South Korea unveiled five new weapons and technologies on 15 September 2021, testing two of them on the day. A submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) and a long-range air-to-surface missile. Not tested last week but unveiled on the occasion, the supersonic anti-ship missile “developed sometime last year is capable of responding to enemy naval forces approaching South Korean waters, according to the Blue House.
A new supersonic missile that seems to be based on the Russian Yakhont will provide the anti-surface warfare (ASuW) punch of the ROK Navy’s future KDDX and KDX III Batch 2 destroyers.
It is known that South Korea’s indigenous supersonic cruise missile, shown to the public with K-SLBM (Hyunmoo 4-4) by the Blue House and the Ministry of National Defense (MND) on September 15, is capable of precisely striking Chinese aircraft carriers and other hostile ships in Western and Eastern Seas of the Korean Peninsula with the speed around Mach 2-3.
South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) released videos of the test launch twice on September 15 and 17. The first video demonstrated the supersonic missile invisibly passing through the target net on a barge ship. The other one showed the missile precisely destroying the metal pole supporting the net. The test shows that the missile is capable of targeting the waterline of large-sized ships like an aircraft carrier.
Also, both the initial launch and appearance resembled that of the Russian P-800 Yakhont (and its Indian derivative, the BrahMos), confirming previous media coverage on rumors that the South Korean military develops its local supersonic cruise missile by using Russian technology. Yakhont can hit a target from 300 to 600 km with a high speed of Mach 3.
The media evaluated this as a possible “aircraft carrier killer” or anti-ship missile, giving South Korea a security advantage. Considering that North Korean cruise missiles that were launched a few days earlier than the South reportedly showed the speed of Mach 0.58, proving that Seoul’s new cruise missiles are two times faster at least. North Korea still lacks national capabilities to intercept supersonic or hypersonic cruise missiles.
The MND is developing three types of supersonic cruise missiles: surface-to-ground, ground-to-surface, and surface-to-surface. The one that was unveiled on September 15 was a ground-to-ship model. Launched from the ground against naval ships at sea, it can strike all vessels in the region if deployed near coastal areas such as Baekryeong and Ulleung Islands, meaning that the maximum firing range reaches up to 500km. The missile could be a formidable anti-access/area denial (A2AD) weapon system, denying the sea control of the Chinese Navy’s carrier strike group in the future.
“With improved speed, the new missile will make it very difficult for enemy warships to respond, leading to the missile’s higher survivability and destructive power. It is expected to serve as a core asset to counter forces that approach our territorial waters.”
South Korea’s MND
However, detailed specifications of the new cruise missile of the Agency for Defense Development (ADD) and local missile manufacturer LIG Nex1 are still unclear. Experts speculate that it might be a bit smaller than Yakhont, with 6.6 meters long, 53 centimetres of diameter, 1.5 tons of weight, and 250 kg of warhead payloads, based on precise guidance equipment and stealth technology to avoid detection by enemy radars. Currently, forward-deployed anti-ship and cruise missiles mostly glide at the subsonic speed of Mach 0.5-0.7. Close-in weapon systems (CIWS) and anti-air defense systems are thus optimized for subsonic interception.
The successfully developed supersonic cruise missiles will be placed on the next-generation destroyer KDDX and Aegis destroyer batch-2.
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