South Korea recently received the first 3 P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft out of the total 6 units ordered from the US to protect its territorial waters from surface and sub-surface threats originating from North Korea. These new P-8A aircraft will replace the ageing fleet of 16 P-3C/K Orion maritime patrol aircraft, which have been in service with the Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) since 1994. The induction of these aircraft will significantly enhance the operational readiness and maritime defence capabilities of ROKN, according to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

GlobalData’s latest “Fleet Size Dashboard” reveals that as of June 2024, the US supplied P-8 aircraft to many of its allies in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, including Australia (14 ordered and 12 delivered), India (12 ordered and 12 delivered), New Zealand (4 ordered and 4 delivered), and South Korea (6 ordered and 3 delivered).

Harpreet Sidhu, Aerospace and Defense Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “With the induction of the P-8A aircraft, South Korea not only improves its maritime defence capabilities but also enhances its interoperability with the US and other APAC allies such as India, Australia, and New Zealand. However, unlike South Korea, the P-8 procurements by other APAC countries are mainly geared towards mitigating the threat of Chinese submarines in the Indo-Pacific region.”

GlobalData’s dashboard also reveals that 50% of ROKN’s fixed-wing aircraft fleet has an average age of 20–30 years, while 25% has an average age of less than 10 years. This reflects that South Korean policymakers are ensuring that the ROKN possesses a fairly modern and capable fleet of military platforms. The average age of the fixed-wing aircraft fleet will further diminish as new aircraft continue to replace older platforms in the coming years.

Sidhu concludes: “As North Korea operates the largest number of submarines in the world, securing its coastline and territorial waters from sub-surface threats is of paramount importance for South Korea. Procurement of potent anti-submarine warfare platforms such as the P-8s will help South Korea to effectively monitor and deter submarine activities by adversarial forces.”

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