Experts have called on the government to review plans to import Israeli-made missiles with a budget of W58 billion to launch precision strikes on North Korea's coastal artillery batteries because they fall short of expectations (US$1=W1,111).
Seoul decided to purchase the Spike NLOS (Non Line Of Sight) missiles right after the North shelled Yeonpyeong Island in November 2010, with a view to firing a precision-guided missile from Baeknyeong or Yeonpyeong Island in immediate response to another North Korean artillery attack.
The current K-9 self-propelled guns deployed on the islands are unsuitable for the task. The Air Force's F-15K or KF-16 fighter jets could destroy the North's coastal artillery batteries with missiles, but they cannot respond immediately because they take off from an air base in the central part of the country. In addition, they can only be scrambled if the weather is good.
The Spike missile has a range of 25 km and is allegedly capable of hitting a window-size target.
The military initially wanted to buy the Spike missiles without tests, given that they had already been sold to the U.K. and other countries. But when military officers checked the missile in Israel, they found that it failed to meet their requirements for the electro-optical infrared system.
A military source said, "The area near Baeknyeong and Yeonpyeong Islands is often foggy. In the circumstances, the existing Spike missile is unsuitable for precision strikes on North Korean coastal artillery pieces hidden in caves."
The military asked Israel to improve the infrared system. This delayed deployment from early 2011 until late 2012. South Korean officers tested about a dozen Spike missiles in Israel on three occasions in October and November last year and in January this year, and most of them failed.
Only in the fourth test early this month did all three missiles hit their targets. Based only on the outcome of that test, the military now wants to deploy the missiles on Baeknyeong and Yeonpyeong islands as early as next month.
But a military source called for another test in a different environment, saying, "The tests were conducted in a flat desert area in Israel, which is different from our operational environment where we have to destroy North Korean artillery hidden in caves across the sea."
Seoul wants to buy 60 Spike missiles and two launch vehicles.