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South Korea’s “Three Pillar” national defense program has reached another stage. South Korea will soon begin the mass-production of its new mid-range hit-to-kill missile interceptor, code-named M-SAM, as it has passed an operational capability test, a defense official said recently. The M-SAM surface-to-air missile will serve as a core element of the country’s Korea Air and Missile Defense System (KAMD), currently in the making, against North Korea’s threats.
“The prototype of the missile to intercept an enemy’s ballistic missile was rated fit for combat operation by meeting all the requirements at a test early this month,” the official said on the condition of anonymity.
This marks, according to yonhapnews.co.kr, the completion of the development of the M-SAM system led by the Agency for Defense Development (ADD), a state agency for research and development of defense technology, and manufactured by LIG Nex1, a local defense firm. The development of the M-SAM, a variant of the Cheongung anti-aircraft guided missile was originally scheduled to finish in August but finished two months earlier.
It is designed to intercept incoming missiles at an altitude of 20-40 kilometers. The Defense Acquisition Program Administration plans to mass-produce M-SAM missiles starting later this year with the aim of deploying them in 2019.
According to a report on janes.com, the Cheongung and the soon to be deployed US Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) series missiles are key components of South Korea’s three-pronged strategy to protect the nation from missile threats from the North.
In October 2016 the Ministry of Defense (MND) in Seoul announced that it would bring forward the deployment of its ‘three pillars’ of national defence, which was originally scheduled to take place by the mid-2020s, by two to three years.