South Korea is planning to introduce overhauled S-3 Viking anti-submarine warfare (ASW) planes for countering North Korean threats.
A military program review group approved last month the proposal to incorporate 12 former US Navy Vikings into service, Yonhap news service reported Sunday.
The latest development took place after the Navy proposed taking over 20 Vikings that have been kept in storage since 2009. The Navy agreed to boost the South Korea's detection and attack capabilities against Pyongyang's submarine fleet.
The twin-turbofan powered planes served as the primary ASW platforms aboard US aircraft carriers. Such planes can augment South Korea's 16 four-engined P-3 Orion aircraft fleet as well as helicopters like the Lynx and Super Lynx. They can also bolster the country's short-range airborne ASW capabilities that have been left vacant after the retirement of the S-2 Tracker aircraft.
The Viking plan will be sent to the Defense Acquisition Program Administration for further assessment before it is approved by the national defense system committee that can give the final go-ahead.
There has been criticism that the S-3 is an outdated platform, but the Navy has argued that these planes are being maintained in "mothballs" and are fully capable of being used.
"Using the planes can give the country the ability to deal more effectively with underwater threats," a naval officer claimed.
The S-3s are much cheaper than buying completely new planes, he added.
Even though North Korea's submarine force is outdated, its fleet consists of diesel electric boats that are very hard to detect when they put to sea. Such boats can threaten South Korean and US naval ships in times of crisis as well as merchant ships, particularly in coastal waters.