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​ADEX: Big MPAs hunt for Seoul maritime requirement

Industry players expect South Korea to issue a formal requirement for new antisubmarine warfare (ASW) aircraft.

Boeing and Saab had a high profile presence at this year's ADEX, discussing their ASW capabilities. This follows a promotional visit by the Airbus Defence & Space C295 maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) in mid-2017.

Boeing and the US Navy briefed reporters on the P-8A Poseidon, of which 61 have entered service with the US Navy. This included a tour of a navy P-8A that appeared on static.

They stressed the aircraft's weapons carriage and sensor suite. They also discussed a search and rescue kit that can be deployed from the aircraft's weapons bay. Several industry executives mentioned that rapid SAR is a priority for Seoul following the sinking of a ferry in 2014 that claimed the lives of 304, most of them children.

Saab promoted its Swordfish MPA, which it would base on the Bombardier Global 6000 airframe. Though the aircraft has yet to be developed, Saab stressed that it would be a capable, affordable system. The company also holds forth the prospect of extensive South Korean industry participation.

Saab's analysis indicates that up to eight torpedoes or other weapons could be carried on four wing hardpoints.

Saab also feels that South Korea may have a need for Airborne Early Warning & Control aircraft in addition to its in-service 737 AEW&C aircraft. For this possible requirement, it is offering its Globaleye system, which can also be deployed on the Global 6000.

Having both its ASW & AEW&C aircraft based on the same aircraft would offer a sensible degree of commonality, say Saab officials.

No formal requirements, however, have been issued for either new ASW or AEW&C aircraft.

John Balderston, senior director of business development Korea for Lockheed Martin, says that Seoul's MPA/ASW requirements appear to have moved toward a larger aircraft since the last iteration of ADEX in 2015.

At that time, Lockheed was actively promoting 12 former US navy S-3 Viking aircraft. Balderston says that while Seoul liked the capability that would have been offered by refurbished S-3s, it became concerned by the type's retirement from US military service.

He feels that the S-3 still offers opportunities for Seoul, with extensive industrial participation in the offing.

Meanwhile, upgrade work on eight Korean navy Lot 1 P-3C Orions continues. Five have received upgrades, and the final three will complete the programme in 2018.

The work is being undertaken by Korean Air. It takes five months per aircraft, and sees upgrades primarily to sensors an avionics. When the upgrade of the Lot 1 aircraft is completed, all of Seoul's 16 P-3Cs will be of Lot 2 standard.

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