South Korea plans to build a 30000 ton light aircraft carrier capable of carrying 20 F-35B fighters and strive for service in early 2030, Yonhap reported recently. South Korea’s “Central Daily” believes that the battle group with it as the core “will become a major pillar to balance the marine power in Northeast Asia”.
according to the limited information released by the Korean media, the future Korean aircraft carrier will adopt the sliding jump take-off and vertical landing mode like the British “Queen Elizabeth” class. It remains to be seen whether certain amphibious capabilities will be retained.
it can be reasonably inferred that the overall layout, power plant, radar electronic equipment and self-defense weapon system of this aircraft carrier are likely to be similar to the “Dokdo” class amphibious assault ship in active service of the South Korean navy, or even use some equipment directly. This can reduce the risk of research and development, reduce the cost of procurement and logistics, and make the aircraft carrier have combat effectiveness as soon as possible.
the F-35B will undoubtedly be the “c-position equipment” of South Korea’s new aircraft carrier. For the “baby carriers” of the United States and its allies, light aircraft carriers and amphibious assault ships, the F-35B has transformed them. Previously, these large deck aircraft carriers could only carry harrier type vertical take-off and landing fighters and helicopters, and their combat effectiveness was comparable to that of large aircraft carriers.
with the F-35B, “baby carriers” will be able to carry advanced stealth fighters for the first time. This combination reduces the entry threshold of “aircraft carrier club”. For those countries that still lack five generations of carrier based aircraft, we should not underestimate its impact on regional power balance.
among the warships planned to carry the F-35B, “good Richard” and “cloud” are probably the most well-known. The former belongs to amphibious attack ship. The core facilities such as dock cabin and vehicle deck serve amphibious operations, while the latter needs to carry a large number of helicopters for anti submarine. In order to operate the F-35B, both of them had to carry out large-scale modifications to the deck, hangar, aviation maintenance and fuel bomb storage facilities and command and control system, trying not to lose their “skills”, but also to treat the “upstart” of F-35B. Restricted by the original design and the limited space on board, this “redecoration” needs to make a trade-off between various performances of the warship, which is time-consuming and labor-consuming. Whether the performance of the F-35B can be fully released needs to be questioned.
on July 12, a fire broke out on the US amphibious assault ship “Goodman Richard” moored at the naval base in San Diego, California. Xinhua / Meilian
South Korean media envisioned that the new aircraft carrier and the new generation of South Korean submarines “jointly constitute the core military force to safeguard national security”. The latter is said to have a tonnage of 4000 tons and will use nuclear power to launch ballistic and cruise missiles.
of course, it is uncertain whether the “aircraft carrier dream” of South Korea can be successfully reflected in reality. Although the cost of light aircraft carrier is low, its combat effectiveness and survivability are worrying under the high threat environment of lack of system support. Like other “baby carriers”, South Korea’s new aircraft carrier will definitely carry helicopters for anti submarine and search and rescue in actual combat, so it is impossible to maximize the number of F-35B fighters. In addition, it lacks fixed wing carrier borne early warning aircraft, refueling aircraft and electronics Combat aircraft, which means that the situation awareness ability, combat radius and frequency of carrier aircraft are limited, thus affecting the operational effectiveness of aircraft carrier. It remains to be seen whether this small aircraft carrier can turn the drawing into reality and take on the dream of the South Korean navy.