South Korean Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) has inked 18.1 billion won (US$15.4 million) deal with Hyundai Heavy Industries to conduct exploratory work for next-generation destroyers for the Navy.
The deal is the first phase of the development for the Gwanggaeto 3 batch 3 ships, DAPA was quoted by Yonhap as saying Friday. The project calls for examining all basic systems and technologies that will go into the Aegis combat system-equipped vessels.
The envisioned ships will represent a marked upgrade in capability over the three Gwanggaeto 3 batch 2 Aegis ships currently in service with the Navy.
Compared to the present ships, the new vessels will have much improved combat systems that can detect and track targets at greater distances and with more precision.
"They will have twice the detection and tracking abilities compared to ships now in service with the country's Navy," DAPA said. It said the ships with an additional variable depth sonar system will also be better at detecting submarine threats.
Countering submarines has become a top priority for most navies around the world as more lethal and quieter subs are being commissioned.
The agency said that exploratory development will run through 2018 after which the overall dimensions of the ship, its capabilities that can ensure its fighting prowess will be determined. The vessels, which are effective against air, sea and submerged targets, are also expected to incorporate stealth characteristics as well as a high degree of automation.
"Once the batch 3 ships become operational, Seoul will be able to better cope with North Korea's nuclear, missile and submarine threats, and should even be able to counter maritime challenges it could face with neighbouring countries," DAPA said.
It added that the project will moreover help out local shipyards and their contractors that have been struggling with a drop in global ship building orders.