South Korea has a new weapon system to defend itself against North Korea’s growing arsenal of ballistic missiles.
South Korea announced Sunday that the Cheolmae-2, a medium-range surface-to-air missile (M-SAM) is ready for mass production. In a recent test, the hit-to-kill missile interceptor system brought down all five mock ballistic missiles, according to The Chosun Ilbo.
The new system, which eliminates targets at altitudes below 12.5 miles, will provide low-altitude air defense alongside U.S. Patriot Advanced Capability-3 systems. The U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, the first elements of which were deployed in March after North Korea fired off a salvo of extended-range Scud missiles in the East Sea/Sea of Japan, is the only system capable of offering high-altitude air defense. The THAAD system, which has encountered opposition, is operational and has achieved initial intercept capability.
The South Korean military is also developing a long-range surface-to-air missile system which can eliminate missiles at altitudes between 25 and 40 miles. The military has reportedly moved up the the target date for the completion of the missile defense system in response to North Korea’s rapid development of new missiles.
North Korea has tested over a dozen missiles this year, including new short-, medium-, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles, coastal defense cruise missiles, and surface-to-air missiles. The South Korean defense minister has said that the North’s missile program is progressing at a rate much faster than initially expected. There are serious concerns that the North may soon test an intercontinental ballistic missile.
While the ICBM threat is of great concern to the U.S., South Korea and Japan are worried about the very real threat already posed by North Korea’s large stockpile or reliable shorter-range missiles. The North’s massive collection of artillery units is also cause for concern in the South.
South Korea announced the development of a new radar system able to detect North Korean artillery in April. The radar can detect artillery 40 miles away.
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