In an effort to expand its "blue water" (ocean-going) capabilities, both locally and internationally, the South Korean government has committed to bringing about a whole new fleet of ships for the role. One product of the initiative has become the Dokdo-class amphibious assault ship with three originally being planned for the class (one was eventually cancelled). ROKS Dokdo (LPH-6111) was constructed by Hanjin Heavy Industries and launched on July 12th, 2005. She was formally commissioned for service on July 3rd, 2007 and retains an active status in the Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) as of this writing (2017). Set to follow the warship is ROKS Marado (currently under construction - set to be commissioned in 2020).
The design of Dokdo is clearly influenced by Western-style warships of similar function. The vessel serves to launch and retrieve various elements suitable for amphibious assault operation including helicopters, air-cushioned landing craft and amphibious vehicles. The flight deck has five helipads for rotary-wing aircraft and the vessel can support up to ten such aircraft overall. Up to 200 light, medium and heavy armored vehicles (including combat tanks) can be carried into battle as can up to 720 infantry marines. The standard operating crew complement numbers 330 personnel.
The vessel is configured in a conventional way with most of its direct surface area taken up by the flight deck. The island superstructure is offset to the starboard side and contains the bridge, communications and radar installations as well as the operations control center. At the stern is a release-and-retrieval deck for the air-cushioned landing craft. Two such watercraft are carried for assaults.
Dimensions of Dokdo include a length of 653 feet, a beam of 102 feet and a draught of 23 feet. Displacement is 14,300 tons when empty and 18,800 tons when configured under a full war load.
Installed power is 4 x SEMT Pielstick 16 PC2.5 STC diesel engines developing 32,000 horsepower to 4 x Shafts. This allows for speeds up to 23 knots to be achieved though cruising is typically done around 18 knots.
ROKS Dokdo is equipped with the SMART-L air-search radar system as well as the MW08 surface-search radar. The AN/APS-95K fulfills navigation assistance and Electronic Warfare (EW) is handled through an SLQ0299(v)5K SONATA unit and an available chaff launcher. All of these systems aid in self-preservation of the vessel and partner with the armament suite consisting of 2 x "Goalkeeper" Close-In Weapon Systems (CIWSs) and a single RIM-116 (Rolling Airframe Missile) launcher - both set to deal with incoming aerial threats. Beyond this, the warship depends largely on its supporting group of accompanying vessels during operations.
The flight deck manages various types of medium-lift helicopters including the Sikorsky Blackhawk family, the Westland Super Lynx series and the Bell UH-1 Huey model. Additionally, the flight deck is cleared to operate jet-powered Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) aircraft types as well as drones.
Beyond its obvious military value, the Dokdo will also be called upon to participate in humanitarian crisis missions as needed - both locally and abroad. Its onboard facilities are designed to accepted hundreds of displaced people and provide immediate medical attention as needed. The warship also forms the spearhead of South Korea's "Rapid Response Fleet", of particular importance in the region today with the unsettling nature of North Korea leadership to the north and the growing military boldness of neighboring China in the South China Sea.
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