ROK’s Naval Aviation Acquisition Programs in 2018: Plans and Outcomes
What ROK has now
South Korea has two major types of naval aircraft: fixed-wing patrol aircrafts and patrol helicopters, both configured for anti-submarine warfare. The aircraft fleet is rather old-fashioned and needs upgrading, especially in terms of radar technologies. As for particular models of aircraft, South Korea currently possesses the following:
- 8 P-3C Orion and 8 P-3CK Orion – modifications of P-3 Orion, designed by Lockheed precisely to conduct anti-submarine operations. ROK tries to upgrade these aircrafts, but the purchase of successor model is apparently a more preferable option;
- 5 Cessna F406 Caravan II – light transport aircraft, operated by South Korea since the late 1990s;
- 11 Lynx MK99 and 12 Lynx MK99A – the key force of ROK’s naval aviation, multipurpose helicopters equipped with anti-submarine radars. Both models, however, are expected to be replaced by different aircraft as well;
- 8 AW159 Wildcat – improved version of Lynx helicopter, most modern model among the rest of Korean naval aircraft;
- 3 Sud-Aviation Alouette III, 8 UH-60P and 7 UH-1 Iroquois – classic helicopters, playing a supporting role.
What ROK is planning to acquire
The urge to enhance ROK military capabilities doesn't necessary relate to quantitative buildup or acquirement of offensive weapon systems, but focuses on a “generational change” in technologies and comprehensive modernization of the equipment
What problems ROK is facing
Whereas aircraft purchase seems profitable for Korean Navy and the aircrafts are very convenient in terms of interoperability between ROK and its allies, some points of consideration nevertheless occur. Korea still needs to upgrade its aging auxiliary naval aviation, i.e. transport aircrafts, and this matter hasn’t even yet become a subject of governmental discussion. But more crucially, Korea is facing now a problem of technical safety: before the introduction of the first batch of AW159s in 2016, a special DAPA’s expert group has conducted the tests of the helicopters and presented the fake reports with deliberate distortion of Wildcats actual characteristics afterwards. Such case has drawn an attention to any new procurements, and in the light of recent KAI Marineon helicopter crash (which was caused by the defective part from foreign manufacturer), Korea should really carry out any possible checkups to restore the credibility of foreign military equipment safety standards.