Used Corvettes on the Pacific Rim Second Hand Market

The Republic of Korea Navy closed out 2021 by decommissioning nine warships vessels from active service.

ROKN Fleet Command closed the books on three Pohang-class Patrol Combat Corvettes (PCC) and five Chamsuri-class patrol boats (PKM) while the Incheon Naval Sector Defense Command decommissioned one Chamsuri-class patrol boat.

The three decommissioned PCCs are the ROKS Wonju (PCC-769), ROKS Seongnam (PCC-775), and ROKS Jecheon (PCC-776), all of which are Flight-IV PCCs.

This leaves just seven Pohangs in service with the ROKN as they are being quickly replaced by new, much more capable, Incheon-class guided-missile frigates.

Cranked out in the mid-1980s to early 1990s, two dozen of these hardy little 1,200-ton, 289-foot corvettes were constructed. Powered by a CODOG suite that included a single LM2500 turbine to hit 32+ knots and two fuel-sipping MTU diesels for an economical 15 knot cruising speed for patrol work, they mount a couple of 76mm OTOs along with some smaller mounts as well as ASW torpedo tubes and a four-pack of Harpoon ASMs.

ROKS Bucheon PCC 773 and ROKS Sokcho PCC 778, Batch IV and V Pohangs. Note the twin 76mm OTO Meleras and twin Breda DARDO 40 mm/70 CIWS mounts. They can also carry Blue Shark ASW torpedos and Harpoons.

These three most recently retired 25-year-old corvettes will likely be donated to Southeast Asian and/or Latin American countries as military aid. Last year, two corvettes were donated to Colombia and Peru while the Philippines already has one, and Vietnam has two.

The Peruvian Navy just received its second donated Pohang, ROKS Suncheon (PCC-767), from South Korea recently. The vessel had been decommissioned in 2019 and will become BAP Guise (CM-28). Like its sister ship BAP Ferre (CM-27), the Guise will be outfitted with Peru’s indigenously-developed VARAYOC combat management system and the Mage QHAWAX electronic support-measure system. 

My bet is that the PI will get one or two of these Pohangs as South Korea’s Hyundai Heavy Industries is already making (and supporting) a pair of 2,600-ton Jose Rizal-class light frigates for the country to a modified version of the shipbuilder’s HDF-2600 design. Two new Rizals and three scratch-and-dent Pohangs, along with three Del Pilar class offshore patrol vessels (ex USCG 378-foot Hamilton-class cutters), make the PI more a player in the South China Sea against increasingly muscular ChiCom moves in the area. Such a fleet is a quantum leap from the PI’s circa 2015 fleet, which was made up of WWII-built minesweepers, LSTs, and PCEs, often of third-hand lineage. 

The recycled Pohangs are a logical counter to China’s recent moves to upgrade relations with Indo-Pacific countries via the export of Ming (Type 035, redesigned Romeo) and Yuan-class (Type 039A) diesel submarines. 

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