MELBOURNE, Australia – Against a backdrop of rising tension over North Korea's nuclear and missile programs, South Korea has announced that development of a new, extended-range, shipborne land-attack missile has been completed, and the missile will now go into serial production later this year, to enter service in 2019.
The Tactical Surface Launch Missile, or TSLM, which had been referred to as the Haeseong II in local media, can deploy an unspecified number of submunitions against an area target the size of two soccer fields. It can be used against installations as well as light armored or soft-skinned vehicles such as mobile missile launchers and support vehicles, according to an April 18 news release by the Defense Acquisition Program Administration, or DAPA.
Another feature of the missile is its ability to rapidly generate new flight paths in real time, which raises the possibility of it being able to rapidly take on new targets should a more important one be detected. DAPA also added that improved obstacle avoidance performance is built into the missile.
The new missile, which was developed by South Korea's Agency for Defense Development under the supervision of the National Defense Science Institute since 2011, is a development of the SSM-700K Haeseong, or Sea Star, anti-ship missile that already equips South Korea's destroyers and frigates.
According to DAPA, the TSLM can either be launched by the inclined canisters or vertical launch systems fitted to a number South Korean Navy destroyers and frigates. A video released by DAPA showed Incheon-class frigates and the destroyer Gang Gam-chan launching several missiles on separate occasions. No range or performance figures for the missile were provided, but earlier reports had said it is capable of attacking targets up to 310 miles away.
South Korea's ongoing land-attack and cruise missile program is the result of its inability to acquire long-range missiles with significant payloads as a signatory to the Missile Technology Control Regime. Despite the world's attention being focused on North Korea's medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missile program, South Korea's main threat is from neighboring North Korea's arsenal of mobile, short-range ballistic and battlefield missiles.
Technically still at war with the South, North Korea also has artillery and multiple rocket launchers that can reach South Korea's capital Seoul, and land-attack missiles represent one of the primary means the South has to defend against such threats before launching payloads in the event of a conflict.
Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News. He wrote his first defense-related magazine article in 1998 before pursuing an aerospace engineering degree at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia. Following a stint in engineering, he became a freelance defense reporter in 2013 and has written for several media outlets.