The information which was first reported by local media JoongAng Ilbo means that after about a year of preliminary planning and debate, the program is now officially underway. This ship is expected to enter service with the Republic of Korea (ROK) Navy in 2030.
As we previously reported, LPX-II will prioritize aircraft operation over amphibious operation and will have not have a well deck. It will also not feature ski-jump and will have two islands. Primary aircraft will be F-35B Lightning II and its sensor and weapon suite will be all indigenous. The ballistic missile defense (BMD) capable multi function radar (MFR) being developed for Korea’s nextgen destroyer (KDDX) will reportedly equip LPX-II.
Twin island design
The latest design of LPX-II was also unveiled on the occasion, showing a twin island arrangement which is likely the reflection of international cooperation.
In terms of foreign partners, US & UK government and firms are said to be involved. The US will transfer technology for reinforced deck as part of F-35B purchase while the UK has been providing technical and doctrinal advice. As we reported in October 2020, 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 ». This likely explains why the latest design of LPX-II shows two islands that look similar to those of the Royal Navy aircraft carriers. For the record, Babcock was already involved in the ROK Navy’s KSS-III large attack submarine program.
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.
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.