The construction of a command and control system for the nation’s envisioned missile defense program has been delayed due to unspecified defects, the state defense acquisition agency said Thursday.
The postponement, revealed during the parliamentary audit of the administration, has added to growing security concerns as North Korea has strengthened its missile capabilities with its successful test-launch of a long-range rocket in December. Analysts believe the rocket had a range of up to 10,000 km.
According to a report it submitted to the National Assembly Committee on National Defense, the Defense Acquisition Program Administration said it expects the “Air and Missile Defense-Cell” to be completed by June next year.
The military had planned to complete the system by the end of last year.
The AMD-Cell is designed to detect incoming missiles based on information from early warning satellites and radar, and give an interception order to the Patriot Advanced Capability-2 missile unit.
To address the defects, the DAPA thought of purchasing new equipment from overseas or fixing them domestically. As it would take five to six years to bring in new equipment from abroad, the DAPA decided to fix the problems here, officials said.
Rep. Song Young-keun of the ruling Saenuri Party said that due to a delay in the construction of the AMD-Cell, the Israeli-made Green Pine early warning radar system, which has already been deployed, could not use its full capacity.
“The AMD-Cell along with the early warning radar system is the beginning point of South Korea’s missile defense program. When the two work together, each can exert its capacity 100 percent,” he said during the parliamentary audit.
Meanwhile, lawmakers grilled DAPA chief Lee Yong-gul during the parliamentary audit over the recent failure to pick a warplane for the country’s next-generation fighter procurement project worth 8.3 trillion won ($7.7 billion).
Rep. Kim Jin-pyo of the main opposition Democratic Party said, “The haphazard budget arrangement, inappropriate required operational capabilities and the inefficient decision-making process have led to the failure.”
He also pointed to the shortage of warplanes that the Air Force would be facing that would be caused by the decision to restart the acquisition project.
The Air Force has already started to see a shortage of combat planes. It is expected to lack some 100 fighters in 2019 when all of the F4s and F5s are to be decommissioned.
Last month, Seoul decided to start the procurement project from scratch amid criticism that it has paid more attention to candidates’ price tags than their capabilities and broader strategic interests. Officials say there will be a delay of at least one year in the plan to deploy 60 high-end warplanes from 2017-2021.
By Song Sang-ho (firstname.lastname@example.org)