SEOUL, South Korea —South Korea plans to give an order of new Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles as part of an ongoing effort to defend against North Korea’s ballistic missile threat.

The buy of PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement built by Lockheed Martin was approved Feb. 7 by the Defense Acquisition Program Administration’s executive committee, chaired by the Ministry of National Defense. The latest contract, through the Foreign Military Sales program, is valued at around $53 million, according to the DAPA, with the number of PAC-3 MSE interceptors for delivery undisclosed.

“This procurement plan is aimed at acquiring more PAC-3 precision-guided missiles to respond to North Korea’s ballistic missile threat in a more effective way,” DAPA spokesman Kang Seok-hwan said. “The contract is expected to be made in the second half of the year for the delivery after 2020.”

In 2015, South Korea ordered PAC-3 interceptors and launcher modification kits to help upgrade its used PAC-2 systems bought from Germany. The upgraded systems are scheduled to be deployed near the Seoul metropolitan area in the coming months.

The deployment of PAC-3 MSE is expected to help enhance the South Korean military’s multi-layered shield of PAC-3 interceptors, along with the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system that was successfully deployed in the southern region of South Korea last year, according to analysts. The PAC-3 MSE uses a two-pulse solid rocket motor that increases altitude and range to defend against evolving threats.

“The PAC-3 MSE can hit an incoming missile flying at an altitude of 40 kilometers, two times higher than the normal PAC-3 interceptor,” said Kim Dae-young, a research fellow of Korea Research Institute for National Strategy, a private security think tank based in Seoul. “That means PAC-3 MSE could detect and take down an incoming North Korean missile first and the PAC-3 could try the next as part of a layered missile defense operation.”

The South Korean military is also set to produce an indigenous mid-range surface-to-air missile shield codenamed Cheongung-II, being developed by LIG Nex1, a precision-guided weapons maker here. The Cheongung-II is a modified version of the Cheongung anti-aircraft interceptor dubbed Iron Hawk, which was developed based on Russian technology.

On top of that, LIG Nex1 is pushing ahead with plans to build a long-range surface-to-air missile interceptor that can destroy targets at an altitude of 40-60 kilometers.

Jeff Jeong was the South Korea correspondent for Defense News.

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