South Korea to buy more Patriot missiles, upgrade launchers

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SEOUL — South Korea has approved a plan to buy more Lockheed Martin-made Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles to enhance its defense against North Korea’s ballistic missile threat.

The plan, which was endorsed May 30 by a top decision-making committee of the Defense Acquisition Program Administration, the government will spend 750 billion won (U.S. $600 million) over the next five years to procure PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement weapons. The government did not disclose a quantity for the missile interceptors.

The DAPA committee also approved a plan to upgrade the existing PAC-2 launchers for use with PAC-3 platforms. The PAC-2 launcher enables missiles to intercept hostile targets at an altitude of about 20 kilometers (12 miles), whereas the PAC-3 launcher can destroy incoming missiles at an altitude of 40 kilometers.

The PAC-3 MSE uses a two-pulse, solid-fuel rocket motor that increases altitude and range to defend against evolving threats. “The latest decision to get more PAC-3 interceptor missiles is aimed at improving the existing air defense system over the Seoul metropolitan area and key state facilities,” DAPA said in a statement. “The buy of more PAC-3 missiles will help enhance our missile defense capability to thwart the ballistic missile threat.”

South Korea’s decision to boost its missile intercepting capability came about a week after its northern neighbor fired three ballistic missiles, including a possible intercontinental ballistic missile, toward waters off the Korean Peninsula’s east coast. The missiles were fired shortly after U.S. President Joe Biden wrapped up a trip to the region, where he pledged efforts to strengthen deterrence against the North’s increasing nuclear threat.

South Korea has been developing its own a missile shield, called the Korea Air and Missile Defense, a terminal-phase, lower-tier, overlapping missile defense system. The KAMD consists of an early warning system, a command-and-control system, and an intercept system.

For interception, the South Korean military has acquired Patriot missiles and medium-range surface-to-air missiles. It is also developing a long-range surface-to-air missile system with an extended intercept range using domestic technology as part of efforts to help improve its capability to defeat incoming ballistic missiles.

Brian Kim is the South Korea correspondent for Defense News.

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Tony Beasley
Tony Beasley writes for the Local News, US and the World Section of ANH.