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Chasing the sky: South Korea advances indigenous missile defence system

The Korea Air and Missile Defense system consists of several layers of capability designed to intercept missiles from North Korea. The L-SAM can intercept missiles at an altitude of 50–60 km, the Patriot and Cheongung II can intercept missiles at around 40 km altitude, while the LAMD can intercept at a maximum altitude of 5 km. (Janes)

South Korea has started to develop and deploy capabilities that are part of its indigenous ballistic missile defence (BMD) architecture known as the Korea Air and Missile Defense (KAMD) system.

The KAMD is a multilayered BMD system that consists of several missiles with varying ranges and altitudes, radars, and an operations control centre (OCC). The system forms a core part of South Korea's ‘three-axis' strategy to respond to North Korean attacks alongside the Kill Chain plan and the Korea Massive Punishment and Retaliation (KMPR) project.

South Korea has been working on the three-axis strategy, including development of the KAMD, since the early 2000s. The strategy became a point of contention between South Korea and North Korea in 2017 after which former South Korean President Moon Jae-in – who held the position from 2017 to 2022 – discontinued the approach to ease tensions between the neighbouring countries.

However, South Korea's current president, Yoon Suk-yeol, who assumed office in May 2022, has promised to take a tougher stance on North Korea and, accordingly, has reintroduced the strategy.

The requirement for the three-axis strategy has also been highlighted by North Korea's accelerated missiles development programme. Since 2022 Pyongyang has launched more than 70 ballistic missiles, with the majority featuring to be KN-23 and KN-24 short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs). Other tests in recent years have featured cruise missiles and Pyongyang's ‘super-large' multiple rocket launcher.

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