A strong ship building industry.
The helicopters the Dokdo-class utilizes are the UH-1s and UH-60s. But the ROKN does not field the navalized SH-60 variant, rather relying on variants of the British Lynx design for naval patrol. This may hinder the ability of the Dokdo-class to perform traditional naval helicopter operations with its H-60 fleet, but in an assault role, this should not pose a big issue. The second ship in the Dokdo -class, the Marado is also being built to support multiple V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, which are being considered for purchase by the ROKA.
South Korea’s shipbuilding industry leads the world in civilian orders.
But it has lagged behind China in the speed at which it is putting out warships. Despite the relative sluggishness of warship production, South Korea has the ambition to be a strong “middle-power” blue water navy.
The fielding of the modern KDX-2 and KDX-3 destroyers is a testament to this.
The new Dokdo-class Landing Platform Helicopter (LPH) helicopter assault ships further bolster the capability for the Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) to execute power projection. But how do these ships fit into the ROKN’s overall naval strategy? Could they be used as miniature aircraft carriers, similar to Japan’s plans for their Izumo-class helicopter destroyer?
To understand why South Korea is building an LPH, one must look at why South Korea began to expand their blue water navy.
South Korea’s rapid economic growth has been largely based on maritime trade. For South Korean elites, a large blue water navy was considered necessary to protect said trade.