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The South Korean Navy shared images of the country’s first aircraft carrier. The unnamed vessel, which will carry the vertical take-off and landing version of the F-35, will go to sea in the 2030s.

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The ship bears a striking resemblance to the new Royal Navy aircraft carriers built halfway around the world, but there are some major distinctions between the two ships.

The ROK Navy provided the image above, accompanied by an explanation some details of the ship, at JoongAng Ilbo newspaper. The aircraft carrier will be the largest warship ever built by South Korean shipyards. Current record holders, amphibious assault ships Dokdo and Marado, have full-length flight decks, but were not built for the operation of fixed-wing aircraft like the F-35.

Photo credit: US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Chad Swysgood / DVIDS

The dimensions of the aircraft carrier and its total displacement in tonnes are not shown, but it appears to be roughly the same length as that of the US Navy. America– Class amphibious assault ships, which are approximately 844 feet long and displace 45,000 tons. The aircraft carrier is shown with at least 10 F-35B fighters and a single helicopter. It also includes two islands overlooking the flight deck and two elevators leading to a large hangar below, both on the right side.

One of the ship’s most distinctive features is the presence of two islands instead of the usual one overlooking the flight deck. This is a configuration developed by the two new queen elizabeth-class aircraft carrier. As the British Defense Journal describes it:

“The forward island is for vessel control functions and the aft island (FLYCO) is for flight control. The reason for two islands is, quite simply, due to gas turbine exhausts. The design would have had either two small islands or one big and long island. The two smaller islands were chosen.

Two smaller islands instead of one large free up space on the flight deck. (By the way, American carriers can get away with a small island because they are nuclear powered and their reactors don’t generate exhaust.) JoongAng Ilbo also states that the two islands will both be able to independently oversee air operations, in the event that one of them is disabled by enemy fire.

Photo credit: Christopher Furlong - Getty Images

Photo credit: Christopher Furlong – Getty Images

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The anonymous Korean carrier differs from its British cousin in two other characteristics. For starters, the cockpit does not overlook the bow, especially on the port side, as seen on queen elizabeth. In that sense, it looks more like the America to classify.

The ship is also missing a ski ramp. The queen elizabeth class, the carrier of Russia Admiral Kuznetsov, Chinese carriers Liaoning and Shandong, and the aircraft carrier of the Indian Navy Vikramaditya all feature ski ramps designed to help planes loaded with fuel and ammunition take off.

The Nimitz- and Ford-class carriers, Wasp- and America-class amphibious and Japanese assault ships Izumo-class carriers do—or not—Use ski ramps. The former use steam or electromagnetic catapults, while the latter rely on a short rolling take-off or vertical take-off to make planes take off.

Photo credit: Andrei Luzik - Getty Images

Photo credit: Andrei Luzik – Getty Images

The new Korean ship also includes a powerful, advanced electronic scanning array radar “Capable of tracking ballistic missiles”, as well as a point defense missile system designed to shoot down incoming anti-ship cruise missiles.

Maximizing hull space for aviation and using a relatively small hull will require trade-offs. The South Korean aircraft carrier will rely on its escort frigates and destroyers to defend it against most air, surface and underground threats. The aircraft carrier will operate without aircraft equipped with long-range radar like the E-2D Hawkeye, and will instead use the radars of its escort destroyers.

Photo credit: Smith Collection / Gado - Getty Images

Photo credit: Smith Collection / Gado – Getty Images

The air squadron will be made up of around 10 to 12 F-35Bs. Korea has 20 F-35B on order, the South Korean Navy will therefore have enough planes to equip the aircraft carrier, while having enough planes to conduct training on land and spare parts to cover the losses.

This compares to 44 F / A-18C, F / A-18E / F or F-35 attack fighters on Nimitz- and Ford-class carriers, up to 20 F-35Bs on US Navy amphibious assault ships, and 18 to 30 J-15 fighter jets on Chinese aircraft carriers.

The smaller size of the ship and the air squadron lead South Korea to call it a light carrier. The new vessel is expected to enter service in 2033.

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