South Korean military officials and researchers will today review plans for the development of technologies for the 2 trillion won ($1.74 billion) project to build the country’s first light aircraft carrier.
Seoul plans to wrap up the development of the core technologies by 2024. The envisioned light aircraft carrier is to be deployed by 2033.
Among the technologies it seeks to produce locally is coating material to protect the carrier’s flight deck when VTOL aircraft exhaust over 1,000 degrees Celsius of heat, Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), the country’s arms procurement agency, said in a release today.
Seven local institutions, including state-run Agency for Defense Development, Pusan National University and LIG Nex1 Co., will take part in the development of the warship.
"After its requirement was decided in July last year, experts from private, public and military sectors identified core technologies necessary to be secured because unlike other vessels, it will use VTOL jets," DAPA said in a release.
The obvious implication is that the South Korean Air Force is in line to purchase F-35B fighter jets which are the only VTOL fighter jets currently in use.
Although Seoul has so far not requested to buy F-35B jets, it has begun procedures to acquire approximately 20 VTOL jets for light carrier operations, Yonhap News Agency had reported in August.
The U.S. has so far delivered 24 out of 40 F-35A jets ordered in 2014 for $6.4 billion.
The government is preparing to launch the second phase of acquiring the F-X III (F-35) in 2021. About $3.3 billion will go toward buying the additional Lockheed Martin-made aircraft, DAPA said in a report to the National Assembly on October 7, 2019. It is probable that the new F-35s could be the F-35B VTOL jets such as those used by the U.S. Marines and ordered by Japan and the United Kingdom.
Light Aircraft Carrier Project
South Korea is reportedly studying two aircraft carrier designs. One is a medium-sized 70,000-ton carrier, with a load capacity of 70,400 tons and a length of 298m and a width of 75m. On an average, such vessels hold 1,340 crew members and can carry 32 fixed-wing and 8 rotating-wing aircraft.
The second proposal is a 40,000-ton light-duty carrier with a full load of 41,500 tons. It is 238m long and 62m wide. This type of vessel can carry 720 crew members and can carry 12 fixed-wing and 8 rotating-wing aircraft.