(c) K.B. Sherman, 2002
Following upon the news that both Taiwan and Sweden have recently placed large orders for new, stealth technology patrol boats, the Korea Information System reports that Seoul is also busy upgrading its patrol boat fleet with the proposed addition of 40 new stealth boats. Seoul’s decision comes upon the heels of the June 29 battle between North and South Korean warships, during which artillery and small-arms fire was exchanged between one North Korean and eight South Korean patrol boats in the West (Yellow) Sea. One South Korean PKM patrol boat was sunk and the North Korean SO-1 class boat was damaged in the most serious sea battle between the two countries since 1998. North Korea does not recognize the North/South border, which was unilaterally imposed by the UN after the Korean War ended in 1953.
A South Korean official was subsequently quoted as saying that the “changing security situation [requires] new stealth high-speed patrol boats to ensure the safety of our sailors guarding the sea border.” The new stealth boats are said to be equipped with 76mm OTO Breda cannons and with anti-ship missiles. In addition to composite material construction and a yet undetermined stealth design, the boats are also to carry anti-aircraft radar.
Stealth technology patrol boats are up and coming. In June, Kockums delivered the Visby, a stealth configuration, carbon fiber corvette, to FMV (The Swedish Defence Materiel Administration) the first of a class of such vessels. This class will be tasked with mine clearance and anti-submarine warfare roles as well as mine laying, surface combat, underwater defense and air defense roles. In October, Taiwan will launch the first Project Kuang Hwa 6 stealth patrol boat to replace its older and smaller Sea Gull-class boats. A total of 30 such ships are to be built by 2010.
QinetiQ Marine (UK), said to be the likely prime contractor, said it would not release any details until the project was formally announced by the ROK.
North Korean OS-1 patrol boat is raised after battle.