South Korea's Navy will build a speedier transport vessel in the next three years to counter growing threats from North Korea along the tense maritime border.
"The plan is part of the government's efforts to beef up preparedness and combat capabilities against relentless provocations from the North along the tense sea border with North Korea," a military official familiar with the matter told Yonhap News Agency Thursday.
Starting from 2020, the Navy aims to deploy the new high-speed combat vessel to help transport reinforcement troops from Incheon, 40 kilometres west of Seoul, to the country's north-western border islands near the North. The new vessels can make the trip in two to three hours, which is half the time it currently takes.
The new high-speed combat vessel will be shorter than the US Marine Corps' high-speed vessel but similar in speed. The US HSV is 98 meters long and can reach speeds of up to 56-83 km per hour, according to the defense ministry.
The military has carried out regular drills near border islands like northernmost Baengnyeong Island and Yeonpyeong Island since 2011; a year after North Korea shelled Yeonpyeong Island and sank a South Korean warship off Baengnyeong that resulted in the deaths of 46 sailors.
Most recently, the Navy and the Marine Corps' quick manoeuvre force of 4,000 troops took part in a drill conducted last week, to reinforce the border islands. The troops used the Air Force's C-130 Hercules transport aircraft, Army UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters and Navy air-cushion vehicles to reach the islands.