Naval Aviation Command
The ROK Navy is building a structure suitable for three dimensional operations on surface, underwater and in the air. It will reform its force structure from coastal defense to omni-directional defense structure strong enough to uphold national interest including protecting the Sea Lines of Communications (SLOC) and marine resources and ensure the safety of the nation's maritime activities. The unit structure will shift from the current structure of 3 Fleet Commands, 1 Submarine Combat Group, and 1 Naval Aviation Wing to 3 Fleet Commands (FC), 1 Submarine Command (SC), 1 Naval Aviation Command (NAC), and 1 Maneuver Combat Group (MCG). These changes are designed to develop the ROK Navy's maneuver unit structure so as to enhance operational capabilities suitable for future battlefields.
The Naval Aviation Command operates a small fleet of aircraft to support naval fleet operations. Twenty-five Grumman S-2 aircraft, twenty-five Hughes 500-MD helicopters, and ten Bell SA-316 helicopters were shore based. They were deployed for surveillance of surface ships and for antisubmarine warfare.
Following the 2010 Cheonan incident, military authorities sought to readjust their operational and arms acquisition priorities, as the naval disaster revealed the lack of necessary equipment. For example, the Navy came under heavy fire for failing to swiftly respond to the incident. The service dispatched two minesweepers from the Southern Fleet command in Jinhae to the western waters to search for the wreckage, but the vessels arrived there nearly two days after the incident. The military plans to buy minesweeper and anti-submarine helicopters. Potential helicopters include the Sikorsky MH-60S Knighthawk and AgustaWestland EH101. Under the MH-X project, the Navy had requested to buy eight multi-mission helicopters with airborne mine countermeasures to find North Korean mines, but the program was put on the back burner mainly because of financial constraints. Compared with minesweepers, helicopters can defend larger areas faster; they can also lay mines in an enemy's littorals to hamper its ships or lock them into a harbor. The aircraft can also carry special forces into enemy territory.
The Navy added an upgraded antisubmarine surveillance aircraft to its combat assets. The Defense Acquisition Program Administration(DAPA) said 13 July 2016 that the P-3C patrol aircraft equipped with digital radar and sound detection systems was delivered to the Navy. The agency expected that the newest model is cost-effective in terms of operation, maintenance and future parts supply, as its devices are compatible with those of the previous P-3CK model introduced in 2010. An agency official said that once deployed, the upgraded patrol aircraft will considerably boost the South Korean military’s capabilities to counter enemy submarines. The agency plans to deliver eight P-3C aircraft to the military by next year.
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