South Korea Announces First Successful Test of L-SAM Air Defense System That Could Replace US THAAD

© Missile Defense Agency / THAAD in Alaska
THAAD in Alaska - Sputnik International, 1920, 24.02.2022
US deployment of the Terminal High-Altitude Air Defense (THAAD) system to South Korea in 2017 aroused protest from China due to the system’s powerful radar, which can reportedly scan across nearly all of China from the peninsula.
South Korea’s Agency for Defense Development test-fired a new high-altitude air defense system on Wednesday, according to Yonhap News Agency.
The long-range surface-to-air missile (L-SAM) was launched for the first time from the Anheung Comprehensive Test Site in Taean-gun, southwest of Seoul. According to Korea News, the rocket flew along a preset path and did not attempt to engage a target. However, it performed as expected.
The L-SAM, built by South Korea’s Hanwha Group and LIG Nex 1, is intended to intercept high-altitude aircraft, as well as ballistic missiles in their terminal phase, up to an altitude of 60 kilometers. In South Korea’s air defense network, that role is presently performed by THAAD.
However, THAAD has been criticized by China since it was first deployed to South Korea in 2017, because one of the settings on its powerful X-band AN/TPY-2 radar allows it to track an object "the size of a baseball from about 2,900 miles (4,600 kilometers) away,” according to US officials. Locals have also fought the deployment of THAAD to their districts, saying it makes them targets.
Yoon Suk-yeol, the candidate from the right-wing People Power Party who is presently leading the polls ahead of the March 9 elections, said that if he wins, he intends to buy THAAD from Washington. The US has never sold THAAD to anyone before and it’s unclear if they would approve.
Other air defenses developed by South Korea in recent years include the KM-SAM or Cheolmae-2 system, built using technology borrowed from Russian arms makers Almaz-Antey and Fakel, which produce the 9696 missile used on the S-350E and S-400 air defense systems. South Korea has also worked to develop its own analogue to Israel’s Iron Dome system, which LIG Nex1 unveiled in October as the low-altitude missile defense system (LAMD).
The bevy of weapons are intended to form a layered defense against the ballistic missile and rocket artillery systems fielded by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), which are considerable. According to defense experts, the DPRK’s newest road-mobile rocket artillery are designed to evade South Korea’s air defense net, which, along with Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons, have prompted Seoul to completely revisit its entire defense strategy.
The two nations have been at war since 1950, when cross-border incursions by both sides erupted into an all-out conflict. As the North appeared close to victory, the United States organized an international intervention force and joined the war on South Korea’s side; later, Chinese volunteer forces supplemented North Korean soldiers and pushed the Americans southward. The shooting war ended in 1953 in a stalemate and a ceasefire, but no permanent peace treaty. Several attempts at rapprochement have ultimately failed, as 28,500 US troops stationed in South Korea have ensured that Seoul does not stray too close to peace.
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