Seoul chooses German Taurus cruise missiles

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Seoul chooses German Taurus cruise missiles

The South Korean military announced the purchase of long-range air-to-surface cruise missiles capable of striking underground bunkers in North Korean territory.

Defense Acquisition Program Administration spokesman Baek Yun-hyeong yesterday announced at a press briefing the plan to buy 200 Taurus missiles, which reportedly cost $1 million per missile, without a bidding competition.

The German-made missile was chosen at a meeting of the weapons procurement agency’s defense acquisition committee yesterday hosted by Minister of National Defense Kim Kwan-jin, Baek said.

With a range of 500 kilometers (310 miles), the missile can reach all parts of North Korea. The cruise missile could strike an underground bunker in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang if it was launched from Daejeon, a southern city of South Korea.

The air-launched missile is usually fired from an F-15K fighter jet. Using an automatic target recognition system, the missile has a 10-meter margin. It can also be directed by remote control after it is launched.

The missile can carry a warhead up to 480 kilograms (1,058 pounds) and penetrate through six meters of reinforced concrete. During penetration, a sensor detects the exact location to detonate the warhead.

All of the procedures - detecting, aiming and striking a target - are carried out automatically.

Defense Minister Kim said in April at a National Assembly meeting that the military once considered the U.S.-made AGM-158 Jassm, a 370-kilometer-range air-to-surface cruise missile that is cheaper than the Taurus at $700,000.

But Washington reportedly expressed reluctance to export the semi-stealth weapon out of fear that its technology would be stolen.

At the time, Kim said there was no problem installing the German missile in the American-made F-15K jets.

The Taurus missile is expected to be part of South Korea’s so-called “kill chain,” the deployment of various intelligence assets, missiles, fighter jets and vessels to detect, identify and intercept the North’s missiles.

BY KIM HEE-JIN, JEONG YONG-SOO [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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