Three foreign aerospace firms ― Boeing, Saab and Airbus ― are expected to bid for Korea's lucrative maritime patrol aircraft project.
In February, the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) unveiled its plan to sign a deal with an overseas aircraft manufacturer to introduce next-generation maritime patrol aircraft by 2020.
The project is worth 1.9 trillion won ($1.76 billion). Boeing has presented its P-8A Poseidon as a candidate model for the project, while Saab from Sweden is competing with its Swordfish long-range maritime patrol aircraft.
Airbus Defense and Space (DS) also expressed its willingness Tuesday to join the bidding process with its C295 Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA), a multi-role aircraft derived from the C295 military purpose transport aircraft.
"If the government adopts an open tender process for the project, we are willing to compete with other aircraft manufacturers," an Airbus spokesman said.
The company also plans to promote the new patrol aircraft on Thursday in Seoul by holding a press conference.
Initially, DAPA considered introducing the P-8A under the Foreign Military Sales program with the U.S. defense department. But the defense acquisition unit is opening the possibility to have a competitive bidding for the project.
DAPA plans to hold a meeting as early as this month to decide the form of the contract for the project.
The Republic of Korea Navy currently uses the P-3 patrol aircraft. But in a defense acquisition meeting in February, the defense ministry and DAPA decided to adopt new surveillance aircraft that offer a longer flight duration and heavier weapons payload.
Boeing's P-8A can fly at a maximum speed of 907 kilometers per hour. The aircraft is derived from Boeing 707 jet airliner.
To compete against Boeing, Saab mulls transferring its high-tech radar technology for Korea's KF-X fighter jet development project.