Decoding South Korean LPX-II
The New South Korean Light Aircraft Carrier Program known as the LPX-II had its details finalized on 30 December, 2020. Budget allocation has been done and it is expected to enter service with the Republic of Korea Navy in 2030.
The key feature to be noted here is the twin island design. The main advantage of this is it helps in separating the sailing and flight operations, but they can be interchangeably used as and when needed. Twin island design helps in reduced air turbulence over the flight deck and an increased flexibility of space allocation in the lower decks. It can also be concluded to some extent that the power generation machinery would also be separated thereby improving survivability.
It does not feature a ski jump. There is no well deck and it has been reported to prioritize operation of aircrafts over amphibious operations. Parallels have been drawn to the Wasp class big deck amphibious warships of the US Navy.
The elevators are kept on the starboard side for using the deck more widely, however it is vulnerable to enemy attacks. It can be observed that the hull features a very good design with attempts made to improve stealth factors by making use of flat surfaces as much as can be.
The primary aircraft used will be the F-35 B Lightning II which has SVTOL ability. This was speculated when the orders for them were given last year. F-35 B Lightning-II is the best 5th gen aircraft with SVTOL available and it can be easily upgraded later on to 5.5gen. capabilities.
The sensor and weapons suite are touted to be indigenous. It features the Korean Surface to air anti-missile system (K-SAAM). In addition to this, the LPX-II will also be equipped with ballistic missile defence (BMD) capable multi-function radar (MFR) which is being developed for Korea’s nextgen destroyer (KDDX).
US & UK government and firms are believed to be the foreign partners. As a part of the F-35 B purchase, the US will transfer the technology for reinforced deck. The UK on the other hand, has been providing advice pertaining to the doctrinal and technical aspects. It is also known that the UK Government and Babock International who led the Royal Navy Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier design process are actively assisting this project. And that perhaps could be the reason why the twin island arrangement has been incorporated.
Additionally, it is also believed that the design has also been inspired from the Italian Cavour (550).
The contract for LPX-II was awarded to Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI), a major South Korean Shipyard. Versatility is one of the key features that have been looked into while designing this platform. The marine attack helicopters to be used are a competition between the Surion MAH developed by Korean Aerospace Industries Ltd (KAI), Bell Helicopters AH-1Z Viper and the Boeing AH-64 Apache.