South Korea will upgrade its present PAC-2 air defense system and buy PAC-3 missiles next year to improve its anti-ballistic missile capability against North Korea, the state arms procurer said Wednesday.
South Korea currently operates 48 PAC-2 missiles imported from Germany, and seeks to adopt the advanced interceptors as part of plans to build the indigenous Korea Missile Defense System. The missiles have an interception rate of less than 40 percent.
The project aims to buy "hit-to-kill" PAC-3 missiles with improved accuracy, and upgrade the PAC-2 fire control system to make it able to fire off both PAC-2 and PAC-3 missiles.
Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin approved the plan to open a bidding in June and finalize a contract by December.
After the South Korean parliament approved the acquisition plan in late 2013, U.S. aerospace giant Lockheed Martin has been in consultations to provide PAC-3 missiles, while another American defense contractor Raytheon is expected to be a main contractor for the PAC-2 upgrade program.
"Once the Patriot missile system is upgraded, it will be able to directly hit incoming missiles to reduce damage on the ground,"
Baek Yoon-hyung, spokesman for the Defense Acquisition Program Administration, said in a briefing.
The procurement agency also approved the plan to develop the multiple launch rocket system (MLR) to extend the current range to 70-80 kilometers by 2020.
South Korea currently operates 130 mm MLR with a range of 23-36 kilometers, which is far shorter than those of North Korea.
Pyongyang earlier this month fired off artillery with 300 mm multiple rocket launchers that flew over 150 km from its eastern coast, which is seen in a show of force against South Korea-U.S. joint military drills.
In addition, South Korea will spend 200 billion won ($186 million) in the next five years to develop 30 mm anti-aircraft missiles, by incorporating K-30 self-propelled guns and a portable ground-to-air guided missile named Shingung, the agency said. (Yonhap)