Korea Develops Aircraft Interceptor Missile

      December 16, 2011 13:27

      The Agency for Defense Development has developed the medium-range surface-to-air missile dubbed "Cheongung" or "Iron Hawk" II, a spokesman said on Thursday. Korea is the fifth country after Russia, France, Taiwan and Japan to have developed such a weapon. The U.S. is currently developing a high-tech medium-range surface-to-air missile in cooperation with Italy and Germany.

      The Cheongung missile will be deployed from 2013. In the second phase from next year until 2018, the ADD plans to turn the Cheongung into a ballistic interceptor missile, which would lay the groundwork for a Korean version of the Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC)-3.

      The Cheongung has a range of up to about 40 km and is aimed at intercepting aircraft flying at an altitude between 10-15 km. It cost W430 billion (US$1=W1,163) to develop over five years. It will replace the American-made Hawk, which has been the Air Force's main surface-to-air weapon since 1964.

      The ADD began development of the Cheongung in 2006, but started research in 2001 based on Russia's S-400 missile system. In cooperation with Russia, a Korean engineering team replaced a massive Russian radar system with a small device, which can be installed on a truck. The team also began research on a missile propulsion system based on the small Russian-made 9M96 missile. The radar is installed at the head of the missile to let it trace its own target.

      Staff of the Agency for Defense Development demonstrate the Cheongung surface-to-air missile in Daejeon on Thursday. /Yonhap

      Each Cheongung battery consists of a multi-function radar, a firing control system, a launch pad, and eight missiles, according to Lee Hee-chul of the ADD. The multi-function radar is capable of detecting and tracing incoming enemy aircraft, identifying friend or foe, and guiding missiles. It can intercept up to six aircraft simultaneously, whereas the Hawk can intercept only one at a time.

      The Cheongung has a vertical launching system. Once it is launched into air based on a piston system, the missile's rocket motor ignites and the missile is guided by the radar. The missile can change direction quickly and has little chance of being detected by the enemy because it gives off little flare. Equipped with anti-electronic warfare capabilities, the missile system can keep functioning despite electronic jamming maneuvers.

      The ADD plans to further develop the Cheongung as a PAC-3-level ballistic interceptor missile. It will have to increase the Cheongung's altitude to 30 km and its range to 100-150 km.

      A military source said seven out of eight Cheongung missiles hit targets in firing tests using "hit-to-kill" technology. Hit-to-kill is a key technology in the missile interception system. The ADD is carrying out comprehensive tests using computer-based modeling and simulation in efforts to achieve similar test results without the need for live firing tests, which cost hundreds of billions.

      The ADD believes the Cheongung is worth W3.74 trillion to Korea, about 4.5 times the investment amount, because it saves money on imports.

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