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Laser Beams: S. Korea’s Solution To North Korean Aerial Surveillance

REUTERS/James Pearson

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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South Korea plans to independently develop or purchase laser weapons to eliminate North Korean drones, reports Yonhap News Agency.

“Amid growing worries about possible terror attacks by North Korea’s unmanned drones, we are planning to secure a high-precision weapon which can detect, trace, and hit a small aircraft,” a South Korean defense official told reporters.

Pyongyang had a collection of 300 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) as of January 2016, according to a 38 North report. North Korea has been developing its reconnaissance capabilities for more than two decades.

North Korea regularly sends drones across the demilitarized zone (DMZ). UAVs crossed over the DMZ multiple times in August. While the predominant theory is that the North’s UAVs are for spying on the South, there are concerns that Pyongyang will use its drone fleet for more nefarious activities.

North Korean UAVs are unsophisticated, but they still have the ability to cause destruction in the South. Pyongyang reportedly has seven types of UAVs for multiple purposes, covering everything from attack to reconnaissance.

The majority of North Korean drones are vulnerable to South Korean surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft guns; however, North Korean UAVs flew over the DMZ five times in August, and the South was unable to bring them down. Evidence suggests that numerous North Korean drones have skirted the DMZ and managed to avoid detection by the South. This gap in Seoul’s defenses is the reason the military is looking into advanced weapons systems.

“Depending on research and development results, it will be determined whether the country can produce and deploy its own air defense system. If not, the military plans to import a foreign air-defense system to counter North Korean unmanned aircraft,” an Agency for Defense Development official told Yonhap.

Hanwha Defense Systems is tasked with researching the new weapons system. The Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) is specifically looking into laser technology.

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