South Korea's military is reportedly considering to operate F-35B stealth fighter jets from its new amphibious warship, which is slated to be deployed in 2020. Seoul is reportedly looking into whether the new assault ship, which is a 14,000-tonne Dokdo-class vessel, will be able to carry the short-takeoff and landing version of the US-made warplane.
The current warship is reportedly only capable of operating transport helicopters since its deck has not been designed to withstand the extreme temperatures and friction caused by fighter jet operations. However, the South Korean military is reportedly considering redesigning the decks on the new warship to ensure F-35B fighters can be operated.
"I understand that the military top brass have recently discussed whether they can introduce a small number of F-35B fighters and operate them aboard the new ship that has already been deployed and one to be additionally built," an unspecified military source told Yonhap News Agency. "As far as I know, the idea is being weighed in light of maximizing the strategic value of the vessel's capabilities."
"Considerations will continue about whether we can run F-35Bs by redesigning the decks of the Dokdo and the new ship that is being constructed," another anonymous source told Yonhap.
The South Korean military's considerations are reportedly part of its efforts to boost its naval powers. The considerations also come as tensions between Seoul and rival North Korea continue to escalate.
Meanwhile, Japan is considering purchasing F-35B's that can operate from helicopter carriers, to counter China's growing naval aggression, Japan Times reported.