Saab, a Swedish defense firm, has offered its Swordfish maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) for South Korean Navy’s requirement to procure six new aircraft to supplement its MPA fleet of 16 P-3C and P-3CK Orion planes in service.
According to Yonhap, Saab argued Wednesday that its Swordfish aircraft is an optimum model for use by South Korea's Navy, which is seeking to bolster its ability to counter North Korea's submarines, some of which are equipped with ballistic missiles. The firm said it is willing to transfer some technologies to 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 active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar that has 360 degrees detection capability.
The Defence Acquisition Program Administration plans to issue a request for proposals to foreign aircraft makers as early as May, which is reportedly worth 1.94 trillion won (US$1.81 billion).
The report noted that DAPA is reviewing basic information on candidate planes before issuing a formal request for proposals to potential bidders.
Initially, Boeing's P-8 Poseidon was considered the favorite to win the contract.
According to Saab officials, Swordfish MPA has "70 percent of commonality" of systems with various other Saab products, with decades-long and far-reaching expertise. The remaining 30 percent is about integrating weapons and other systems.
"It's going to take roughly 36 months from order to delivery," Vice President Robert Hewson, head of the company's communications for Asia Pacific, said at a press conference in Seoul, although the exact schedule will depend on the customer's specific requirements.
He claimed Swordfish is cheaper to get and own alike.
Compared to Poseidon, it is "approximately two thirds the acquisition cost and 50 percent the operating cost over the lifetime," he said. "You will be able to buy more aircraft for a fixed amount of money. And the cost to own is much more important than the cost to buy."
The price of a P-8 plane is known to be 250-280 billion won. It means South Korea will be able to purchase five to six P-8s if it chooses the aircraft. In case of Swordfish, the number increases to around 10.
However, the report noted that South Korea's Navy officials are openly hoping for MPAs with the class at least of P-8. They also point out the interoperability with other U.S.-made assets in use by South Korea's military.