S.Korea to Beef Up Missile-Detection Hardware

      April 10, 2009 12:31

      With North Korea getting closer to perfecting its ballistic rocket technology and hundreds of missiles aimed squarely at the South, defense officials in Seoul are stressing the need for advanced reconnaissance.

      The launch of a rocket by North Korea on Sunday was a learning experience for South Korea, which depends largely on the United States and its high-tech hardware to detect suspicious military activity in the North.

      In the weeks leading up to the launch, defense experts in Seoul made varied assessments, both positive and critical, on how South Korea's early warning system for identifying airborne missiles would fare.

      Although Seoul's Defense Ministry remains tight-lipped, sources close to officials there say the Navy's Aegis-class destroyer that was dispatched to the East Sea to monitor North Korea's rocket launch was dead-on. The ship, called King Sejong the Great, is equipped with a powerful radar that can pick up any flying object manned or unmanned within a 1 km range. Word has it the South Korean destroyer caught the rocket launch faster than the American and Japanese Aegis ships that were in the East Sea on Sunday. But South Korea had to rely on the North American Aerospace Defense Command in Colorado for tracking the projectile's flight path that reached beyond 1,000 km.

      Most surveillance missions over North Korean skies are done by U.S. spy satellites and reconnaissance aircraft, but South Korea is not completely blind or deaf. It has at least two reconnaissance planes that can eavesdrop on airwave communications anywhere in North Korea and film troop movement as far as 100 km north of the border.

      South Korea is expected to put three new Aegis destroyers into service by 2012, one currently being prepped and tested for deployment.

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