South Korea's new Defence investments 20/05/2024 | Fabio Di Felice

Noting the persistent belligerent attitude of Pyongyang, the South Korean Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) plans to spend $4B on new weapons investments. Seoul will buy 4 new frigates, create a new air-to-air missile, and purchase Close-In Weapon Systems (CIWS) and SM-3 missiles. Despite the important announcement, in accordance with some US specialized media, the latter investment is not locked in and the first 3 must still undergo feasibility studies and then be reviewed. The positive feedback coming from the SM-3 employment in combat by the US Navy boosted Seoul’s decision; the new surface-to-air missiles will be installed on Aegis ships (KDX III Batch II Aegis destroyers) from 2025 to 2030 and will cost roughly $583 million. South Korean Defense Minister, Shin Won-sik, clearly commented that the new acquisitions are most likely to be used to protect South Korea from North Korean missiles, avoiding any reference to China. He clearly commented that in case of crisis occurs in Taiwan, the Seoul military’s paramount concern will be “observing the possibility of North Korean provocations and working with USFK (US Force Korea) to establish a firm joint defense posture.” The 4 new frigates will be the Batch IV of the ULSAN-class frigates, with improved sensors and electronic warfare capabilities, and they will replace other aging units by 2032 for a cost of $2.35 billion. In addition, DAPA approved an estimated $1.1 billion project to develop a long-range air-to-air missile for its indigenous KF-21 multirole aircraft, scheduled to be delivered to the Korean Air Force in 2026. The missile program is planned to last from 2025 to 2038 and it is expected to boost exports and competitiveness of the KF-21. Finally, DAPA signed off a CIWS project for improving ships' protection against any kind of air threats, noting the increased one of drones at sea. The project is valued at $647 million and will be completed in 2036.

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