The National Assembly of the Republic of Korea (ROK) faces an important choice this month: Will it vote to fully fund the ROK Navy Light Aircraft Carrier (CVX) project? This decision cannot be taken lightly. It will take a lot of time, effort and resources for the Republic of Korea to acquire and operate this new platform. Nevertheless, the National Assembly should give its full support to CLC. This important asset will make it possible to better cope with the formidable risks facing the Republic of Korea at sea far from the Korean peninsula.
An aircraft carrier provides a aptitude for the maritime powers. While land air bases offer distinct advantages (they are easier to repair and generate higher exit rates), a carrier is able to provide air power for operations well beyond the reach of land-based aircraft. This is vital for countries with strategic or commercial interests far from their own shores. In addition, carriers offer considerable versatility. The composition of a carrier’s air wing can be tailored to operational needs and can accommodate low- or high-intensity operations. They can provide air cover for a mobile fleet or carry out strikes against land or sea targets.
CLC would provide the Republic of Korea with the ability to apply air power – either independently or as part of a coalition effort – against a range of threats to its Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC) well in the world. – beyond the waterways of Northeast Asia. As a trading nation, the Republic of Korea depends heavily on open and secure shipping lanes. Most of the exports that form the lifeblood of the Republic of Korea’s economy pass through the Indo-Pacific maritime commons to markets in Asia, Europe and the Americas. The vast majority of the Republic of Korea’s energy is imported along sea routes that stretch for thousands of kilometers to the Persian Gulf. Any disruption of these shipping lanes by non-state actors, rogue states or major powers could pose a significant threat to the security and prosperity of the Republic of Korea. Land air power is therefore insufficient to secure the distant commercial interests of the Republic of Korea.
For South Korea, it is vital that the country maintains a favorable balance of power in the Indo-Pacific region. If any state were able to dominate the region, it would pose an intolerable threat to the security and independence of the Republic of Korea. To help maintain a regional balance, the Republic of Korea must be able to use air power to meet military contingencies far beyond its own shores. While some regional hot spots like the East China Sea are well within reach for land planes from the Republic of Korea, the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea are not. The Republic of Korea would be well served to improve its ability to support coalition operations to deter and, if necessary, deny any aggression in these areas.
One of the most common objections to the CLC program is that it is redundant because the Republic of Korea can simply continue to rely on the United States’ formidable fleet of supercarriers to secure its maritime interests abroad. But this argument ignores the fact that the United States is increasingly overwhelmed and continues to call on its allies to take more responsibility for international maritime security. As the United States remains the world’s leading naval power, the Republic of Korea, Australia, India and other key regional navies will need to take a more active role. role in the Indo-Pacific maritime commons.
Critics of the CLC program also suggest that aircraft carriers are becoming obsolete given the proliferation of anti-access / area interdiction capabilities such as anti-ship ballistic missiles, stealth submarines and long-range bombers in the Indo region. peaceful. However, CLC has some vulnerabilities. It should be noted that the CLC will operate as part of an integrated attack group with numerous escorts to help ensure its defense. Additionally, the mobility of carriers continues to make it difficult for adversaries to track and target them. It’s also worth noting that the CVX, as a light aircraft carrier, will have smaller radar, sonar, and visual signatures than super-carriers like the United States. Ford-class and Nimitzclass ships.
For the first time, the Republic of Korea will have the ability to project its air power far from its own shores. Like any new platform, this lightweight aircraft carrier comes with risks and costs. But given the vital interests of the Republic of Korea at sea, the National Assembly should give its full support to this program.
Jihoon Yu is a Commander (Salt) in the ROK Navy and a Professor of Military Strategy at the ROK Naval Academy. He is also a member of the ROK Navy working group on the CVX light aircraft carrier project.
Erik French is Assistant Professor of International Studies at State University of New York at Brockport and Affiliate Researcher with America in the World Consortium.