August 05, 2020 13:53
The government is thinking of turning a large multi-purpose transport ship that is already under construction into a light aircraft carrier, an insider said Tuesday.
That would make it possible to bring forward the scheduled launch of the carrier from 2033 to 2030. The government may also procure F-35B vertical takeoff/landing aircraft that could be carried by it by that time.
The source said the idea reflects President Moon Jae-in's determination not to be left behind by Japan's light aircraft-carrier plans.
"The Defense Ministry, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Navy, and the Air Force are giving serious thought" to the idea, the source said.
Japan is currently turning two Izumo-class helicopter carriers into light aircraft carriers with a goal of finishing the project by around 2024. China has deployed two midsize aircraft carriers warfare-ready and is building another two.
But the government is also motivated by North Korea's deployment of new Iskander missiles and 600-mm supersize multiple rocket launchers, which are hard to intercept with the existing missile defense system of the South Korean and U.S. militaries.
In case of an attack from the North on South Korea's missile defenses, a light aircraft carrier carrying F-35Bs could stay out of the range of the North's new missiles or rounds from the MRLs and launch a counterattack.
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