This image, provided by the defense ministry on Aug. 10, 2020, shows the envisioned light aircraft carrier South Korea is pushing to secure by 2033. (Ministry of Defense)
The chief of South Korea's Navy has vowed to make every effort to secure a light aircraft carrier and diverse military assets to boost defense capabilities.
The Navy has sought to build a 30,000-ton-class light aircraft carrier, and the military authorities finalized a plan last week to push for the project in earnest starting this year.
"We should expedite moves to secure diverse future military assets, including a light aircraft carrier, in a timely manner to be fully prepared for future security challenges and to advance our maritime power," Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Boo Suk-jong said in his new year message.
Under the 2 trillion-won ($1.74 billion) project, South Korea seeks to put the ship into operation around 2033.
Critics and some lawmakers have raised questions about the usefulness and cost-effectiveness of the project, arguing that the deployment of a light aircraft carrier would not be very helpful in boosting the country's defensive capabilities against North Korea.
The Navy has refuted the claim, arguing that such an aircraft carrier will provide more flexibility in carrying out military maneuvering.
"A light aircraft carrier will play a role as a moving military base that can launch strikes from anywhere against enemies in case of emergency," Jeong Seung-kyun, a two-star Navy officer, said. "It will be one of the key national strategic assets that helps our national interests and security."
The military is also working to introduce vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) jets for its envisioned light aircraft carrier. Around 20 units of the VTOL aircraft are expected to be introduced, and the exact type of VTOL aircraft is yet to be decided though many see South Korea's choice would be the F-35B jets.
South Korea is also working to locally build 6,000-ton class Aegis-equipped destroyers and secure a 3,000-ton submarine, which could be a nuclear-powered one, according to the officials. (Yonhap)