U.S. Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 F-35B Lightning II Fighter
U.S. Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 F-35B Lightning II Fighter

South Korea May Purchase F-35B VTOL Fighters for Aircraft Carrier

Yonhap News Agency reported South Korea has begun procedures to determine the number of vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) jets to purchase for its envisioned light aircraft carrier to be deployed by 2033. The exact type of the VTOL aircraft to be deployed has yet to be decided, but it is likely to be the F-35B, which is the only model that meets South Korea’s requirement that it have stealth capability. The number of the aircraft to be introduced is expected to hover around 20.

In 2019, the South Korean military approved a plan to construct a carrier-type landing platform helicopter ship as part of its long-term force buildup plan. The new vessel is to be refit to displace 30,000 tons, double the capacity of the previous two types with 14,500 tons of displacement. The envisioned aircraft carrier will be the third landing platform helicopter ship Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN deploys following the Dokdo and Marado ships.

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II all-weather stealth multirole combat aircraft has three main variants: the conventional takeoff and landing F-35A (CTOL), the short take-off and vertical-landing F-35B (STOVL), and the carrier-based F-35C (CV/CATOBAR). Similar in size to the A variant, the B sacrifices about a third of the A variant’s fuel volume to accommodate the SDLF.] This variant is limited to 7 g. Unlike other variants, the F-35B has no landing hook. The “STOVL/HOOK” control instead engages conversion between normal and vertical flight.

South Korea acquired stealthy fighter jets, code-named F-X III, by acquiring 20 more F-35s, the country’s arms procurement agency has confirmed. The Asian economic power had ordered 40 F-35As for Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) operations under a 2014 deal worth about $6.4 billion. North Korea has decried the deployment of F-35 aircraft in South Korea due to the jet’s capability to evade radars and penetrate its territory. In 2019, Pyongyang threatened to destroy all the F-35As arriving in South Korea.

U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Rey White, an aviation boatswains mate handler with the Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), launches an F-35B Lightning II with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), from the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2).(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Francisco J. Diaz Jr./Released)