As we saw in the first part of this article , assault helicopter carriers, a hybrid ship combining powerful naval aviation capability with a straight flight deck and a large hangar allowing the deployment of a fleet maneuvering and combat helicopters, as well as an amphibious capacity through a base that can accommodate landing craft or assault hovercraft, have appeared to respond to the proliferation of coastal batteries equipped with anti-ship missiles capable of targeting any ship above the horizon.
However, if the electromagnetic horizon does constitute effective protection against this type of threat, it imposes a very significant constraint, having led to the design of this type of ship. The latter must in fact carry out its assault operation while remaining more than 40 km from the landing site.
If such a distance has little influence on the progress of the first assault wave, it constitutes a considerable constraint for the rest of the operation, while a barge operating at 15 knots will take nearly five hours to complete a rotation. to load and bring back to the landing site the reinforcements and ammunition necessary to support the amphibious assault.
It is precisely to deal with this constraint that LHD (Landing Helicopter Deck) type assault helicopter carriers appeared. Like the LPD (Landing Platform Deck), they use landing craft, or better, hovercraft capable of completing rotations in just over two hours.
Above all, the support and reinforcement of the beachhead units is carried out not with the help of barges, but with the fleet of helicopters capable of bringing men and ammunition to the beach, but also of evacuating the wounded. to the ship, with rotations of less than 30 minutes.
As for barges or hovercraft, their main function is to bring vehicles and cargo too heavy to be transported by a helicopter. The entire architecture of assault helicopter carriers arises from this context, so as to give the assault forces a high operational intensity while remaining under the protection of the horizon.
In the first part of this article, we presented the US Navy's America-class assault helicopter carriers, the Chinese Type 075, the French Mistral as well as the Italian Trieste. In this second part, we will discuss the South Korean Dokdo class LHDs, the very prolific concept of the Spanish Juan Carlos I assault aircraft carrier, the new Turkish Anadolu assault drone carrier as well as future helicopter carriers Russian assault ships of the Ivan Rogov class of project 23900.
South Korean: Dokdo-class assault helicopter carrier
An offensive ship par excellence, the assault helicopter carrier primarily equips navies with power projection ambitions. But this is not the case for the two Dokdo class LHDs.
Indeed, these ships were designed not to give the South Korean Navy a long-range intervention capability, but to offer the country's armed forces new defensive options in the face of its tumultuous northern neighbor. It must be said that, in this area, Seoul has, so to speak, been in a good school.
While United Nations forces were cornered in the Busan pocket by the North Korean offensive in late summer 1950, General MacArthur mounted Operation Chromite, a very daring amphibious landing at Incheon , near Seoul, to take the North Korean armies from behind.
Launched on September 15, 1950, the operation mobilized 230 ships, including several aircraft carriers, and made it possible to land more than 40,000 men of the American Xth Corps a few kilometers from the capital, cutting the adversary's supply lines. , and reversing the course of the war, at least until China entered the war.
The example of the Incheon landing influenced South Korean strategists, who decided, at the end of the 1990s, to equip their Navy, which was in full modernization, with two large assault helicopter carriers capable of operating under the cover of the horizon, the Dokdo class, to protect itself from the threat of the numerous coastal batteries deployed by Pyongyang.
In addition to the two planned LHDs, South Korean engineers simultaneously developed a model of assault hovercraft, the Solgae class, specially designed to arm the Dokdo and give them significant rotation capacity. The first assault helicopter carrier of the class, the Dokdo, entered service in 2007, just like the first hovercraft of the Solgae class, but it will be necessary to wait until 2021 for the second unit, the Marado, to also join the South Korean Navy.
199 meters long, the Dokdo only have a loaded displacement of 19,000 tonnes. They are also economical, with a unit price of less than $300 million. However, they can transport an assault force of 720 Marines and 30 vehicles including 10 tanks, and simultaneously deploy 2 Solgae class hovercraft as well as around fifteen UH-60, UH-1 or super Lynx helicopters.
The vehicle transport capacity can be greatly increased if no helicopter is present in the aircraft hangar. On the other hand, the Dokdo bridge can accommodate heavy aircraft such as the MV-22 Osprey; however, it cannot accommodate vertical take-off aircraft such as the F-35B.
To obtain such capabilities on such a small hull, South Korean engineers had to significantly reduce the ship's nautical performance, and in particular its endurance at sea.
However, given the planned use of these ships, whose doctrine dictates that they be implemented within a naval force composed of a Dokdo, two heavy destroyers of the Sejong the Great class, of several destroyer escorts and frigates, as well as submarines and several Gwanggaeto the Great class landing ships, the ship appears well sized and designed.
As the South Korean Navy is very poorly equipped with logistics ships, and particularly large-capacity supply tankers, it is obvious that these fleets only have a regional operational scope. Furthermore, unlike Japan which decided to modernize its two Izumo class helicopter carriers to accommodate F-35Bs, South Korea turned to the design of an aircraft carrier dedicated to this function. .
Spain: Juan Carlos 1 class aircraft carrier
At the end of the 1960s, Spain undertook to provide its navy with a naval aviation capability, by negotiating the rental of the American light aircraft carrier USS Cabot of the Independence class. Entering service in 1943, the ship had been mothballed for around twenty years. Initially intended to operate SH-3 Sea King helicopters, the ship named Dedalo was purchased by Madrid in 1972 and then modernized to accommodate the new AV-8s Matador with vertical takeoff and landing.
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