South Korea has announced plans to build an amphibious landing ship capable of operating short take off and vertical landing F-35B Lighting IIs.
The July 12 announcement will see South Korea build a Landing Helicopter Platform (LPH) in the 30,000 tonne class that would be capable of operating the F-35B as well as helicopters and V-22 Osprey tiltrotors and would enter service in the late 2020s. The planned vessel would be double the size of the ROK’s two 14,500t Dokdo LPHs, and a little larger than Japan’s 27,000t Izumo class which will also be refit by 2023 to operate the F-35B, and Australia’s 27,000t Canberra class LHDs which aren’t currently capable of embarking F-35Bs.
The vessel would feature a ski-jump launch ramp, and be capable of embarking 16 F-35Bs as well as marines, armoured vehicles, amphibious landing craft, and helicopters.
“It’s the first time that a light aircraft carrier-class ship is pursued under South Korea’s force improvement plans,” Korea Research Institute for National Strategy analyst, Kim Dae-young told Defense News. “It’s also a symbolic and meaningful step to upgrade the country’s naval capability against potential threats posed by Japan and China.”
South Korea currently has 40 conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) F-35As on order, and has plans to order an additional 20 F-35As to replace some of its older F-16s.