A report in Defense News says both Japan and South Korea has commissioned studies into the possibility of operating F-35B fighters from their small aircraft carriers.
Japan’s Kyodo news agency says the short take off and vertical landing (STOVL) variant of the Joint Strike Fighter is being considered for that country’s Izumo-class DDH helicopter destroyer, while South Korea’s Yonhap said a similar consideration was underway for its Dokdo-class amphibious assault ship. Both countries only operate helicopters from their ships at present.
The Defense News report says both classes of vessel would require extensive modification in order to embark the F-35Bs, although fewer modification would be needed if the ships were to act as ‘lily-pads’ for the aircraft to refuel or re-arm on deck.
Similar studies were reportedly made by the Royal Australian Navy for the F-35B to operate from its Canberra-class LHDs, although these seem to have fallen by the wayside in recent years in favour of committing to the RAAF’s F-35A requirement and bolstering that service’s KC-30 air-to-air refuelling fleet to extend its combat radius.