Babcock International Vying to Win South Korean LPX-II Aircraft Carrier Program

According to the Korea Herald newspaper, the UK Government and Babcock International, which led the Royal Navy Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier design process, « are said to be actively engaging with their South Korean counterparts ». Babcock would be offering technology transfer and technical skills in regard to short take off and vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft carrier design and F-35B fighter jet integration and operation. Babcock is currently involved in the ROK Navy’s KSS-III large attack submarine program.

South Korea just launched effort to develop core technologies for the LPX-II program, which will result in a 40,000 tons light aircraft carrier capable of deploying F-35B STOVL aircraft and helicopters. The ROK Navy’s first light aircraft carrier should be launched by 2033.

South Korean technologies for LPX-II program

Early conceptual rendering of LPX-II light aircraft carrier program
Early conceptual rendering of LPX-II light aircraft carrier program.

While South Korea is seeking foreign assistance with the LPX-II, the future aircraft carrier will still feature a great deal of Korean technologies: During a meeting held today, military and scientists reviewed plans for technologies development for this US$1.7 billion project, the country’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) said.

« After its requirement was decided in July last year, experts from private, public and military sectors identified core technologies necessary to be secured because unlike other vessels, it will use vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) jets, » the DAPA comments in a release.

Official ROK Navy artist impression

Core technologies to be developed by the national industry include those that other countries are not allowing the transfer. Such technologies include a specific flight deck coating capable of resisting the extreme heat generated by the F-35B aircraft.

According to DAPA, seven institutions and companies will take part in the development process of LPX-II technologies, including aerospace and defense company LIG Nex1. DAPA plans to complete development of core technologies by 2024.

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About LPX-II

ROK Navy HHI LPX-II
Concept image of ROK Navy’s future LPX-II displayed on HHI stand during MADEX 2019

South Korean shipyard Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) was awarded a contract for the LPX-II conceptual design in October last year. The LPX-II project aims to build a new versatile large-deck landing ship for short take-off and vertical landing fighter jets.

HHI is expected to finish the conceptual design by the second half of 2020, with commissioning with Republic of Korea Navy planned for the early 2030s. The vessel, displacing around 40,000 tons (30,000 tons initially but recent DAPA references to the project mention the higher figure) would be based on the existing Dokdo-class amphibious assault ship (LPX-I project) but without a well deck according to the latest information. It would be able to accommodate around 20 F-35B STOVL fighters.

LPX-II animation showcased on the ROK Navy stand during MADEX 2019

The LPX-II vessel will also deploy future Marine Attack Helicopters of the ROK Marine Corps, for which there is an upcoming competition between local company KAI (with the Surion MAH), Bell Helicopters (with the AH-1Z) and Boeing (with the AH-64 Apache). All three companies were showcasing their solutions at ADEX 2019.

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