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Seoul describes new surface-to-surface missile

Aug 13,2019
South Korea plans to deploy a new type of tactical surface-to-surface ballistic missile known as “the artillery killer” by 2021 with the aim of deterring conventional weapon threats from the North.

The Korea Tactical Surface-to-Surface Missile, or KTSSM, was developed in 2017 by the Agency for Defense Development, a government-run defense research institute, and Hanwha and bears a similar capacity to the U.S. MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System, or Atacms.

It offers a rapid response capable of taking down artillery, multiple rocket launchers and short-range ballistic missiles from North Korea and has a maximum firing range of 120 kilometers (75 miles). Sources told Yonhap News on Monday that the South Korean military plans to operationally deploy the system by 2021 after testing is complete.

North Korea’s state media claimed that in tests Saturday, it had “perfectly realized” a new weapon that is believed to be a ballistic missile akin to the Atacms, suggesting that both Koreas are engaged in an arms race to develop conventional weapons capable of immobilizing the other’s artillery and other key targets in the event of a conflict.

Projectiles launched by Pyongyang twice in May and on July 25 are believed to be a domestic variant of the Russian-made Iskander missile system, called KN-23 by the South and the United States, while the weapons from tests on Aug. 2 and 6 were closer to rocket artillery, though apparently equipped with a guidance system.

Saturday’s test featured a new weapon altogether, one which state media provided very little detail about but said had a “tactical character different to the existing weapons systems.”

According to the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, the projectiles from this test flew a total distance of 400 kilometers with a peak altitude of 48 kilometers at Mach 6.1. Photographs of the missile and its launch process led analysts in Seoul to point out its similarities to the U.S. Atacms but with a faster speed. The missile in question also appeared longer than the Atacms, which is four meters long with a diameter of 400 millimeters (16 inches).

The warhead of the Atacms Block 1 missile contains around 950 M74 cluster bomblets that can rain damage on an area equivalent to three or four football fields.

If North Korea has successfully developed such a weapon, it may, along with its new KN-23 and large caliber multiple launch guided rocket launchers, possess the capacity to neutralize South Korea’s Air and Missile Defense (KAMD) and Kill Chain pre-emptive strike systems.

South Korea, however, claims that the North’s evolving arsenal poses no real threat to its defense. On Monday, a Blue House official told reporters that Seoul already possesses “the types of weapons that North Korea is currently testing,” and is actually far ahead in regard to such military capacities. “While I cannot elaborate on the specific weaponry, [reports alleging] that [South Korea] has no defensive or strike-down capacities [in regard to the North’s weapons] is not true,” the official said.

Examples the official gave proving the South had a superior arsenal included Patriot missile batteries as well as newer weapons that the official said Seoul was implementing to counter “continuously developing threats.”

Stressing that South Korea’s defense spending currently amounts to around 46 trillion won, up 8.4 percent compared to the beginning of the Moon Jae-in administration, the official added that it was Moon’s unwavering policy that peace would be maintained through strength.

BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [shim.kyuseok@joongang.co.kr]