The acquisition is meant to enhance surveillance capabilities, especially against North Korea, which has seen an increase in tensions with South Korea in recent times and with which it is still technically at war.
Potential candidates for the South Korean tender include:
- Airbus Military's C-295 MPA
- Boeing's P-8 Poseidon
- Lockheed Martin's SC-130J Sea Hercules
Generally speaking, American companies have the advantage in South Korean tenders. The need for interoperability between South Korean and American equipment tends to favor the US, although that is not always the case.
The US plans to eventually acquire around 120 P-8 aircraft of which 7 have already been received. India, the only country so far to have placed an export order has recently received its first aircraft in May 2013.
In 2009 ordered 8 P-8I plus related equipment and services in a deal worth over $2 billion. The P-8I is a customized version with a different set of equipment fitted. India plans to place additional orders for P-8I aircraft.
South Korea currently has 8 P-3C and 8 P-8CK Orion MPA. The older P-3C are in the process of being upgraded to the P-3CK standard with updated equipment and the ability to fire new weapons such as the Harpoon II.