South Korea is at work on a new cruise missile that can travel faster than the speed of sound, in accordance with efforts to strengthen protections against North Korea's nuclear and missile efforts, the Korea Times reported on Monday (see GSN, Sept. 21).
"All I can say for now is that it will be able to fly faster than Mach 1," said an anonymous high-ranking official from the government-managed Defense Acquisition Program Administration.
The official said the cruise missile would have the ability to skirt North Korean air defenses and hit missile launch facilities with significant precision.
A Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry official said the Haesong 2 missile was derived from the Haesong 1 system that is designed to be used against enemy ships.
"The Haeseong 2 is a ship-to-surface cruise missile, designed to strike ground targets," the ministry official said.
Though South Korea has a missile technology cooperation agreement with the United States, it developed the supersonic missile on its own.
"Korea has been independently developing it without technology transfer from the United States, but has been closely consulting with Washington in accordance with the New Missile Guidelines agreed between the two allies," according to the ministry official, who liaises with Washington on missile matters.
The new weapon would have a flight range of more than 310 miles, which would give the South the ability to strike a majority of North Korea targets. From September 2007 to November 2009, some 10 flight trials of the missile were conducted in South Chungcheong Province. The missile is anticipated to be ready for fielding close to 2013.
The Haesong 2 would not be sold to other nations given Seoul's participation in the Missile Technology Control Regime, the official said. The only other nations with supersonic cruise missiles are China, France, India, Russia and the United States, the Times reported (Lee Tae-hoon, Korea Times, Sept. 26).