Sang Yong 16: The US, South Koreans, Australians and New Zealanders Prepare for 21st Century Amphibious Operations


2016-03-08 South Korea along with other Pacific allies are shaping new amphibious capabilities.

As Brigadier General Mahoney, Deputy Marforpac, put it in an interview last year:

“One of the larger points in the evolving narrative is the teaming of force projection capabilities where the amphibious element is a core capability. It is not simply about amphibious ships being transport vessels; it is about reshaping forces to deal with 21st century operations.”

160303-N-IX266-001 GWANGYANG, Republic of Korea—Military Sealift Command’s Maritime Prepositioning Force (MPF) ship USNS PFC Dewayne T. Williams (T-AK 3009) arrives here March 1 carrying Marine Corps equipment that will be used to support Exercise Ssang Yong 2016 (SY16). The Williams was one of three MPF ships that offloaded her cargo in support of SY16 exercise, under the Exercise Freedom Banner 2016 directive. An MPF ship’s length is 673.2 feet, its beam is 105.5 feet and its displacement is 46,111 tons. She is manned by a crew of 30 civilians, can travel at 17.7 knots and can provide equipment to sustain a Marine Expeditionary Brigade for up to 30 days. (U.S. Navy photo by Grady T. Fontana/Released)
GWANGYANG, Republic of Korea—Military Sealift Command’s Maritime Prepositioning Force (MPF) ship USNS PFC Dewayne T. Williams (T-AK 3009) arrives here March 1, 2016 carrying Marine Corps equipment that will be used to support Exercise Ssang Yong 2016 (SY16). (U.S. Navy photo by Grady T. Fontana/Released)

BG Mahoney discussed how under the concept of amphibious, there are very different notions at play, ranging from a transport and support fleet to a strike or force insertion fleet.

The term “amphbiosity” was used to express the broad umbrellas under which diverse notions of what kinds of amphibious forces a nation might wish to operate.

“What we learned during the, the PACOM Amphibious Leaders’ Symposium was what people understand and appreciate with regard to amphibiosity is sometimes completely different.

There are close partners as well as some in our own joint force who in their mind’s eye really view amphibiosity as a floating a chow hall, an airfield, a hotel, and a mode of transportation; not a maneuver element, not a C4I node, not a presence effect.”

The South Koreans have built the Dodo Class Amphibious Ship.

The Dokdo class is similar to the larger US Wasp class.

They are capable of over-the-horizon landing operations, using high-speed hovercraft and helicopters.

The ship provides accommodation for one battalion (700 marines), 10 tanks and 7 AAVs. Some sources claim, that it is able to load up to 200 trucks or other light vehicles. LCMs or LCACs are used to deliver troops and vehicles to shore. Two hovercraft are carried in the flooded stern deck.

The Dokdo class supports up to 16 helicopters or tilt-rotors, however normal complement is 10. Aviation facilities consists of a flight deck, hangar and two elevators. With little modifications this ship could operate V/STOL aircraft.

The Dodo Class South Korean Amphibious Ship. Credit: Military Technology
The Dodo Class South Korean Amphibious Ship. Credit: Military Technology

This vessel has all necessary equipment to serve as a flagship of the Korean Navy. It can be also used for disaster relief operations.

The ship is armed with a single 21-cell RAM (Rolling Airframe Missile) launcher and two 30-mm Goalkeeper CIWS.

The South Koreans are building the largest Puma helicopter in the world to operate off of their amphibious ships as well. 

A good example of how South Korea is transforming its industry and working with non-American suppliers is the Surion helicopter.

This helicopter is a new variant of the Puma and the relationship with Eurocopter involves not only the development of the new variant, and its inclusion as a bedrock system within South Korean forces, but a defined future for exports.

In an interview with Norbert Ducrot, Eurocopter Senior Vice President – North Asia, discussed Eurocopter’s evolving role in Asia. He underscored the significant position, which Eurocopter has in South East Asia with their light utility helicopters and their Search and Rescue Helicopters, but he highlighted the importance of the working agreements with South Korea in shaping a new helicopter via production cooperation as a key change.

In 2006, Eurocopter and South Korea signed an agreement to produce the Surion helicopter, which is based on the Puma family of helicopters.  The helicopter has produced through an agreement between Korean Aerospace Industries and Eurocopter.

The Surion will be provided for the South Korean amphibious forces. Credit: KAI
The Surion will be provided for the South Korean amphibious forces. Credit: KAI

According to Ducrot: “It really is a Korean helicopter.  One needs to realize that about 80% of the helicopter has been redesigned by the South Koreans; it is not simply license production for it is a newly designed helicopter.  And we have an agreement to export this helicopter with them to selected markets.  This is not a problem for us for the helicopter has no equivalent in the Eurocopter line.  It is a new build 8.5 ton helicopter.” 

He emphasized as well that the South Koreans and Japanese are really at the top of the game globally in terms of production technologies and techniques.  Because of this it makes a great deal of sense for Eurocopter to build out its presence in Asia.

Ducrot also highlighted the importance of support to the acquisition of aircraft in Asian defense.

How important is logistical support, training, and maintenance in shaping your market strategy? 

Ducrot:  It is a really foundational element.  We have several subsidiaries already in Asia, and have more than 2000 people working on support in the region.  We have seven flight simulators in Asia as well.  We are building out our capacity to support our helicopters in the region and obviously this is a crucial element for success in any defense program. 

An Asian country is not going to buy a defense product, which they cannot support fully.

In the current Ssang Yong Exercise, US, South Korean and allied forces are shaping a more integrated maneuver force from the sea to aid in the defense of South Korea and for regional defense.

According to a press release by UNC/CFC/USFK public affairs and dated March 7, 2016:

YONGSAN GARRISON, SEOUL, South Korea — Ssang Yong 16 is a biennial, combined amphibious exercise conducted by integrated combined MEB/ESG forward- deployed forces with the ROK Navy and Marine Corps in order to strengthen our interoperability and working relationships across a wide range of military operations – from disaster relief, to complex expeditionary operations.

U.S. Marines and sailors of the 3D Marine Expeditionary Brigade (3D MEB), Expeditionary Strike Group 7 (ESG 7) and Commander, Task Force 76 (CTF 76) are participating in Exercise Ssang Yong 16 (SY 16) in the Republic of Korea with 7th ROK Marine Corps Regimental Landing Team 7 (ROKMC RLT-7), ROK Navy, Australian Army and New Zealand Defense Force.

Ultimately, the relationships forged and sustained at exercises such as Ssang Yong contribute to the security and stability on the Korean Peninsula as well as the entire Asia-Pacific region.

Capt. Liem Loftus describes New Zealand Army’s perspective on multi-lateral training alongside the United States and Republic of Korea Marine Corps during exercise Ssang Yong in South Korea Mar. 4, 2016.

On 12 March (D-Day), 3D MEB, ESG 7, ROK Marines and ROK Navy will conduct a simulated amphibious assault along beaches in vicinity of Pohang.

They will penetrate notional enemy beach defenses, establish a beach head, and rapidly transition forces and sustainment ashore.

This will be a simulated, full-spectrum, combined arms forcible entry operation. SY16 will showcase the capabilities, effectiveness, speed, and flexibility of the expeditionary amphibious operations and the U.S. and ROK partnership.