Hongsangeo, an indigenous antisubmarine torpedo, has passed a final live-fire test after a series of failed trials that led to the suspension of its production in September 2012, the state defense acquisition agency said Monday.
During a performance test on May 7, one practice Hongsangeo torpedo and one live one were tested. Both hit the intended targets, the Defense Acquisition Program Administration said. Except for explosives, the practice torpedo has all the same components as the live one.
In the second round of testing last Friday, a live Hongsangeo torpedo struck its target again, eventually meeting the passing criterion of three consecutive successful performances. During the previous tests, the DAPA set the accuracy rate at 75 percent, lower than the latest criterion.
“We have identified and improved the torpedo’s components that were malfunctioning due to the shock sustained when it lands on the water,” said a DAPA official, declining to be named. “After the final deliberation procedure, we expect the production of Hongsangeo to begin sometime next month.”
In collaboration with LIG Nex1, a local defense firm, the state-funded Agency for Defense Development had spent nine years developing the torpedo since 2000 with a budget of 100 billion won ($97.6 million). “Hongsangeo” means “red shark” in Korean.
Upon its launch, the torpedo flies to the area above where the target submarine is operating. It then nosedives into the water to track and destroy the submarine. The 5.7-meter-long missile, weighing 820 kg, carries a price tag of 1.8 billion won.
Dubbed a “submarine killer,” the Hongsangeo is regarded as one of South Korea’s key strategic weapons to effectively deter North Korean submarine infiltrations.
Seoul has been trying to beef up its capabilities to detect and strike North Korean submarines since one of Pyongyang’s midget submarines torpedoed the South Korean corvette Cheonan in March 2010, killing 46 sailors.
Since that year, the first batch of 50 Hongsangeo torpedoes have been deployed on the Navy’s high-end destroyers such as its Aegis destroyers. But the production of the torpedo stopped after one Hongsangeo failed to hit its target during a test launch in July 2012.
Following the failure in 2012, five practice Hongsangeo and three live ones were tested between September 2012 and February last year. Only five of them hit their targets, thus failing to meet the 75 percent accuracy rate required for combat deployment.
“Our successful improvement of the quality of the Hongsangeo has served as an opportunity to improve systems to deploy other high-tech guided weapons systems,” said DAPA chief Lee Young-geol. “With our up-to-date technology and data accumulated during our operation of the weapons systems, we will continuously upgrade the precision weapons.”
By Song Sang-ho (firstname.lastname@example.org)