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Boeing, Saab compete to win Korea's maritime patrol aircraft deal

US aerospace giant Boeing Co. and Saab of Sweden are vying to win South Korea's next maritime patrol aircraft contract, military sources here said Sunday.

Military officials at this year's Seoul International Aerospace and Defense Exhibition being held in Seongnam, just south of the capital city, said the two companies have respectively proposed the P-8A Poseidon and Swordfish as candidates for the contract. The planes can allow South Korea to better counter North Korea's growing underwater threat that may include submarines with the capability to launch ballistic missile.

South Korea's Navy said that it wants to acquire six more patrol aircraft to augment the 16 P-3C and P-3CK Orion planes currently in service.

"The Navy plans to receive requests for the proposal from the bidders and after a careful evaluation, pick the winning plane next year," said an official, who declined to be identified.

The Boeing P-8A Poseidon of the US Navy (Yonhap)
The Boeing P-8A Poseidon of the US Navy (Yonhap)

Boeing has said that its aircraft based on the popular B737-800 passenger jet is currently in service with the United States Navy and has been selected as the MPA of such countries as India, Australia, Britain and Norway.

It added that the P-8A has been specifically built for a wide range of missions ranging from anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface unit warfare and general reconnaissance.

Saab on the other hand, which is new to the maritime reconnaissance market, has offered South Korea the opportunity to take part in development and construction of the planes. This it said could allow the country to build its own MPA platforms going forward.

A model of the Saab`s Swordfish maritime patrol aircraft (Yonhap)
A model of the Saab`s Swordfish maritime patrol aircraft (Yonhap)

The company is said to have offered to build two to three of the initial Swordfish planes in Sweden, with the rest being assembled in South Korea.

The Swordfish is built on the airframe of the Bombardier Global 6000 business jet, with Saab claiming the plane is capable of 12 hours of loitering time. The plane is equipped with an active electronically scanned array radar that has 360 degrees detection capability.

South Korean Navy insiders, meanwhile, said that because of South Korea's geographical location and the persistent North Korean threat there is a requirement for at least 60 MPAs. This they said is still smaller than the roughly 100 maritime reconnaissance planes operated by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force. (Yonhap)