A Review of South Korean Missile Defense Programs

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1 March 2014 A Review of South Korean Missile Defense Programs Karen Montague Research Assistant, George C. Marshall Institute In 2006, the Republic of Korea (ROK) announced that it would create an indigenous missile defense system, the Korean Air and Missile Defense System (KAMD), to defend the country against a possible North Korean missile attack. 1 It began by purchasing the PATRIOT PAC- 2 missile defense system from Germany, and later it acquired several Aegis cruisers from the United States. In 2012, it purchased two Israeli- made Green Pine radars, and deployed them at the end of that same year. 2 After the initial purchases, missile defense acquisitions slowed. As South Korean Presidents Kim Dae- jung and Roh Moo- hyun appeared to prioritize the Sunshine Policy, set up by President Kim, which was meant to promote a harmonious relationship with the North. For missile defense efforts, this meant focusing on limited and deliberate expansion of capabilities and avoiding direct integration with ongoing U.S. missile defense efforts in the region. The election of Lee Myung- bak in 2008 injected new energy into the ROK s acquisition plans, but the decision to keep the ROK s missile defense separate from the U.S. and Japan s joint system remains. Officially, South Korea argues there is no appropriate logic for it to join the missile shield. 3 According to the Minister of Defense, the U.S. and Japan s joint missile defense system is not necessary for South Korea s particular needs, as it is not adapted to the peninsular environment, and is too expensive. During President Lee s term, his defense staff had argued that South Korea s only concern is to protect itself from short- range attacks coming from North Korea. The systems included in the U.S. and Japan s missile shield are the PATRIOT PAC- 3 missile defense system, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, (THAAD), in Guam, Aegis cruisers equipped with Standard Missile- 3 (SM- 3) missiles, and early warning radars. Based on the official s statement, the ROK s Ministry of Defense believes the U.S.- Japanese system is not suited for the missile defense needs of South Korea. The Marshall Institute Science for Better Public Policy 1601 North Kent Street, Suite 802 Arlington, VA Phone (571) Website:

2 Nevertheless, despite the official desire to keep the KAMD system independent of the U.S., there are several critical points of contact. First, the South Korean system is using mostly U.S.- made equipment. Furthermore, in operation, the South Korean systems will not be completely independent of the U.S. s missile defense. A South Korean official said that the Air and Missile Defense Cell (AMD- Cell) operated by the ROK military analyzes information acquired from the U.S. early missile warning satellites and South Korea's radar system and sends it to Patriot missile units. 4 Figure 1 lays out how the KAMD system is designed to work, with the aid of information gathered from U.S. satellites and radars/sensors. Step one on the figure indicates the launch of a North Korean missile. Step two indicates the use of a U.S. early warning satellite to detect the launch. In step three, information is transferred to the SPY- 1 radar from the control center. Step four describes the Operations Control Center, also known as the AMD- Cell, receiving information, and step five indicates the distribution of the information that was collected from both the U.S. early warning satellite, and the Israeli- made, and ROK owned Green Pine early warning radar. The final step depicts the interception of the missile launched in step one, by an SM- 6 missile launched from the KDX- 3 Aegis cruiser, and a PAC- 2 missile from the PAC- 2 system. Figure 1: Summary of Korean Air Missile Defense (KAMD) 2

3 Source: Yonhap News Elements of the South Korean Missile Defense Program South Korea s dedication to increasing its missile defense is shown through its defense budget. In the summer of 2013, Yonhap News reported that the ROK s Ministry of Defense proposed to spend 13.7% of its budget on missile defense for the fiscal years, 5 which is reportedly a 4.2% increase from the 2013 defense budget. 6 The U.S.- made elements that will be used in the KAMD system and are currently owned by the ROK, are the PATRIOT PAC- 2 missile defense system, PAC- 2 GEM- T missile, SM- 2 missile, PAC- 3, and Aegis equipped cruisers. 3

4 The PAC- 2 missile defense system is a mobile, low- tier, land- based missile interceptor system designed to intercept incoming tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, or aircraft. Each PAC- 2 launcher holds four PAC- 2 missiles. South Korea currently has about 300 PAC- 2 missiles, 7 48 of which were purchased from Germany in 2008, 8 and which reached initial operational deployment in In 2013, South Korea requested 112 PAC- 2 GEM- T missiles from the U.S., for which approval is pending. 10 The GEM- T version is an upgrade to the standard PAC- 2 missile, with improvements in the warhead and tracking system. According to Aerojet Rocketdyne s website, this capability gives the PAC- 2 increased effectiveness and lethality against tactical ballistic missiles (TBMs), cruise missiles, aircraft, and remotely piloted vehicles (RPVs). 11 As South Korea is actively upgrading the PAC- 2, it is also seeking to acquire the PATRIOT PAC- 3 system. The PAC- 3 is a guided missile system with long- range, medium to high- altitude, all- weather capabilities designed to counter tactical ballistic missiles (TBMs), cruise missiles, and advanced aircraft. 12 The PAC- 3 is more advanced than the PAC- 2. It holds 12 more interceptors, uses hit- to- kill technology, and has an onboard radar transmitter and guidance computer. Figure 2 shows an overview of the elements of the PAC- 3 missile system and how it is designed to work. Figure 2: Breakdown of PAC- 3 Elements Source: Raytheon Company 4

5 Despite South Korea s stated intentions to purchase the PAC- 3 system, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency s website has not released any official documents pertaining to any intention to sell the PAC- 3 missile defense system to South Korea. According to The Chosun Ilbo, the purchase of the PAC- 3 could happen in Until official documents announcing the U.S. s intention to sell the system are released, the ROK s purchase of the PAC- 3 remains an aspiration, not a reality. In addition to the PAC- 2, South Korea currently possesses three Sejong- Daewang KDX- III Aegis cruisers equipped with the Standard Missile- 2 Block IIIA/B (SM- 2 Block IIIA/B) and it has plans to develop six more cruisers, armed with the Standard Missile- 6 (SM- 6), by According to Raytheon, the SM- 2 missile is the world s premier fleet- area air defense weapon, providing increased intercept range, high- and low- intercept capability, and performance against advanced and anti- ship missile threats. 15 It is designed to intercept a short- range target at the final stages of flight. 16 Furthermore, the SM- 2 can be rail or vertically launched and its primary role is to provide area defense against enemy aircraft and anti- ship missiles. 17 In the summer of 2013, South Korea announced it would begin equipping its ships with the SM Designed as a replacement for the SM- 2, the SM- 6 provides extended range and incorporates advanced signal processing and guidance control capabilities. It can travel as far as 250 miles and is an enhancement over the older SM- 2 system, whose shorter range cannot adequately counter North Korean ballistic missiles. 19 Another element of the KAMD system is the joint U.S.- Israeli- made EL/M Green Pine radar. According to IAI ELTA Systems Ltd., the Green Pine radar system is a transportable ground- based, multimode solid state phased array radar. 20 Its operational capabilities include early warning alert, theater ballistic missile impact point prediction, theater ballistic missile launch point location, and accurate tracking of missiles. 21 Furthermore, the radar also has a reported detecting and tracking range of about 800 kilometers, and is said to work in any weather condition. 22 Although the Green Pine radar was initially developed to work with Israel s Arrow missile defense system, it is interoperable with any other defense system as well. South Korea purchased two radars from Israel in middle and late 2012, and deployed them prior to North Korea s rocket launch on December 12 th. 23 Ongoing Controversies There appears to be disagreement within the South Korean government over whether to acquire the SM- 3 and THAAD missile defense systems. In October 2013, South Korea s defense minister Kim Kwang- jin said in a statement South Korea clearly will not participate in the U.S. missile defense program. He [also] said the military is not currently considering 5

6 purchase of SM- 3 or THAAD interceptor missiles that form the core of the program. 24 But one month later, Yonhap News reported that a U.S. defense industry official said the ROK military wished to purchase the THAAD and the PAC Those views are supported by a South Korean defense ministry spokesman, who, earlier in the year, stated that the KAMD system would be used against missiles in the terminal stage, which is best suited for countering growing North Korean missile threats. 26 Also in October 2013, the South Korean government stated that it intends to purchase over 100 anti- tactical ballistic missiles (ATBM s) for its KAMD. The SM- 3 is an advanced, land or ship- based hit- to- kill missile. 27 Its max intercept range is unknown, but it can intercept targets at the mid- course and terminal phases. Figure 3: Graphic Demonstration of How the THAAD System Works Source: Department of Defense The THAAD missile defense system, like the SM- 3, is designed to shoot down short, medium and intermediate ballistic missiles in their terminal phase using a hit- to- kill method. 28 Figure 3 demonstrates how the THAAD system works from the launch of an enemy missile, to the intercept by the THAAD system at the terminal phase. The THAAD system has a reported intercept range of 200km and can destroy an incoming target at an altitude of about 100km. 29 Figure 4, seen below, plots the intercept altitude capabilities of the SM- 3 missile, THAAD system, and the PAC- 3 system, if used against an incoming North Korean missile that is targeting South Korea. 6

7 Figure 4: Capabilities of Three Missile Defense Systems Source: Korea Joongang Daily 30 Another source of confusion surrounds the term multi- layered. One concept of multi- layered missile defense is to have multiple systems capable of intercepting an incoming missile at various phases. Another interpretation is to have multiple systems with multiple attempts to successfully intercept an attacking missile. Since each missile defense system is designed differently, with different success rates, having multiple systems can raise the success rate of intercepting an incoming object. Even with its emphasis on interceptions during the terminal phase of flight, South Korea could use the SM- 3 and THAAD to endow their existing missile defense architecture with multi- layered, multiple- shot capabilities. Therefore, without knowing how the South Korean government plans to improve its missile defense capabilities, it will not be easy to determine if the ROK government plans on purchasing the SM- 3 and/or THAAD system(s), or how it will use them. 7

8 Future Developments and OPCON Transfer 2015 South Korea is currently being defended by not only the missile defense systems it has already purchased, but also by the systems that the U.S. owns and operates in and around the ROK. The U.S. Army maintains a number of PAC- 3 batteries in South Korea. 31 Furthermore, there are 16 Aegis destroyers assigned to the Pacific Fleet, any of which can be assigned in and around the South Korean waters. There are no reports of other systems in the territory, but the U.S. also operates a THAAD system in Guam, the only THAAD that is not operated on the contiguous U.S. territory. Figure 5 shows the estimated ranges of North Korea s missile arsenal, as well as the location of U.S. military bases in the East Asia region that play a role in missile defense. Figure 5: Locations of U.S. Military Bases in Asia Relative to North Korea Source: The Mirror 32 The majority of South Korea s missile defense acquisitions have come as the country prepares for the Operational Control (OPCON) transfer in The OPCON transfer is where the U.S. military will hand over wartime operational command to the ROK military. This transfer was first decided on in 2006, to be carried out in 2010, but was delayed until However, 8

9 during a G- 20 economic summit in Toronto, Canada, South Korea requested that the transfer be delayed until 2015, for fear of premature transfer. 33 The transfer raises interesting questions for the operation of a missile defense system in South Korea. Foremost among them is what will happen to the 60+ PAC- 3 systems currently under U.S. control after the OPCON transfer. Furthermore, a retired U.S. general speculates that OPCON transfer could be a prelude to the withdrawal of American troops from the peninsula. 34 However, based on the current agreement, once wartime command of all troops stationed in South Korea is handed over to the ROK commander, the U.S. will then consolidate its forces to regional hubs of bases south of Seoul the following year. 35 If the U.S. were to decide to withdrawal troops from South Korea, it could also mean the possible removal of all elements of missile defense operated by the U.S. from the ROK territory. However, whether or not troop withdrawal is even a possibility after the transfer will depend on many factors; factors of which are beyond this paper s scope. As 2015 approaches, South Korea will have to meet certain conditions before the U.S. will follow through with the transfer. 36 Neither the U.S. nor South Korea have elaborated on those conditions, but as of now, the ROK has less than a year to meet those conditions. 37 Whether or not the country will be prepared by 2015 is something that cannot be measured. However, the real test may come after the transfer, when the day comes that South Korea will have to demonstrate its ability to defend itself, in lieu of U.S. command. 1 Kim, Eun- jung. "S. Korea to Deploy Indigenous Missile Defense System in July." Yonhap News. 10 Apr Web. 16 Jan "S. Korea to Deploy Newly Introduced Radar Ahead of N. Korea Rocket Launch." Yonhap News. 05 Dec Web. 22 Feb Song, Sang- ho. "Korea Will Not Join U.S. Missile Defense System." The Korea Herald. 16 Oct Jan Kim, Eun- jung. "S. Korea to Deploy Indigenous Missile Defense System in July." Yonhap News. 10 Apr Web. 16 Jan Kim, Eun- jung. "Mid- term Defense Program Focuses on Missile Defense against N. Korea." Yonhap News. 25 July Web. 16 Jan Zhu, Ningzhu. "Defense Budget in S.Korea to Rise 4.2% in 2014." Xinhua News. 26 Sept Web. 20 Jan "Seoul Set to Buy More Patriot Missiles." The Chosun Ilbo. 28 Oct Web. 20 Nov Keck, Zachary. "South Korea Goes All In On Missile Defense." The Diplomat. 26 July Web. 20 Nov Kueter, Jeff. "Appreciating the Role of Defense." NonProliferation Policy Education Center, 10 May Web. 16 Jan "The Republic of Korea - Patriot Anti- Tactical Missiles." Defense Security Cooperation Agency. 15 Oct Web. 09 Feb "Patriot PAC- 2 GEM- T." Aerojet Rocketdyne. Web. 20 Dec "Patriot PAC- 3." Aerojet Rocketdyne. Web. 22 Dec "Seoul Set to Buy More Patriot Missiles." The Chosun Ilbo. 28 Oct Web. 21 Nov Brad Hicks, George Galdorisi, and Scott C. Truver, The Aegis BMD Global Enterprise: A High End Maritime Partnership, Naval War College Review, vol. 65, no. 3 (Summer 2012), p

10 15 "Standard Missile- 2." Raytheon Company. Web. 22 Dec Ibid. 17 "SM- 2." Aerojet Rocketdyne. Web. 22 Dec Kim, Eun- jung. "S. Korea to Deploy New Surface- to- air Missiles for Aegis Destroyers."Yonhap News. 12 June Web. 22 Dec "South Korea to Arm Aegis Destroyers with SM- 6 Missiles in 2016." NTI: Nuclear Threat Initiative. 13 June Web. 22 Dec ""Green Pine" Radar System." IAI ELTA Systems Ltd., Web. 22 Feb Ibid. 22 Jung, Sung- ki. "Israeli Radar Chosen for Missile Defense." The Korea Times National. 17 Sept Web. 22 Feb "S. Korea to Deploy Newly Introduced Radar Ahead of N. Korea Rocket Launch." Yonhap News. 05 Dec Web. 22 Feb "Gov't Has 'No Plans' to Join U.S. Missile Defense." The Chosun Ilbo. 17 Oct Web. 22 Dec Lee, Chi- dong, and Eun- jung Kim. "S. Korea Eying PAC- III, THAAD for Missile Defense: Industry Official." Global Post. 11 Sept Web. 22 Dec "Global Security Newswire." NTI: Nuclear Threat Initiative. 9 May Web. 22 Dec "Standard Missile- 3." Raytheon Company. Web. 22 Dec Lee, Chi- dong, and Eun- jung Kim. "S. Korea Eying PAC- III, THAAD for Missile Defense: Industry Official." Global Post. 11 Sept Web. 22 Dec "Gov't Has 'No Plans' to Join U.S. Missile Defense." The Chosun Ilbo. 17 Oct Web. 22 Dec Park, Eun- Jee. "MD Is Diplomatic Quandary for Seoul." Korea Joongang Daily. 18 Nov Web. 01 Feb Ibid. 32 Rankin, Ben. "North Korea's Nuclear Weapons Could Hit UK: Alarm at David Cameron's Claim." The Mirror. 04 Apr Web. 05 Feb Klingner, Bruce. "OPCON Transfer: Timing Isn't Everything." The Heritage Foundation. 08 July Web. 22 Dec Lee, Chi- dong, and Hyo- dong Roh. "OPCON Transfer May Usher in Withdrawl of U.S. Troops from Korea: Ex- general." Yonhap News. 18 Nov Web. 13 Feb Rabiroff, Jon. "Korea OPCON Transfer Should 'move Forward,' Scaparrotti Says." Stars and Stripes. 31 July Web. 13 Feb Rowland, Ashley, and Kyong Chang Yoo. "US- South Korea Task Force to Examine OPCON Handover." Stars and Stripes. 15 Oct Web. 13 Feb Ibid. 10

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