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S. Korea to deploy powerful anti-sub missile this month

A Korean-made powerful anti-submarine missile is expected to be deployed on one of the Navy’s Aegis-equipped destroyers later this month in a move to bolster its maritime defense capabilities.

Dubbed a “submarine killer,” the Hongsangeo missile with a range of 30 kilometers is regarded as one of South Korea’s key strategic weapons that could effectively deter North Korean submarine infiltrations. Hongsangeo means red shark in Korean.

Seoul has been trying to beef up its maritime security, particularly against Pyongyang’s asymmetric weapons systems. The torpedo that sank the corvette Cheonan near the tense western sea border last year is thought to have come from a midget submarine.

“Late last month, the Navy finished the installment of the launch system for Hongsangeo missiles on the destroyer, the Sejong the Great. Starting from Aug. 8, it began its final tests (on the system),” Rep. Song Young-sun of the minority Future Hope Alliance party said in a press release.

“Should there be any problems with the test results, the missile is to be deployed on it later this month. As it has a range of 30 kilometers, its operational deployment has a great meaning (in terms of maritime security).”

Song belongs to the National Assembly’s National Defense Committee.

Some military experts pointed out that the new missiles are of crucial importance particularly at a time China has been beefing up its naval capabilities. China has recently tested its first aircraft carrier Varyag, escalating foreign concern over its military expansion.

In collaboration with LIG Nex1, a local defense firm, the state-funded Agency for Defense Development spent nine years developing the missile since 2000 with a budget of 100 billion won ($92.5 million).

After launch, the missile flies to the area above where the target submarine is operating. The missile then deploys a torpedo, which then dives into the water to track and destroy the target submarine. The 5.7-meter-long missile carries a price tag of around 2 billion won.

ADD and LIG Nex1 have already made the Cheongsangeo light torpedo with a shorter range of 5 kilometers.

The Navy reportedly seeks to deploy the Hongsangeo missile on the country’s second Aegis destroyer, the Yulgok Yi Yi, by the end of this year and on the third one, the Seoae Ryu Seong-ryong, next year.

Under a project, codenamed KDX-III, South Korea has built three 7,600-ton Aegis destroyers to become the centerpiece of its strategic mobile fleet aimed at enhancing capabilities to deter North Korean aggression and conduct broader-range operations.

By Song Sang-ho (sshluck@heraldcorp.com)
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