South Korea Goes Indigenous for Its Missile Defense Needs

November 9, 2015

The Diplomat:

South Korea is going indigenous in its attempt to upgrade its missile defense capabilities. In 2006, the country announced that it would create the Korean Air and Missile Defense System (KAMD), an integrated air-land-sea structure for the detection and destruction of incoming North Korean missiles, including nuclear short-range ballistic missiles.

The hardware involved in KAMD currently consists mostly of U.S. and Israeli platforms. The U.S.-designed Patroit PAC-2 and 3, supported by the Israeli EL/M-2080 Green Pine radar, make up the mainstay of the South Korean land-based anti-missile arsenal.  At sea, the Republic of Korea Navy’s (ROKN) Sejeong the Great-class frigates and the Chungmugong Yi Sun-sin-class destroyers are equipped with the U.S. SM-2 Block IIIA/B missiles and AN/SPY-1 radar.

That might change. Seoul is set to complement the seaborne SM-2 with an indigenously designed and constructed missile. At the recent Seoul International Aerospace and Defense Exhibition 2015, South Korean company LIG Nex1 stated that the Korean Surface-to-Air Anti-Missile system (K-SAAM) is on track to be deployed to the ROKN by 2018. According to Jane’s, the 2.07 m long K-SAAM employs inertial mid-course guidance and a dual microwave and imaging infrared seeker for terminal guidance. Much of the details surrounding the weapon’s specifications are still classified.

The K-SAAM is a medium-range missile designed as a Close-in Weapons System (CIWS). As such, it would act as close protection for the ROKN warships that would be involved in defending South Korea’s coastal cities from attack by North Korean ballistic missiles and aircraft. K-SAAM is set to replace Raytheon’s Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM), the current system operated by the South Korean navy.

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