Seoul Finalizes P-3 Aircraft Buy

Last December, the Republic of Korea Ministry of National Defense signed to buy eight updated P-3B aircraft from the US, designated “Lot II. They have now begun a complete mission system modernization and service life extension to put them on par with the US Navy’s P-3C Update III configuration. The eight airplanes are being taken from the US Navy’s excess inventory of aircraft. The P-3B last flew with the US Naval Reserve in the early 1990s before being replaced by the P-3C Update II.5. The ROKN currently operates the P-3C Update III.

The upgrade of these airplanes includes a complete sensor suite and data management system plus a ground support system. Also included is a service life extension on the airframe, including a rebuild of the airplanes’ wings. The dollar value of the contract has now been set at $496 million.

The eight P-3Bs taken from the P-3B “lightweight” inventory in storage are so named because they are basically P-3As upgraded with the T-56-14 engine as opposed to the A’s less powerful T-56-10W power plant, but retaining the P-3A’s maximum allowable takeoff weight of 127,500 pounds. The heavyweight P-3B, which followed, was beefed-up to allow a max takeoff weight of 142,000 pounds. Since the aircraft are being taken from the “lightweight” inventory, they will not be the more capable TACNAVMOD P-3Bs last used by the US Navy, but earlier, P-3B DIFAR aircraft, so named because they carried an early version of directional sonobouy technology. These earlier aircraft also carried the older INS-42 inertial navigator, APN-153 doppler/airmass computer, ASA-16 tactical scope, and they lacked autopilot/tactical link capabilities of later P-3s. As such, they will need to be completely reconfigured with the newer gear. However. Since earlier P-3B aircraft have relatively few flight hours on the airframe, the ROKN is clearly expecting them to serve for some time. Korea had indicated interest in obtaining P-3C aircraft, but the combination of cost and high flight hours proved prohibitive.

The first aircraft is to be delivered to the ROK Navy by the end of 2006. Work on the first airplane is being done at L-3 Corporation’s Greenville, TX, plant, and production of the other seven will be done in Korea. All eight aircraft are to have been delivered by 2010.

The first of eight ex-US Navy P-3Bs is now being updated for the South Korean Navy