South Korea’s HHI inks deal to build four ships for Peru’s Navy

South Korea’s HHI inks deal to build four ships for Peru’s Navy

SANTIAGO, Chile — A South Korean company will build four ships for the Peruvian Navy under a $463 million contract signed this week.

The vessels are part of Peru’s ambitious program to modernize its naval surface fleet, which may involve the construction of 23 ships of different types, an effort potentially worth more than $3 billion. The South American country’s primary focus is to acquire six advanced multipurpose guided-missile frigates to replace the six aging frigates that currently serve as the Navy’s main surface combatants.

The finalized deal, which follows Peru’s pick of Hyundai Heavy Industries in March, will see the company provide both the designs and support for the construction of the vessels, with the delivery deadline set for 2029.

“We will mobilize our advanced technological capabilities and extensive experience to modernize and enhance the combat capabilities of the Peruvian Navy,” Joo Won-ho, the head of HD Hyundai Heavy Industries’ naval and special ship division, said after the signing of the contract.

HHI will be in charge of the ships’ designs as well as the provision and supply of tools, materials and technical support during construction. With this contract, the South Korean firm is expanding its footprint in a regional market traditionally dominated by European shipbuilders.

Peru is to receive a 3,400-ton guided-missile frigate, a 2,200-ton offshore patrol vessel and two 1,500-ton landing ships. The local state-owned firm Servicios Industriales de la Marina will participate in their construction at its shipyards in Callao.

“We will ensure that the SIMA shipyard, which has provided us with the opportunity to collaborate from the other side of the globe, possesses sufficient shipbuilding capacity and establish it as [our] hub for Central and South America,” Joo said.

Frigate replacement

The six 2,500-ton frigates the Navy wants to replace are based on the Italian Lupo-class design; two were built in Peru. For the most part, they have been in service for nearly five decades.

The Peruvian government approved the frigate replacement program in February 2023, with an initial budget of $161 million following studies and discussions that began in 2015. In July 2023, SIMA was named the prime contractor for the program. At the same time, it was unveiled the Spanish firm Escribano Mechanical and Engineering would serve as a subcontractor supporting weapons integration.

According to Lewis Mejias, an independent defense analyst based in Peru’s capital Lima, the contract confirms “the leadership of SIMA Peru as one of the most capable shipyards in the South Pacific. It will also open more opportunities for the participation of other local companies supplying systems, parts and services. This is one of the main targets of the government, with the aim to get advanced technology transferred and new jobs created, strengthening Peru’s industrial capacities not only in the maritime field but also beyond that field.”

A source in South Korea’s capital Seoul, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss specifics of the military program, told Defense News the frigate HHI is to produce is based on the hull of the Daegu-class frigate built for the South Korean Navy, but tailored to meet Peru’s needs. Those requirements including an enlarged stern to fit a hangar and allow for the flight of 12- to 14-ton helicopters.

It’s unclear if the Peruvian ship will include the same combined diesel-electric and gas propulsion of the South Korean vessels.

According to the source, the frigate will be fitted with a 3D active electronically scanned array radar, which Peru has not yet selected.

The South Korean company Hanwha is promoting the SAQ-600 combat management system, the SQS-250K towed array sonar and the SQS-240K hull-mounted sonar, the source said.

For weaponry, the source added, South Korea’s LIG Nex1 and Hanhwa are proposing the Haegung K-SAAM surface-to-air missile. LIG Nex 1 is offering the SSM-700K C-Star/Haesong anti-ship missile and the Sea Dragon/Haeryong land-attack cruise missile. The Peruvian Navy is expected to fit a gun to the frigate, either a 76mm/62-caliber or a 127mm/54-caliber option.

José Higuera is a Latin America correspondent for Defense News.

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