PAC-2 missile interceptor
By Jung Sung-ki
Advanced Patriot missile defense systems from Germany have been deployed on South Korean Air Force bases and unidentified locations nationwide, in an apparent move to counter the increasing threat of North Korean missiles, a military source said Tuesday.
The deployment of upgraded Patriot Advanced Capability-2 (PAC-2) systems is a core part of Seoul's plan to build an independent theater missile defense shield, dubbed the Korean air and missile defense (KAMD) network system.
The KAMD, also involving Aegis destroyer ship-to-air missile defense systems, is designed to intercept low-flying, short- and medium-range missiles from North Korea. The North is believed to have deployed more than 600 Scud missiles with a range of 320 to 500 kilometers, and 200 Rodong missiles that can hit Japan, near the border.
The low-tier missile shield is expected to reach initial operational capability by 2010, while full operational capability is expected by 2012 when a ballistic missile early warning radar is to be introduced. That's also when three 7,600-ton KDX-III Aegis-equipped destroyers will begin service.
``The German PAC-2 systems have recently been delivered to South Korea's Air Force and are being deployed at Air Force bases and other sites,'' the source told The Korea Times on condition of anonymity.
German missile technicians and soldiers who operated the systems are staying in South Korea to help install the Patriots at designated sites, he added.
Another source said some have been deployed in Yeongjongdo Island, Incheon, an Air Force base in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province and Mount Hwangbyeong in Gangwon Province, while other systems are at a testing and evaluation site of the Agency for Defense Development in Seosan, South Chungcheong Province.
Lt. Col. Moon Chae-wook at the Air Force's public affairs office in Seoul declined to confirm this, citing the sensitivity of the issue. He said the Air Force doesn't have a plan to make the new systems public because it could unnecessarily provoke North Korea.
Last year, the Defense Acquisition Program Administration approved the $1 billion SAM-X project to purchase 48 second-hand PAC-2 launch modules, radars and missiles, including the Patriot Anti-Tactical Missile and Guidance Enhanced Missile Plus (GEM+) from Germany.
The agency also signed a contract to buy ground-control equipment from Raytheon of the United States to support two Patriot system battalions. A battalion is usually made up of three units, each of which has eight missile launchers and a command center.
A top official of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said the terminal KAMD system aims to take down North Korean missiles approximately 40 kilometers north of Seoul.
In 2006, Pyongyang test-fired a series of missiles off the eastern coast toward Japan, including a Taepodong-2 ballistic missile with a range of 6,700 kilometers, enough to hit the United States with a light payload. North Korea's short-range missiles pose a grave threat to South Korea and U.S. troops in the South, missile experts say, because they could reach South Korean territory within a few minutes.
South Korea originally planned to deploy more advanced PAC-3 systems to replace its aging ground-to-air Nike Hercules missiles in 2000, but budgetary issues and anti-U.S. sentiment modified the plan. Progressive civic groups argued that the purchase of PAC-3 systems was a move to join the U.S.-led global ballistic missile defense network.
The PAC-3 missile is a smaller interceptor designed to ram incoming targets, while the PAC-2 uses an explosive warhead.