South Korea has made significant advancements in its missile program out of the eye of the international media. But the rapid pace of development is being closely tracked by North Korea, China, and Russia.
Though South Korea rarely releases information on how many ballistic and cruise missiles it has, Seoul is known to have successfully tested missiles which can hit anywhere in North Korea and put part of China and Russia at risk as well.
Agreements with the United States intended to bring North Korean concessions had long limited the South's missile development programs but were finally dropped amid North Korean advances.
"South Korea had already become the tenth largest economy in the world and the tenth largest exporter of locally produced weapons," the report said.And “it didn’t take South Korea long to catch up with and surpass North Korean ballistic missile technology,” an Aug. 1 analysis in Strategy Page noted.
In 2017 South Korea conducted a successful test of a ballistic missile with a range of 800 kilometers. The new missiles carry a half ton warhead that North Korea is not equipped to stop.
A similar test in 2015 involved a ballistic missile with a range of 500 kilometers which came to be known as the Hyunmoo 2C. That test ended decades of U.S. restrictions.
In the latest development, South Korea in June became the 11th nation to use a locally built SLV (Satellite Launch Vehicle) to put a locally built dummy (test) satellite into orbit, Strategy Page reported.
The other nations to build and launch satellites are Russia (1957), the United States (1958), France (1965), Japan (1970), China (1970), Great Britain (1971), India (1980), Israel (1988), and North Korea (2012).
The South could have built SLVs and space satellites earlier were it not for an agreement with the United States to not develop ballistic missiles in order to encourage North Korea to limit or eliminate its own ballistic missile program.
“That did not work, which was made dramatically clear in 2010 when an unprovoked North Korea attack involved shelling a South Korean island near the North Korean maritime border and sinking (via a submarine-launched torpedo) a South Korean warship,” Strategy Page noted.
The South Korean SLV is officially the KSLV-II but commonly referred to as the Nuri. It is a 200-ton three stage rocket that can put 2.6 tons of satellite into a 300-kilometer-high LEO (Low Earth Orbit) or 1.5 tons into a higher (800 kilometers) LEO.
Nuri was first tested in 2021 but the third stage failed to function correctly. The second test was the recent one and it was a success. Both tests were launched from the South Korean Naro Space Center.
South Korea spent $1.7 billion developing Nuri and will continue development to enable the SLV to carry heavier loads into higher orbits. Development of the current Nuri involved building smaller (56-ton) SLVs as test vehicles.
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