SEOUL --- Europe's Airbus Defence & Space officially expressed its intention Thursday to join South Korea's US$1.75 billion project to procure naval patrol aircraft, saying it can provide an "optimal" solution for the Asian country's security needs.
Should the defense company join a bidding process for the project, a three-way competition is likely to emerge given that Boeing of the United States and Sweden's Saab have already voiced their interest.
Seoul's defense project promotion committee is expected to convene next month to decide whether to pick a single contractor or initiate an open tender for the first major defense procurement program since the Moon Jae-in administration took office a year ago.
"Based on our current understanding of Korea's budget and requirements, Airbus will be able to offer up to 20 C295 MPA. A larger fleet results in more effective and persistent coverage and allows Korea to respond to any potential threats more quickly," said Brian Kim, the head of sales at Airbus Korea Defence & Space.
"It is proven in service and is not just a concept aircraft. With its lower acquisition and operating costs, we estimate that operating the C295 MPA will result in significant savings for Korea," he added.
The C295 MPA aircraft is built based on its C295 military transport aircraft. The C295 platform is capable of conducting maritime and overland surveillance, anti-submarine warfare, and search and rescue missions.
Boeing is seeking to present its P-8 Poseidon, based on the 737-800ERX short-to-medium-range airliner, for Seoul's defense project, while Saab is pushing to present its Swordfish long-range, multi-role patrol aircraft.
Seoul's Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) initially considered introducing Boeing's P-8A through a government-to-government "foreign military sale" program.
But the possibility of a multiparty competition has been floated, with Saab having reportedly put forward favorable contract terms to Seoul, such as the possible transfer of high-tech radar technology.