091653/http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a508991.pdf) ↩
Korean Navy Orders Phalanx Guns from Raytheon,