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South Korea Is Developing The Ultimate SAM

April 2, 2022
Via South Korean defense ministry.

With all types of missile technology flourishing across the Asia-Pacific countries in the region are now keen to defeat these. The threat is very pronounced for South Korea as its government agencies and industrial partners are cooperating to develop an anti-ballistic missile countermeasure in record time. In late February the defense ministry announced it was testing the L-SAM, a new long-range missile with remarkable characteristics. (Pictured above.) The L-SAM, which shares a resemblance to the US-made RIM-66 SM3 missile, had separate test flights on a static and road mobile launcher. Further work is underway to fast track a separating maneuverable warhead it can be armed with.

While South Korea’s military possess robust air defenses that combine locally made and US-supplied weapon systems the rapid enlargement of North Korea’s nuclear-capable missiles needs to be addressed. Since 2017, when the North Korean rocket force successfully tested its first ICBM, the arsenal grew by leaps and bounds each year despite short-lived efforts at diplomacy. To make matters worse since 2020 the North Korean nuclear arsenal added at least two submarine-launched intermediate-range missiles; two long-range road mobile cruise missiles; another intermediate-range ballistic missile carrying a hypersonic glider; and many different tactical missiles for the ground forces.

As if these weren’t enough of a headache on March 24 an ICBM called the “Hwasong-17” was launched into low orbit proving it can deliver nuclear warheads anywhere in North America. The demonstration served as an unwelcome reminder how Kim Jong Un, who participated in the test attired in a leather jacket with matching aviator sunglasses, values national survival so much he will spare no expense deterring the US should relations collapse to the brink of war. Meanwhile, in South Korea, with diplomatic gestures under its current leadership proving fruitless many efforts are underway to counter the north’s strategic build up. The L-SAM is supposed to enhance the existing anti-ballistic defences that are in place with some sovereign control thrown in–the L-SAM should complement the THAAD supplied by the US. All testing is expected to wrap by 2024 and service entry is scheduled from 2026 until the late 2020s.

A few interesting details revealed about the L-SAM are the missile’s flight altitude and its role as both an anti-aircraft and anti-ballistic missile weapon system. When loaded on a transporter and networked with South Korea’s radars it’s meant to detect and eliminate waves of hostile aircraft and short-range ballistic missiles. The latter problem is where the L-SAM’s flight altitude matters. According to South Korean media it reaches targets as high as 50 to 60 km from the Earth’s surface. In other words each missile is effective at a ceiling of 200,000 feet high, or the space between the stratosphere and the mesosphere, which rivals the missiles used on the Russian-made S-400 and the US-made Patriot PAC-3. When launched against intermediate-range and intercontinental ballistic missiles the L-SAM’s separating warhead comes into play as it rapidly maneuvers to kill the target in low orbit.

For South Korea to direct its armed forces, with the full cooperation of the country’s military-industrial sector, on the L-SAM is proof it can harness vast internal resources for its own security. The L-SAM isn’t the only cutting edge civil-military program in the works as these span land warfare, naval warfare, and ongoing work on a stealth fighter with fully networked combat drone teaming. South Korea isn’t alone in rolling out an ambitious air defense system with superb performance characteristics. Its rival North Korea did overhaul its own air defenses while Japan has drawn plans to do the same. Meanwhile, throughout the Asian continent, China, India, Iran, Israel, Japan, Turkey, and the UAE are assembling their next-generation theater level air defenses in various stages, some are ahead of the rest but all are striving towards the same goal.

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