November 10, 2019

SOUTH KOREA EXPLORES HIGH PERFORMANCE NAVAL AIR: Will South Korea purchase stealthy Vertical Take-Off and Landing F-35Bs? The post doesn’t come out and say it, but the betting line is yes. South Korea intends to build at least one 30,000 ton warship that looks a lot like a Japanese DDH (destroyer helicopter carrier). A DDH, depending on configuration, can handle a dozen F-35Bs. A dozen supersonic, stealthy fighter bombers can be a potent, multi-mission force, a point I made in a column written in 2017. It’s common knowledge South Korean naval planners have urged their government to buy F-35Bs, and the post notes that. I’ll add this. The F35B can also be dispersed on land to “hide locations” that are not airfields. The British Harrier had this capability and the British touted it. The post doesn’t mention that tactic, but it is a capability that defense planners world-wide discuss, especially in countries that confront enemies who just might try to launch a surprise attack on key airfields. Here’s a photo from 2011 showing a test model F-35B turning to approach the U.S. Navy’s amphibious assault ship USS Wasp. This photo from 2019 shows an operational F-35B “thrust vectoring” as it takes off from the USS Essex.

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