F35 capable light aircraft carriers might not provide value for money in a future conflict.


The U.S.U.K. and Japan have F-35B Lightning II fighter capable light aircraft carriers. South Korea is evaluating designsAustralia and Singapore are possibilities.

Key points concerning light aircraft carriers:

  • Highly prestigious.

  • Bespoke for different national requirements.

  • Maintenance and training is expensive.

  • Vulnerable to long-range precision strike capabilities and submarine attack. 

  • Offer a marginal additional capability that comes at a high cost.

  • Long-range flexible, resilient, and distributed land-based aircraft may be more cost-effective.

F-35B aircraft.

  • Low-observable design, highly capable electronic warfare and attack capabilities.

  • Enormous data fusion and sharing functions a quantum leap over the Falklands War era AV-8B Harrier II

  • Can provide airborne intelligence-gathering and limited early warning.

  • Some offensive capability.

USS America. 

HMS Queen Elizabeth

  • 65,000 tons.

  • “ski-jump” ramp facilitates heavier payloads.

  • Around 24 F-35Bs.

  • Expensive and complex. 

  • The Royal Navy relies on others to provide escort vessels.

  • Likely future operations as part of a coalition.

Izumo Class 

  • Japan’s first aircraft carriers since World War II, so expertise needs re-learning.

  • 20,000 tons. 

  • 24 F-35B’s.

  • Likely to operate close to Japan defending its southwestern islands.

  • Slow growing Japanese economy creates budget constraints.

  • Japan’s Ryukyu Islands have two dozen airfields suitable for operating both the F-35A and F-35B; better value than a carrier.

  • F-35B’s can use smaller commercial airfields.

  • Damaged runways can be repaired quickly, unlike carriers.

South Korea’s CVX program.