Can N.Korea's New Missile Be Shot Down?

  • By Yu Yong-weon

    May 13, 2019 12:48

    South Korea was confused last week whether it would be able to shoot down the short-range Iskander-class missiles North Korea tested.

    A Defense Ministry official on Sunday said it would. "The latest Patriot PAC-3 MSE anti-missile system operated by U.S. troops in South Korea is capable of shooting down North Korea's latest missile."

    He added the South Korea military plans to deploy PAC-3 MSE systems starting in 2021.

    A missile is fired from a launcher in Kusong, North Pyongan Province on Thursday, in this grab from [North] Korean Central Television.

    The Patriot PAC-3 CRI anti-missile systems currently in use by the South Korean and U.S. militaries can engage targets at a maximum altitude of 15 to 20 km, while the Patriot PAC-3 MSE systems can engage targets flying up to an altitude of 40 km.

    But a military source said Iskander missiles can engage in evasive maneuvers at an altitude of less than 15 to 20 km. "At an altitude of more than 20 km, Iskander missiles move in the same trajectory as typical ballistic missiles and are capable of being shot down," he added.

    North Korea's Iskander missiles, which are based on the Russian version that was developed in the 2000s specifically aimed at thwarting the U.S. missile defense system, reach a maximum altitude of 40 to 50 km.

    But it is unclear if the U.S. conducted interception tests on missiles engaging in evasive maneuvers at that altitude when it developed the MSE system.

    The engagement ceiling of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense battery deployed by U.S. Forces Korea is also too low. Although government officials say USFK's Patriot PAC-3 MSE system can be used, its purpose is to defend U.S. military bases here, while Seoul's own system will not arrive until 2021, leaving the South vulnerable in the meantime.

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