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S Korea navy to deploy eight more P-3CK aircraft

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A file photo of P-3C Orion aircraft at service in S Korean navy

SEOUL (AFP): South Korea's navy will deploy eight more advanced maritime patrol aircraft this year to guard against any military threats from North Korea or elsewhere, the navy said on Monday.

The first of eight refurbished P-3CK aircraft from the United States will be delivered to a naval unit on Tuesday, a navy statement said.

The countries' disputed Yellow Sea border has been tense since a firefight last November left a North Korean patrol boat in flames. In late January the North fired some 370 shells into the sea near the borderline.

Last week it announced new naval firing zones off its shores, banning shipping from them, although no firing has so far been reported.

South Korea, a close US ally, already has eight P-3C Orion aircraft built by Lockheed Martin in service.

The navy said the more advanced P-3CKs would carry better surveillance equipment and weaponry, like Harpoon Block II air-to-ground missiles, to hit "the enemy's coastal artillery units or missile launchers."

No cost figures were given. Yonhap news agency said the eight new planes would cost a total of USD 550 million.

The Yellow Sea border was the scene of deadly naval battles in 1999 and 2002.

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