A report in DefenseNews says South Korea is planning to acquire the Raytheon SM-3 interceptor and deploy it aboard its KD-III Sejong the Great class Aegis destroyers.
The move comes after a 2016 Defense White Paper which highlighted the threat posed by North Korean ballistic missiles, and would make South Korea the third nation in the region to acquire the ABM capability after the US Navy and Japan. The KD-III class is based on the US Navy’s Arleigh Burke Flight IIA destroyer design and features 80 Mk41 vertical launch system (VLS) cells.
The decision was revealed by a South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) member on October 12 in response to political questioning. “The decision was made actually during a top JCS meeting in September last year,” MajGen Kim Sun-ho, the head of Joint Chiefs of Staff’s force build up planning bureau said. “The type of the ship-based anti-ballistic missile to be procured is an SM-3 class.
“The interceptor will be responsible for shooting down an incoming ballistic missile in the upper tier of the KAMD system,” he added. KAMD is the Korea Air and Missile Defense network which was designed to shoot down missiles in the terminal phase. The SM-3 would complement the in-service Patriot system, and the locally developed M-SAM medium range system, both of which have already been deployed.
The US late last year deployed a THAAD ABM system to South Korea during the height of North Korea’s missile test campaign, but withdrew it soon after as tensions subsided.
The SM-3 is designed uses a hit-to-kill warhead to shoot down short- to intermediate-range ballistic missile warheads, and is capable against targets between 150km and up to 1,000km altitude.
The Australian Defence Force is reportedly also considering the acquisition of a ship-borne ABM capability such as SM-3 as part of the Aegis Baseline 9 upgrade to its three Hobart class DDGs and possibly the nine Hunter class FFHs.