Saturday, February 12, 2011

Seoul To Deploy New Shipboard Cruise Missile

SEOUL - South Korea's Navy will equip some of its Aegis destroyers with 500-kilometer cruise missiles by year's end, part of an effort to aim more precision-strike weapons at North Korea, a government source and the missile's manufacturer here said Feb. 8.
"We're considering equipping the KDX-II/III destroyers with the newly developed Cheonryong, as the missile could effectively strike key targets in the North, such as ground-to-ship missile bases," the source said.
A modified variant of the surface-to-surface Hyunmoo III-A ballistic missile, a ship-launched Cheonryong could hit North Korea's ground-to-ship missile bases and coastal artillery batteries should the North launch an attack again, a source said.
The missile was developed by the state-run Agency for Defense Development and LIG Nex1, a precision electronic weapons maker.
South Korea's Ministry of National Defense and Defense Acquisition Program Administration neither confirmed nor denied the missile's development or deployment.
An official at LIG Nex1 confirmed, however, that the production of the Hyunmoo III-A missile has begun.
The North has occasionally fired short-range surface-to-ship missiles, including ones believed to have been modified either from Silkworm or KN01 missiles, into the seas east and west of the Korean peninsula.
"Ship-to-ground missiles have a wider and more flexible range than ground-launched ones," the source said.
He said the Cheonryong could also be fitted to a 3,000-ton heavy attack submarine to be locally developed beginning in 2018. Three 3,000-ton submarines are scheduled to be built under the 2.5 trillion won ($2.2 billion) KSS-III project.
The South Korean Navy operates six 4,500-ton KDX-II and two 7,600-ton KDX-III Aegis-equipped destroyers. One more KDX-III is to be commissioned.
YTN, a local cable TV news channel, reported that the Cheonryong missile had already been modified to be installed on the Navy's 1,800-ton Type-214 submarines. The Navy has three and aims to launch six more Type-214s before 2020.
Last year, defense officials here revealed the development of the Hyunmoo III-C surface-to-surface ballistic missile with a maximum range of 1,500 kilometers, following the deployment of the 1,000-kilometer-range Hyunmoo III-B.
While the Hyunmoo I ballistic missile has a range of 180 kilometers and the Hyunmoo II a range of 300 kilometers, the Hynmoo III can reach China and parts of eastern Russia with a margin of error of 5 meters, aided by a Terrain Contour Matching system, according to the LIG Nex1 official.
The development of long-range cruise missiles doesn't violate international guidelines restricting Seoul's missile technology.
Under a 2001 agreement with the United States, South Korea restricts its missile capability to a range of 300 kilometers and a 500-kilogram payload to comply with the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).
The regime only applies to high-velocity, free-flight ballistic missiles, so the South Korean military has instead deployed slower, surface-skimming cruise missile with ranges of 1,000 to 1,500 kilometers.
Against that backdrop, South Korea and the United States began consultations late last year on revising the decade-old guidelines.
Seoul wants to extend the missile range up to 1,000 kilometers to bring all of North Korean missile sites and key facilities within reach.
However, U.S. officials are cautious about the issue because Seoul's increased missile capability could cause a backlash from China and Japan, as well as North Korea, according to sources.
North Korea is believed to have more than 600 Scud missiles with a range of 320 to 500 kilometers, and 200 Rodongs with a range of 1,300 kilometers. It also is developing a 6,700-kilometer intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that could reach part of the U.S. mainland.
In recent years, North Korea is reported to have established an Army division to take control of its 3,000-kilometer-range intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs), which could hit U.S. military installations in Japan and Guam.
The North deployed IRBMs in 2007 after it started developing a midrange ballistic missile in the late 1990s, according to Seoul's 2008 defense white paper.

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