Analysis: South Korea’s new aircraft carrier could look like a mini HMS Queen Elizabeth

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Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) this week signed a memorandum of understanding with top British defense contractor, Babcock International, to work together to design and build South Korea’s light aircraft carrier, the new CVX.

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“This partnership aims to combine the core technologies of the two companies to win an order for the basic design of a light aircraft carrier and the construction of a ship. Hyundai Heavy Industries and Babcock had successfully completed the conceptual design, Ship Design The first phase of , last year,” said a statement from Hyundai.

Babcock designed and built the Queen Elizabeth-class carrier for the UK and operated in the southern port city of Busan, South Korea. According to the company’s statement, the company assembles equipment for naval programs in South Korea.


Since starting the Special Ships Project in 1975, Hyundai has designed and built a total of 90 warships and submarines, including South Korea’s first Aegis guided-missile destroyer, Sejong, and the next generation frigate, Incheon, HHI.

The deal does not mean the pair will get a contract with the South Korean military. The country’s industrial giant Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME) is still in the hunt.

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The concept design of Hyundai’s ship, which was first revealed at an exhibition earlier this summer, displays an uncanny resemblance to the UK’s HMS Queen Elizabeth.

An animated promotional video of the company’s ship’s design shows a ski jump take-off ramp for F-35 stealth fighter jets, the Twin Islands, and two aircraft lifts on either side of the flight deck.

This Hyundai Heavy Industries design will include a landing area for helicopters in the rear of South Korea’s new aircraft carrier.
Credits: Hyundai Heavy Industries

There is also an auxiliary deck area at the very rear of the ship for operating small drones and deploying unmanned surface vehicles as well as unmanned midget submarines.

The company said it can be equipped with “vertical take-off and landing fighters, helicopters for amphibious maneuvers and attacks, and also applies the latest technologies such as combat sortie support technology, air armament transfer systems and integrated warfare systems.” ”

The ship’s design, with its twin islands and ski-jump ramps, resembles that of the UK’s new aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, although smaller in size.

Hyundai says the 30,000-tonne level ship will be 260 m (850 ft) long and 57 m (187 ft) wide. By comparison, the UK’s Queen Elizabeth Square is 65,000 tonnes, 920 feet long and 240 feet in beam.

The Royal Navy’s HMS Queen Elizabeth arrived in South Korean waters on 30 August for a three-day maritime defense engagement near Busan. Its first Asia-Pacific deployment. The ship was originally planned to dock at Busan port, but was changed due to coronavirus precautionary measures.
An F-35 jet takes off from a ski-jump ramp on the UK aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth during an exercise in South Korea this week.

A rival design to the Hyundai Carrier comes from DSME. It also uses a twin-island arrangement but without the ski jump take-off ramp. Its flight deck is common with the US Navy’s amphibious assault ships.

According to the company’s statement, the ship will have a flat deck without ski jumps, and an overall length of 263 meters (860 ft). There are also two elevators on the starboard side to move those aircraft between decks.

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DSME also says that its carrier will be able to house 16 aircraft and six armed helicopters on the flight deck, with 12 fighter jets being placed below deck to make room for repairs and maintenance. The company said its design focused on the “sorty generation rate”, which refers to the number of possible take-offs of fighter aircraft within a given period.

DSME signed a technical collaboration research contract with Italian shipbuilding company Fincantieri to bid for the design project of the CVX programme, it said in a statement. The recently built Fincantieri shipyard and is now testing a 30,000-ton light aircraft carrier for the Italian Navy, according to the statement.

South Korea is expected to decide which company will build its new aircraft carrier next year, and operate it until about 2033.


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