South Korea is developing a supersonic cruise missile that can be used to attack aircraft carriers, Aegis ships and up-to-date destroyers.
"Think tanks like the Agency for Defense Development have been developing a supersonic anti-ship cruise missile for some years now. They're expected to complete development in three to four years at the earliest," a government source said Tuesday.
The missile under development is modeled after Russia's powerful Yakhont missile, which is 8.9 m long and weighs 3 tons, but will be smaller, the source added. It will be able to reach speeds of up to Mach 2.5, with a range of 250-300 km.
Currently, the Navy has homegrown Haesung ship-to-ship missiles with a range of 150 km and the American-made Harpoon anti-ship missiles with the same range. But they can be intercepted by short-range anti-aircraft missiles or machine guns, as they fly slower than the speed of sound.
But supersonic missiles are harder to intercept as they fly fast a few meters above the surface. Russia has been developing various models to respond to American aircraft carriers. China and Japan already have such missiles or are developing them.
The missile South Korea is developing will also be capable of hitting targets on the ground, including North Korean coastal artillery batteries and long-range artillery.
But a military source said, "We're developing a supersonic cruise missile to cope with the threat from the navies of neighboring big powers rather than from North Korea."