Antiballistic radars failed 21 times in 3 years

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Antiballistic radars failed 21 times in 3 years

The country’s two Green Pine antiballistic radar units, which play a key role in detecting North Korea’s ballistic missile launches, have malfunctioned 21 times in the past three years, according to a military report that was submitted to Rep. Lee Chul-gyu of the ruling Saenuri Party and exclusively acquired by the JoongAng Ilbo on Sunday.

Considering that the military operates one radar unit at a time biweekly and it takes two hours to turn on the other radar when one breaks down, 21 malfunctions means the South went 42 hours with neither radar working.

The Air Force acknowledged the malfunctions as well as the gap of 42 hours, but said there wasn’t a single time that both units were simultaneously broken.

The military said that the radars stopped working mainly when droplets of water formed inside the machine due to a temperature difference with the outside layer, which paralyzed the system’s transmission output.

Since 2012, the South Korean military has deployed two Israeli Green Pine radar units, which have a range of more than 500 kilometers (310 miles) and are used to detect Pyongyang’s missile launches. Each cost 200 billion won ($181.5 million) and are located in North Chungcheong and South Chungcheong provinces.

According to Lee, the military has recently decided to spend an extra 13 billion won to build a dome that would cover the radars, decreasing the temperature difference to prevent future malfunctioning.

“I can’t help but doubt the military’s professionalism,” said Lee. “How could they pay 200 billion won for each radar and not have prevented dew forming?”

The lawmaker highlighted North Korea’s growing missile threats and stressed it was a “serious problem” that the malfunctions had occurred in such critical times.

In the report, the Green Pine radar in North Chungcheong is said to have experienced eight shutdowns, while the other in South Chungcheong had 13. Three of them were from 2013, five from 2014, eight from 2015 and five from January to June this year.

In July, the Green Pine radars were shown to local media for the first time by the Ministry of National Defense in an attempt to prove their safety by revealing the emission rates from the activated radars.

The tour was intended to calm concerns over the level of electromagnetic waves that would be emitted from the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system after the government announced that Seongju County, North Gyeongsang, was chosen as the site for the new U.S.-led antiballistic radar system.

BY PARK SEONG-HUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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