South Korea snatched $3 billion air defence contract from Russia

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A Gulf giant has vehemently rejected Russia’s S-400 air defence system and spent more than 3 billion USD to own the Korean “KM-SAM” air defence system.

According to the official news published with the Korean media, during the visit of President Moon Jae-in to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), representatives of the two countries officially signed the agreement worth $3.37 billion (KRW 4 trillion) for the export of the KM-SAM Block II air defense system.

This is the largest arms export contract in South Korea’s history, unprecedented. This event marks the UAE becoming the first export customer of KM-SAM.

Earlier, at the end of 2021, Russian defense industry sources said that the UAE had stopped negotiating to buy a modern S-400 missile complex. This is probably due to the US embargo.

KM-SAM, also known as Cheongung 2 is a medium-range surface-to-air missile system research and design by the Korea Agency for Defense Development (ADD) with technical support from Almaz-Antey and Fakel of Russia.

To repay the debt to South Korea in the 1990s, Russia transferred technology to South Korea to develop its own air defense missiles, replacing outdated US-purchased MIM-23 HAWK complexes.

The birth of the KM-SAM missile was so successful that the Russian side also developed a version for its own defense needs, named S-350 Vityaz. The S-350 missile complex entered service with the Russian army in 2019, and its 9M96 missiles have been the basis for the development of KM-SAM ammunition. 9M96 ammunition is also an important weapon of the modern S-400 missile complex.

KM-SAM components have been manufactured by domestic enterprises, such as LIG Nex1, Hanwaha Systems.

A fully staffed KM-SAM battalion includes 1 fire command vehicle, 1 multifunctional X-band passive phased array radar (PESA), and 6 TELs, each carrying 8 projectiles anti-aircraft fire. Each missile of KM-SAM costs up to 1.26 million USD.

The multi-function radar of the KM-SAM complex can detect targets from a distance of 100km, simultaneously tracking 40 targets at the same time. The KM-SAM complex can simultaneously intercept 6 targets with a range of up to 40km, an altitude of up to 15km (Block I version) and 20km (Block II version). Inheriting the tradition of Russian air defense, the KM-SAM has good anti-interference ability, and can still launch accurately in conditions of strong electronic warfare.

The KM-SAM missile is capable of destroying many types of targets, from jets, helicopters, ballistic missiles and cruise missiles. UAVs are also delicious targets of this complex.

Air defense complex KM-SAM test firing
Air defense complex KM-SAM test firing

Missile “measure shoes” for the UAE

According to internal reports, the KM-SAM Block-II defeated the Israeli-made “Barak” air defense system, showing outstanding effectiveness. In a live-fire test in 2017, the complex was reported to be 100% accurate.

Many commentators say that the KM-SAM is a “tailor-made” product for the UAE, because the biggest threat to the country’s airspace is Iran’s huge missile arsenal. For its part, Iran’s missile technology is heavily influenced by North Korea. And South Korea’s KM-SAM is optimized to counter North Korean missiles. The two countries on the Korean peninsula are once again pitted in the skies of the Middle East!

In recent years, South Korea has strengthened diplomatic relations with the UAE and increased cooperation in the military field. South Korea also agreed to transfer drones and other technologies to the UAE through a partnership between Calidus (Abu Dhabi) and Korean Air.

During the visit of South Korean President Moon Jae-in, the two countries’ representatives also signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) related to bilateral defense cooperation, with many contents such as long-term defense procurement, jointly research and develop weapons.

President Moon Jae-in is also expected to visit Egypt. In the pyramid country, the Korean delegation is expected to finalize a major deal involving the export of the K9 Thunder self-propelled howitzer and possibly the K2 Black Panther main battle tank. It is rare for the Korean president’s trip to “close an order” with so many weapons.

With the modern Russian S-400 missile complexes caught in the US embargo, KM-SAM – the “Korean S-350” version naturally becomes a suitable alternative for countries that want to improve air defense power.

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