South Korea is in the final phase of developing an indigenous low-tier missile defense system to better cope with North Korea's growing missile threats, a military official here said Sunday.
All testing and evaluations of the M-SAM (medium-range surface-to-air missile) have been completed, and it now awaits a final process next month to determine its suitability for intended combat missions, the insider said on condition of anonymity.
"It is fair to say that we only have an administrative procedure to complete the development of the M-SAM," the official said.
The M-SAM, a core element of the country's Korea Air and Missile Defense system, aims to intercept incoming hostile ballistic missiles at altitudes of around 20 kilometers. It employs a hit-to-kill technology.
The state-run Agency for Defense Development, in tandem with LIG Nex1, has been developing the M-SAM by modifying the existing Cheongung surface-to-air missile. The military is expected to sign a contract to mass-produce it in the latter half of this year.
Seoul authorities aim to deploy the M-SAM between 2018 and 2019. They initially planned to deploy it in the early 2020s but moved up the deployment a year due to Pyongyang's escalating missile threats.
Seoul has been accelerating its efforts to build the KAMD, with the development of the M-SAM and the L-SAM, a long-range surface-to-air missile designed to shoot down hostile missiles at altitudes of 40-60 kilometers.
It hopes to build a low-tier multiple-interception defense system with the set of new interceptors and the existing ones -- PAC-2 and PAC-3 missiles. It also believes the ongoing deployment of the US Forces Korea's Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system will further strengthen defense against the North's provocations. (Yonhap)