As South Korea readies to boost naval diplomacy in the region by hosting Pacific Reach 2016, new satellite imagery of the recently inaugurated Jeju island naval base was made available in Google Earth. The recent space snapshots acquired in March show several completed site improvements including new administrative and support buildings, athletic fields, roads, an extensive peninsular breakwater and a partial underground POL storage area. Several lengthy berthing areas are noted with the largest, located on the peninsular breakwater, measuring 685 meters. No ship repair facilities were observed at this time, which means vessels will return to the Korean mainland for any extensive maintenance. However, there appear to be sections of unutilized land for future expansion. Press reporting states that the facility is capable of docking up to 20 combat ships and two of the biggest cruise ships, larger than 150,000 tons.
Infrastructure aside, two identified vessels were visible on imagery including one Chang Bogo-class submarine, a variant of the diesel-electric Type 209/1200, and a Gumdoksuri-class (PKG) patrol vessel. The boats arrived since the facility was commissioned in February. Prior to opening, the Navy sent the Sejong Daewang (DDG-991) guided missile destroyer to test the port facilities in September. It had either departed or was out on patrol at the time of capture. Two small patrol boats and four tugs were also visible in the March imagery.
According to the Korean press, the Navy intends to homeport the strategic mobile fleet on the island in order to bolster its blue water operational capability. “The establishment of this mobile fleet heralds the ROK Navy’s development into a blue-water force,” then Chief of Naval Operations Adm Jung Ok-keun said in 2010. Naval assets based at the facility will reportedly include the 7,600-ton KDX-III Sejong Daewang-class, 4,500-ton KDX-II, Incheon-class FFX, Dokdo-class LHDs and AIP-fitted submarines. The fleet will also be supported by P-3C maritime patrol aircraft already located on the north side of the island at Jeju International Airport. Imagery shows a naval ramp and a maintenance hangar which has supported as many as six P-3C in the past. The ramp was expanded in 2011 prior to which it hosted a single aircraft.
According to Navy statements, the goal of the mobile fleet is two-pronged: to secure important sea lines of communication and defend against any hostile acts by North Korea.