The South Korean’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) said Thursday that a newly upgraded M-SAM interceptor missile has been delivered to the Republic of Korea Air Force (RoKAF). The upgraded version of the country’s first indigenously developed medium-range surface-to-air guided missile is equipped with multifunction radar to strike aircraft and missiles simultaneously. The DAPA said the first of a planned seven batteries of the self-propelled, hit-to-kill (HTK) interceptor system, which has a stated maximum range of 40 km and is intended to replace the RoKAF’s MIM-23 HAWK (locally known as Cheolmae) SAM systems, was handed over to the service in November. The South Korean’s Agency for Defense Development began the upgrade project in 2012, and the missile system has recorded a 100 percent accuracy rate at multiple test launches.
The M-SAM which is also known as the Cheolmae-2 or Cheongung and KM-SAM is a South Korean medium range surface-to-air missile (SAM) system that was developed by the Agency for Defense Development (ADD) with technical support from Almaz-Antey and Fakel, based on technology from the 9M96 missile used on S-350E and S-400 missile systems. A complete battery consists of up to six 8-cell transporter erector launchers (TELs), a passive electronically scanned array (PESA) X-band multi-function phased array 3D radar (based on the one from the Russian S-400), 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 (62 mi) and track up to 40 simultaneously.
The M-SAM is the middle-tier of South Korea’s three-tier aerial and missile defense system. Though it was developed in Russia by the Almaz Design Bureau with assistance from Samsung Thales, LIG Nex1, and Doosan DST, localization and industrialization were done in South Korea enough to consider it an indigenous system. The Cheongung (Iron Hawk) can intercept targets up to an altitude of 15 km (49,000 ft) at a range of 40 km (25 mi). It is to replace upgraded MIM-23 Hawk batteries in South Korea and be made available for export. Almaz-Antey continued with the program after prototypes were transferred and have created a distinctly Russian version called the Vityaz missile system.
The Cheolmae 4-H L-SAM was to be an upper tier interceptor designed to take down ballistic missiles. It was to offer capabilities similar to that of the American Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile with a range of 150 km (93 mi) and ceiling of 200,000 ft (61 km). Performance levels were to be twice as superior to the Patriot and Cheolmae II missiles, and was expected to be based on the Russian S-400 technology. The ADD plans to further develop the M-SAM as an anti-ballistic missile similar to the Patriot PAC-3, with increased range of 100–150 km (62–93 mi) and altitude coverage of 30 km (98,000 ft). The M-SAM medium-range air defense missile will be able to be launched from the Korean Vertical Launch System (K-VLS) aboard Daegu-class frigates in a naval role.