3 military systems to counter N. Korea: Kill Chain, KAMD, KMPR
Posted : 2016-11-01 11:19
Updated : 2016-11-01 16:17
By Jun Ji-hye
While North Korea has been apparently upgrading its nuclear and missile capabilities daily, eyes are on which measures South Korea holds to cope with such threats.
In response to security concerns heightened especially after Pyongyang's fifth and most powerful nuclear test on Sept. 9, the military said it will deal with the reclusive state and its possible nuclear attack using South Korea's three-pronged defense system.
The three elements are the Kill Chain preemptive strike system, the Korean Air and Missile Defense (KAMD) and the Korea Massive Punishment and Retaliation (KMPR) plan.
Kill Chain is a system to carry out a preemptive strike against Pyongyang's nuclear and missile facilities if Seoul is faced with an imminent threat, while the KAMD would trace and shoot down North Korean ballistic missiles heading for South Korea. The KMPR would be used to punish and retaliate against North Korea if it strikes South Korea.
The government initially planned to deploy the three systems in the mid-2020s. But after the North claimed that during the latest test it detonated a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can be mounted on a ballistic missile, the government said on Oct. 18 it will hasten the system's introduction by a couple of years.
This year, the isolated state has conducted two nuclear tests and launched more than 20 ballistic missiles, despite warnings from the international community.
"The military is developing the three-pillar system that will provide tailored measures to deter threats from the North's weapons of mass destruction (WMD)," Defense Minister Han Min-koo told the National Assembly. "The military is also strengthening defense cooperation with other countries."
The core part forming the Kill Chain system is surveillance assets, including reconnaissance satellites. The Ministry of National Defense said the military is stepping up efforts to secure those assets as soon as possible.
Toward that end, a ministry official said on condition of anonymity that South Korea is considering leasing a reconnaissance satellite, possibly from Israel or other countries, to independently obtain information on the North's military activities. The South has so far heavily relied on United States satellites to secure core military information about the North's nuclear and missile-related activities.
The move comes amid growing concerns that the ministry's initial plan to deploy five surveillance satellites between 2021 and 2022 could fall behind schedule.
"The military is expected to have its own surveillance satellites as early as 2023, as the development has been slow," the official said.
The official said leasing a reconnaissance satellite from other countries could fill the vacuum caused by the delay.
The military is also considering buying 90 more Taurus cruise missiles that are capable of destroying the North's underground nuclear and missile facilities.
In 2013, Seoul decided to buy 170 Taurus air-to-ground missiles made by the German-Swedish joint venture Taurus Systems. Among them, 60 missiles are scheduled to be deployed by the end of this year and others early next year.
The GPS-guided Taurus KEPD 350K ― to be used with the ROK Air Force's F-15K fighter jets ― has a range of 500 kilometers and can perform deep-penetration missions with pinpoint accuracy, making it ideal for taking out hard targets such as underground installations and bridges, according to the missile maker.
Once deployed, South Korean pilots will be able to hit strategic targets with great precision without entering North Korean airspace, the Air Force said.
The military is expected to introduce two anti-ballistic missile early warning radar systems, in addition to the two existing systems, because they are the core of the KAMD that traces the trajectory of North Korean missiles and shoots them down.
The ministry's budget plan for 2017 included the introduction of one radar system, but amid mounting threats from the North's submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM), the ministry is moving to modify the plan to secure an additional radar system.
In August, Pyongyang test-fired an SLBM that flew about 500 kilometers and splashed down in waters under Japan's Air Defense Identification Zone in the East Sea, showing a significant improvement from past tests. South Korea believes the North will be able to deploy operational SLBMs within one to three years.
"Once a total of four radar systems are deployed, the military will be able to monitor the land in the North as well as South Korean territorial waters, which will enable us to immediately respond to Pyongyang's launch of ballistic missiles," said another military official on condition of anonymity.
The military is also working to secure a budget to introduce more maritime patrol aircraft, possibly the Boeing P-8 Poseidon, as well as making concentrated efforts to develop domestically L-SAM long-range ground-to-air missiles to enhance interception capability.
The KMPR is a new operational concept made public recently. It is designed to annihilate Pyongyang with a barrage of missile firings in the event of a nuclear attack.
Under the KMPR, the military would divide Pyongyang into several districts and destroy the section in which North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and the regime's military leadership were suspected of hiding, according to a source.
The military plans to mobilize its locally developed surface-to-surface ballistic and cruise missiles, the Hyunmoo, for the operational concept.
The Hyunmoo 2A and 2B missiles have ranges of 300 and 500 kilometers, respectively, while the Hyunmoo 3 cruise missile has a range of 1,000 kilometers.
The military earlier said it plans to increase the number of Hyunmoo 2As, 2Bs and 3s that can simultaneously strike missile bases across North Korea in time of war.
The source noted that the military is also planning to complete tests by next year for deployment of its newly developed ballistic missile that has a range of 800 kilometers.
Another source indicated the military has been working to launch a special operational unit in charge of destroying the North Korean military leadership and launching retaliatory attacks on them.
However, Minister Han has admitted that the Kill Chain and KAMD apparently have some limits in defending against the North's SLBMs, saying that the two systems are mainly to respond to North Korean missiles fired from the ground.
Critics have been raising concerns that the systems would be vulnerable if a North Korean submarine infiltrates South Korean waters and launches an attack.
"Responding to the SLBMs would be eventually possible if South Korea and the United States jointly react," Han said.
Lt. Gen. Thomas S. Vandal, the commander of the Eighth U.S. Army, recently backed up Han's comment, saying that the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery, which is scheduled to be deployed in South Korea next year, and the Patriot air defense system, together with Aegis-equipped destroyers, will collectively provide different levels of coverage from various sites in response to SLBMs.
Yang Uk, a senior research fellow at the Korea Defense and Security Forum, raised a question about the KMPR, saying that to operate the plan, the nation needs to overcome overdependence on U.S. strategic assets in penetrating enemy territory.