The Republic of Korea (ROK) will acquire Boeing P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, the country’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) announced on June 25. The aircraft will be procured via the U.S. Foreign Military Sales (FMS) procedure. DAPA said that the P-8A was selected after a “comprehensive review of legal aspects, cost, schedule, and performance.” However, there was no open evaluation of alternative MPAs such as the Saab Swordfish or the Airbus C295 ASW.
The ROK said in February that it was seeking new MPAs to better counter North Korea’s ballistic missile submarines. The P-8As will replace 16 Lockheed P-3C/CK Orions. This deal will make Korea the third Asia-Pacific nation to fly the P-8A after Australia and India.
The number of P-8As to be acquired has not been stated, but there are suggestions that the contract would be worth $1.71 billion. A DAPA source told Korea's Yonhap news agency unofficially that the Poseidon’s price would be 10 to 28 percent greater if the aircraft were to be selected after an open contest.
In any case, said Yoon Sukjoon, senior fellow at the Korean Institute for Military Affairs, “Monies would not be a crucial decision factor because of the security environment of the Korean Peninsula, despite the recent thawing of tensions.” He continued: “It is the range and heavy load of ASW and ASuW weapons that are particularly crucial elements for the deal.
FMS is the preferred means to prevent the kinds of embezzlement and bribery scandals that have shaken the government lately, Yoon added. “The P-8 would also enhance interoperability with the U.S. Navy and Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force [JMSDF],” he added.
Coincidentally, just two weeks ago, the Indian Navy and U.S. Navy each deployed a P-8 Poseidon on Exercise Malabar in Guam for anti-surface and anti-submarine drills. They were joined by a P-1 jet MPA from the JMSDF.
New Zealand is on the verge of deciding to buy P-8A Poseidons. Defense minister Ron Mark has proposed a package for approval by the new Labour government. Wellington is seeking four P-8As worth around $1.4 billion to replace six P-3K2s that have been flying since the 1960s. According to New Zealand media, the announcement will be made by the end of July.
The latest enhancement to the P-8A is the High Altitude Anti-Submarine Warfare Weapon Capability. This involves fitting a wing kit onto the Mk 54 Mod 0/Mod 1 torpedo, allowing the P-8A to strike submarine targets at a stand-off range and altitude.