SEOUL — South Korea has approved a plan to buy more Lockheed Martin-made Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missiles to enhance its defense against North Korea’s ballistic missile threat.

Under the plan, which was endorsed May 30 by a top decision-making committee of the Defense Acquisition Program Administration, the government will spend 750 billion won (U.S. $600 million) over the next five years to procure PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement weapons. The government did not disclose a quantity for the missile interceptors.

The DAPA committee also approved a plan to upgrade the existing PAC-2 launchers for use with PAC-3 platforms. The PAC-2 launcher enables missiles to intercept hostile targets at an altitude of about 20 kilometers (12 miles), whereas the PAC-3 launcher can destroy incoming missiles at an altitude of 40 kilometers.

The PAC-3 MSE uses a two-pulse, solid-fuel rocket motor that increases altitude and range to defend against evolving threats. “The latest decision to get more PAC-3 interceptor missiles is aimed at improving the existing air defense system over the Seoul metropolitan area and key state facilities,” DAPA said in a statement. “The buy of more PAC-3 missiles will help enhance our missile defense capability to thwart the ballistic missile threat.”

South Korea’s decision to boost its missile intercepting capability came about a week after its northern neighbor fired three ballistic missiles, including a possible intercontinental ballistic missile, toward waters off the Korean Peninsula’s east coast. The missiles were fired shortly after U.S. President Joe Biden wrapped up a trip to the region, where he pledged efforts to strengthen deterrence against the North’s increasing nuclear threat.

South Korea has been developing its own a missile shield, called the Korea Air and Missile Defense, a terminal-phase, lower-tier, overlapping missile defense system. The KAMD consists of an early warning system, a command-and-control system, and an intercept system.

For interception, the South Korean military has acquired Patriot missiles and medium-range surface-to-air missiles. It is also developing a long-range surface-to-air missile system with an extended intercept range using domestic technology as part of efforts to help improve its capability to defeat incoming ballistic missiles.

Brian Kim was a South Korea correspondent for Defense News.

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