The medium-range surface-to-air missile (KM-SAM) development project is considered an important component of South Korea’s multi-layered air defense system.

The growing threat of North Korea’s missile attack has been worrying Seoul for decades. But only recently, when interception technologies became available on the domestic and global markets, there has been some progress in South Korean defense systems. To protect against North Korean rocket attacks, the Republic of Korea is building a three-level missile defense and air defense system, combining radar and interceptor missiles of various types into a single battle management system.

The medium-range surface-to-air missile (KM-SAM) development project is considered an important component of South Korea’s multi-layered air defense system. The KM-SAM which is also known as the Cheolmae-2 was first developed by the South Korean Agency for Defense Development with technical support from Russian firms. It was based on technology from the 9M96 missile used on S-350E and S-400 missile systems, and created to replace the older Hawk surface-to-air missiles that were adopted in 1964.

South Korean companies that took part in the development include Samsung Thales, Doosan DST and LIG Nex1. The KM-SAM passed verification in 2015. Deployment began in 2016. The KM-SAM was offered for export. First customer became the United Arab Emirates. In 2022 it was announced that the deal with UAE is worth $3.5 billion.

A complete battery consists of four to six 8-cell transporter erector launchers, a passive electronically scanned array X-band multi-function phased array 3D radar, and a fire command vehicle. The radar operates in the X-band and rotates at a rate of 40 rpm, covering up to 80 degrees in elevation. It can detect targets within 100 km and track up to 40 simultaneously.

A missile is 4.61 m long and weights 400 kg. It has a maximum range of 40 km. Original version could reach an altitude of 15 km. Since 2021 an improved version is produced, which can reach 20 km. In terminal stage these missiles use active radar homing and can reportedly engage targets traveling at a maximum speed of Mach 15. The system can engage hostile aircraft, helicopters, UAVs and missiles, including cruise missiles and short- and medium-range ballistic missiles.

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