February 9, 2016

South Korean - Russian "THAAD like" systems for Intercepting North Korean Missiles

A KM-SAM (or M-SAM or MR-SAM) battery could potentially shoot down North Korean or Chinese ballistic missiles. KM-SAM was developed by South Korea with surprisingly close Russain cooperation. (Photo courtesy GlobalSecurity)

Following North Korea's February 6, 2016 long range ("satellite") rocket launch there is renewed South Korean interest in "upper tier" missiles that can shoot down North Korean ballistic missiles at high altitude. 

The US and South Korea have been discussing the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system as a solution. But Chinese opposition to a South Korean Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) (or ballistic missile defence (BMD)) system on its doorstep may sway the US Congress or hesitant Obama away from approving THAAD for South Korea. Possible US blockage or hesitation on approving THAAD may be encourage South Korea to make its existing medium-tier KM-SAM system an "upper tier" system.

South Korea working with Russia on such a sensitive strategic missile program surprised me but its true. South Korea appears to be hedging in its alliance building by nurturing substantial links to China and Russia while maintaining the traditional US alliance.

KM-SAM (aka Cheolmae-2 or Cheongung or M-SAM) is a parallel program to Russia's new S-350E Vityaz surface to air missile (SAM). As "S-350" suggests the S-350 (and KM-SAM) is intended to be superior to some versions of Russia's S-300 SAM system (especially the S-300P or PS)

The KM-SAM (Cheolmae-2) is currently the middle-tier of South Korea's three-tier aerial and missile defence program. The middle-tier KM-SAM was due to enter service by late 2015, replacing the aging MIM-23 Hawk missile system. Current KM-SAM performance may be the ability to intercept targets up to a ceiling of 15 km at a range of 40 km.
The ABM capable "upper tier" development option comes in the shape of the "Cheolmae 4-H" aiming for (early) THAAD like performance of ceiling (61 km) and range (150 km). South Korea would need to rely heavily on Russian S-400 technology to achieve such "upper tier" performance. Naturally the US would not want to see excessive South Korean reliance on Russia.

It appears that it would take South Korea much longer to develop an upper-tier KM-SAM than receive THAAD from the US (if the US doesn't hesitate). 

The KM-SAM (above called "MR-SAM"). It has a cold launch (using compressed gas) then the missile's rocket motor ignites and the missile is guided by radar. The missile can change direction quickly and with a low IR signature has little chance of being detected by the enemy. In cooperation with Russia, a Korean engineering team replaced the existing large Russian radar system with a smaller truck mounted radar.



Anonymous said...

In my view, the KM SAM is an inferior version of the S-350E Vityaz. The KM-SAM's acquisition radar is a PESA like the S-350E. However, the KM-SAM TEL (Transporter erector launcher) only shows 8 missiles while the S-350E TEL has 12. In addition, the KM-SAM only supports the shorter 9M96E 40km missile, not the longer 120km 9M96E2 which is available on the S-350E (or even the S-300PMU2 and S-400).

The reason Russia introduces the S-350 is to be able to deal better against saturation attacks. On the export S-300PMU, the older 5V55 and newer 48N6 missile variants have to be guided by the engagement radar This is also true with the S-400 and the 48N6. The export versions of the S-300PMU2 and S-400 are limited by the number of 12 engagement channels per battalion. With the Russian doctrine of attacking each target with 2 missiles, that means a battalion of S-300/S-400 is limited to 6 simultaneous targets (which can be a plane, a Tomahawk or an SRBM/IRBM). The Russian S-300PMU/S-400 versions have a much greater number of engagement channels relative to the derated export versions. The S-350 (and therefore the KM-SAM) can deal with a much larger number of targets in the case of saturation since the 9M96 missiles have active radar guidance.

The 9M96 missiles are also quad packed in the S-300PMU2 and S-400 however there is still that limitation on engagement channels so I and others believe eventually the S-400 is dedicated to long range SAM with the 400km 40N6 and 200km/250km 48N6DM while shorter range SAM (120km/40km) is covered by the 9M96 on the S-350. The Russians believe in layered SAM defense so going shorter you get Pantsir and the new Morfei for point defenses.

South Korea is actively pursuing export defense opportunities so it is gunning for this KM-SAM. There must be tremendous issues with integrating this Russian bred KM-SAM into a US higher tier battle management system.

Turtle said...

Here is the breakdown of current South Korea air defense missile assets to best of my knowledge.
First domestic air defense missile system is Chunma/Pegasus, short range surface to air missile, similar in capability to Roland and Crotale. Missile is indigenous design but FCS is from Crotale NG system.
Then Chiron missile system is developed, MANPAD with technological input from Russia and France. Recently is updated from analog to digital.
Recently introduced is KM-SAM/Cheolmae-2/Cheongung, designed to replace 30 fire units of HAWK/IHAWK. It primary gears to air defense with limited ballistic missile defense capability. Physically, the missile is conventional with rocket fins near the rocket motor. But currently in development is new generation of KM-SAM called KM-SAM PIP. Physically it bears resemblance to Russian 9M96E missile, which lead to speculation that PIP missile's range is 160km. Officially it will have same range as first generation: 40km. PIP version will be hit to kill missile system similar to PAC3.
New SAM missile Korea is pursuing is L-SAM/K-THAAD/Cheongung-2. This system is dedicated ballistic missile system integral to Korean Anti Missile Defense (KAMD).
Also included is PAC2 units purchased from Germany.


Anonymous said...

KM-SAM performance is even inferior to the 9M96E with a maximum altitude of 15km versus 20km for the latter. In truth, the maximum effectiveness of any SAM is only ~70% of the maximum slant range. I am not surprised there is a required PIP then.
The PIP version with the canard wings according to the photo in one of the links you attached looks nearly identical to the 9M96E with the exception of the side thrusters. KM SAM thrusters are located near the tip while the 9M96E thrusters are at its Cg.
The S-350 Vityaz 9M96E and 9M96E2 can hit a target with a maximum target speed of Mach 15 (~4800km) which is sufficient to deal with MRBM of 2500-3000km. What the system lacks is its own ABM dedicated radar but the S-350 functions within a larger SAM/ABM defense network and receive commands from a higher tier command control post within a regiment or brigade structure.

Turtle said...

I wont argue with that. I'm just posted it because the article use designation no longer used in Korean sources.