South Korea’s Joint Chiefs decided to expand the navy after China and Japan began work on new aircraft carriers.
A spokesperson for South Korea’s Joint Chiefs said: “The plan of building the LPH-II ship has been included in a long-term force build-up plan. LPH or Landing Platform Helicopter describes ships capable of supporting rotorcraft and vertical take-off landing (VTOL) aircraft like the Boeing Osprey.
The South Korean Navy already operates landing platform ships; however, the new acquisition would be the country’s first dedicated light aircraft carrier.
The new aircraft carrier will be double the size of South Korea’s existing LPH ships, the ROK Dokdo and ROK Marado. Both ships can hold around 15 helicopters, with the flight deck is able to house five helicopters at a time.
The aircraft carrier will be suitable for carrying the F-35, of which South Korea received its first delivery of in March this year. Japan, another member of the F-35 programme, has also begun retrofitting two helicopter destroyers to house F-35s.
South Korea has ordered 40 F-35As for the Republic of Korea Air Force, with plans to acquire a further 20 F-35As or F-35Bs. South Korea is considering the F-35B to better complement its development of the light aircraft carrier.
A defence source told Defense News that the new carrier will house 16 aircraft and feature a ski-jump ramp, like that on the UK Royal Navy’s HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier.
With a fleet of 68 major ships, the South Korean Navy’s current mission is primarily coast focused, with the new ships set to help counter the threat of North Korean submersibles.
The North Korean Navy, or Korean People’s Navy, currently operates around 70 submersibles ranging from ex-Soviet submarines to ‘midget-subs’.
North Korean news agencies today showed Kim Jong-Un visiting a newly built submarine at an undisclosed location in the country. The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA, North Korea’s state media) said Kim had ordered officials to strengthen the military.
State media did not say when the visit took place.