Feb. 22 (UPI) -- South Korea is to build a light-aircraft carrier by investing about $1.8 billion, with deployment to begin in 2033, Seoul's defense ministry said.
South Korea's military and Defense Acquisition Program Administration said Monday at the 133rd Defense Project Promotion Committee the light-aircraft carrier project is to move ahead, Newsis reported.
Seoul said the warship would carry vertical or short takeoff and landing jets and respond to various security threats at sea. The project is the first of its kind for the South Korean military, according to the report.
The 30,000-ton light carrier will have the capacity to transport troops and equipment and potentially serve as a command ship of a maritime unit. The protection of South Korean citizens in the event of disaster overseas would be a chief objective of the new warship, the military said. Last month, South Korea deployed a warship carrying the Cheonghae Unit to the Persian Gulf after Iran seized a Korea-flagged commercial tanker.
Investments are expected to exceed $1.8 billion, according to Newsis. The warship could carry as many as 20 military planes and eight maritime helicopters. Maintenance and operation of the fleet would cost about $180 million annually, the report said.
South Korea's increasing investments in new weapons come after Pyongyang disclosed plans to develop nuclear-powered submarines and hypersonic missiles. The United States could be monitoring the peninsula.
Donga Ilbo reported Monday the U.S. Air Force deployed the RC-135U Combat Sent, a reconnaissance aircraft, near North Korea, citing online aviation trackers. The plane took off from Kadena Air Base on Monday and flew at an altitude of about 32,945 feet above central South Korea, the report said.
The report of the U.S. deployment comes after South Korean military sources said last week the U.S. RC-135C Cobra Ball flew between the Korean Peninsula and northeast China.
The United States and South Korea are to hold joint exercises beginning March 8.