Korea USV and UUV Programs

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South Korean defence contractor LIG Nex1 unveiled the latest iteration of its unmanned surface vehicle (USV) family, Hae Gum 3 (Sea Sword 3), at the Defense and Security Expo Korea (DX Korea) 2020 exhibition in Seoul in mid-November.

Sea Sword 3 is being developed under a civilian-military technology co-operation project led by the Agency for Defense Development (ADD) Institute of Civil-Military Technology Cooperation (ICMTC).

The USV has been optimised for coastal operations and can be used to perform various types of missions with the appropriate mission equipment, including a surveillance and reconnaissance suite. It will also incorporate artificial intelligence (AI)-driven autonomous navigation/obstacle avoidance technology.

The displacement and physical characteristics of the Sea Sword 3 USV are understood to be comparable with that of the Sea Sword 2. Janes earlier reported that the latter – which features a displacement of 11 tonnes – has an overall length of 12 m and a 3.5 m beam. However, Sea Sword 3 can optionally carry up to eight personnel, while Sea Sword 2 can only accommodate up to two personnel.

In terms of armament, Sea Sword 3 is equipped with a remote-controlled weapon station (RCWS) armed with a 12.7 mm heavy machine gun and a 2.75 inch calibre guided rocket launcher towards the stern, unlike the preceding Sea Sword 1 and 2 designs.

LIG Nex1 representatives told Janes that the Republic of Korea Army (RoKA) operates several types of patrol boats for coastal security and reconnaissance missions, and is positioning the Sea Sword 3 to replace these.

 

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South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) announced on 9 December that it will commence indigenous development of an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) optimised for mine detection.

DAPA said it awarded a KRW12 billion (USD 11 million) contract with local defence prime LIG Nex1 to develop highly autonomous underwater robots that can perform precise navigation and collision avoidance to boost the Republic of Korea Navy’s (RoKN’s) mine countermeasure (MCM) capabilities.

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A computer rending of DAPA’s mine detection AUV development. (DAPA)

The RoKN presently maintains a fleet of Swallow- and Yang Yang-class MCM vessels (MCMVs) to detect and defeat sea mines, according to Janes Fighting Ships.

The agency said the new mine detection AUV will be developed by 2023 and is expected to enable the RoKN to conduct MCM operations without risking its personnel.

DAPA said the AUV will also be able to monitor underwater infiltration, support rescue operations in marine accidents, or collect topographical information on the seabed.

It is understood that initial studies and development of the AUV was performed by Hanwha Systems, although further work will now be undertaken by LIG Nex1.

RoKN officials told Janes that the AUV will be deployed by the service’s future Mine Sweeper Hunter-2 (MSH-2) MCMVs to be built from 2024.

Besides LIG Nex1, Hanwha Systems is also developing a new unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) that aimed at anti-submarine warfare (ASW) operations.

The unmanned platform, named ASWUUV, was revealed at the MADEX 2019 exhibition in Busan.

The ASWUUV has been under development by DAPA since 2017. Janes earlier reported that trials are scheduled in 2021, with development expected to be completed by 2022.
 

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