South Korea may consider introducing several F-35B fighter jets for its newest amphibious landing ship slated to be deployed in 2020, Yonhap reports.
According to the report, the officials are considering possibilities of operating the F-35B fighter, a short takeoff and vertical landing variant of the US-made fifth-generation warplane from the second 14,000-ton Dokdo-class vessel.
"I understand that the military top brass have recently discussed whether they can introduce a small number of F-35B fighters and operate them aboard the new ship that has already been deployed and one to be additionally built," a military source told Yonhap News Agency on Sunday.
"As far as I know, the idea is being weighed in light of maximizing the strategic value of the vessel's capabilities," he added.
The existing Dokdo ship is seen capable of operating only transport helicopters because its deck is not made of materials that can withstand high temperatures or friction caused by fighter jet operations.
In 2014, Seoul decided to purchase 40 F-35A fighters for deployment from 2018 through 2021 at a cost of 7.3 trillion won (US$6.75 billion).
The report mentioned that there are speculations that Seoul may purchase F-35Bs due to a shortage of warplanes that could occur in the coming years with the decommissioning of F-4s and F-5s.
However, the report added that it would incur considerable costs for the South Korean military to train pilots and maintain them, given that they are different from the existing fleet and new fighters to be introduced in the coming years.