South Korea Is Looking At Building A Way Bigger Carrier Than We Thought

Rival designs are going head-to-head as South Korea seeks to put F-35 stealth fighters to sea.

The South Korean shipbuilding industry has shown off a range of models of the country’s planned first aircraft carrier, now known as CVX, which is intended to operate F-35B stealth fighters. While a previous plan, referred to as LPX-II, suggested the South Korean Navy was eying a revised amphibious assault ship design better suited to carry those short takeoff and vertical landing-capable jets, the revised CVX project is an altogether more ambitious aircraft carrier. Among the latest proposals are a vessel with a new ‘ski jump’ takeoff ramp, as well as twin island superstructures.

The models in question are on display at the International Maritime Defense Industry Exhibition 2021 (MADEX 2021) that’s taking place in Busan, South Korea. One of these is from Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI), which received a contract for conceptual design study in late 2019 and it is a twin island design akin to that of U.K. Royal Navy’s Queen Elizabeth class.

Visitors to MADEX look over a model of the rival CVN design from DSME.

The new HHI proposal also has a ‘ski jump’ takeoff ramp over the bow for STOVL operations. The company has also been pitching a bow ramp on its carrier for some years now, but this new model clearly represents a significantly evolved design. HHI says its carrier design would be 850 feet long, have a 200-foot-wide beam, and have a fully loaded displacement of around 60,000 tons. By comparison, the Queen Elizabeth class is 920 feet long, has a beam of 240 feet, and a displacement of 65,000 tons.

A platform at the rear of the Hyundai CVN design for vertical takeoff and landing drones. 
A computer-generated graphic showing the adapted well deck for USVs and UUVs.

The Hyundai model is displayed with F-35Bs, AH-1Z Cobra attack helicopters, of which a potential transfer to Korea has been approved, plus H-60 series helicopters arranged on deck, as well as what looks like a Leonardo Merlin helicopter, a type not currently used by South Korea. Hyundai says that it will be able to operate up to around 20 F-35Bs. 

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