Defense ministry shows off powerful new missiles

Posted on : 2012-04-20 15:36 KST Modified on : 2012-04-20 15:36 KST
Display of new weapon believed to be response to recent provocations by North Korea
 April 19. (provided by  Ministry of National Defense)
April 19. (provided by Ministry of National Defense)

By Lee Soon-hyuk, staff writer

Missiles capable of striking anywhere in North Korea were unveiled Thursday by the Ministry of National Defense. The showing of the missile represents the South Korean military’s response to North Korea’s recent unveiling of new missiles and acts of provocation.

The ministry screened a 40-second video of the missiles’ the launch, flight, and interception procedure. A ministry spokesperson said, “ballistic and cruise missiles developed with independent technology and equipped with the world’s best firepower and positioned for combat”.

The video showed the ballistic missile being launched from a mobile launch pad vehicle and releasing sub-munitions from the air to strike a ground target. The cruise missile was seen carrying out a precision strike on the side and surface of a target.

The military declined to reveal the time of positioning or the name or specifications for the missiles, citing military confidentiality. But analysts in and around the military said the ballistic missile was the Hyeonmu-2 and the cruise missile the Hyeonmu-3. The Hyeonmu-2 is a domestically developed ballistic missile with a firing range of 300 kilometers.

Defense ministry policy planning officer Shin Won-sik, an Army major general, said the ballistic missile unveiled Wednesday was capable of “leveling dozens of football fields” and “more powerful than the ATacMS.”

The ATacMS, or Army Tactical Missile System, was imported from the US and positioned for combat. It has a firing range of 300km and can deploy sub-munitions capable of leveling an area equivalent to four football fields.

The Hyeonmu-3, which is known to have a margin of error of around three meters, comes in A, B, and C models, with firing ranges of 500 km, 1,000 km, and 1,500 km, respectively.

Shin Won-sik said, “The cruise missile developed by the military is capable of a precision strike anywhere in North Korea and has the world‘s top accuracy.”

Ballistic missiles are launched vertically and exit the atmosphere before descending toward their target at speeds of around Mach 10, making them both devastating and difficult to intercept. Cruise missiles fly at low altitudes at approximately the speed of sound, making them capable of precision strikes but also relatively prone to interception.

South Korea-US missile guidelines limit ballistic missile firing range to 300 km but place no restrictions on cruise missiles.

The unveiling Thursday was coordinated with a visit by President Lee Myung-bak to the Agency for Defense Development.

“South Koreans have been concerned about provocative mechanics recently, including the North Korean missile threat,” said Shin, adding that the missiles were “aimed at announcing the precise capabilities of our armed forces and emphasizing our willingness to act without hesitation.”

But a military official questioned why the sudden announcement was made when such strategic weapons had never been unveiled in the past.

“I’m not sure this is a good idea,” the official said.


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