South Korea will likely buy European long-range air-to-surface cruise missiles by 2014. Launched from the air above Daejeon, the Taurus KEPD 350s could hit an underground bunker in Pyongyang with precision.
A military officer said Wednesday price negotiations with Taurus Systems, a German-Swedish joint venture, will start soon since the missile has found favor with the brass here.
The Taurus would be the first strategic weapon Seoul has imported from Europe rather than the U.S.
The only long-range missiles in the Air Force's inventory are 40-odd SLAM-ER missiles with a range of 278 km, which were made by Boeing. An Air Force officer said, "We urgently need more long-range air-to-surface missiles due to the mounting nuclear threat and the increasing possibility of provocations from North Korea."
The Taurus has a range of 500 km. Launched from South Korean airspace that is not under threat from North Korean surface-to-air missiles, they could hit strategic targets like nuclear and missile bases in the rear with precision.
The country is expected to buy about 200 of them, to be mounted on F-15K or KF-16 fighter jets.
The Taurus has a dual-stage "blast/fragmentation" and/or "penetrator" warhead capable of penetrating up to 6 m of reinforced concrete. It is very accurate: despite a range of hundreds of kilometers, it has an error rate of a mere 2 to 3 m.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Defense Department said it has deployed another Aegis destroyer, the USS Decatur, to waters near the Korean Peninsula to guard against possible North Korean provocations.
Like the USS McCain, which was dispatched here earlier, the Decatur is an Arleigh Burke-class Aegis destroyer armed with SM-3 and Tomahawk cruise missiles that can intercept incoming ballistic missiles. It arrived in the western Pacific to "perform a missile defense mission," U.S. Defense Department spokesman George Little said.