[THE INVESTOR] South Korea has successfully conducted its first live-fire exercise for an advanced long-range cruise missile capable of striking North Korea’s underground military facilities and command centers, Seoul’s Air Force said on Sept. 13.
According to the military, the Taurus missile fired from a F-15K fighter jet traveled about 400 kilometers before hitting a target on Jikdo Island in the West Sea on Sept. 12. It flew through obstacles at a low altitude of 500 meters and rose up to 3 kilometers before hitting the target, the Air Force said.
Air Force's F-15K fighter jet releases a Taurus missile during a live-fire drill in the West Sea on Sept. 12. Air Force.
The live-fire drill came as a part of a show of force against North Korea, which on Wednesday vowed to continue its nuclear ambitions “until the fight to the finish is over” in response to new United Nations sanctions over Pyongyang’s sixth and largest nuclear test on Sept 3.
“Through the exercise, (the South Korean Air Force) showcased its capability to conduct a strong response to the enemy’s provocations and demonstrated the ability to carry out a precision strike in a long distance,” the Air Force said in a statement.
Boasting a maximum range of 500 kilometers, the Taurus is equipped with stealth technology and GPS, allowing the missile to strike a long-distance target precisely without being disturbed by North Korea’s radar system and jamming attacks.
For safety concerns, the missile fired on Sept. 12 was adjusted to fly only 400 kilometers and carry an inert ordnance without explosives. The military had planned to conduct the drill in April, but delayed it to avoid migrant birds’ travel season.
Deployed in South Korea in 2016 for the first time, the Taurus missile’s successful test is expected to boost South Korea’s capability to conduct its own pre-emptive strikes and military operations in taking out North Korea’s underground missile and nuclear facilities and wartime commands.
A day after North Korea fired off its first intercontinental ballistic missile on July 4, South Korea demonstrated the missile’s ability to perform the “decapitation plan” by releasing a computer-animated video in which Taurus missile was dropped into the heart of North Korea’s capital Pyongyang.
“Through the live-fire exercise, we managed to confirm Taurus’ operational capability,” said Air Force Maj. Lee Hyeon-woo, who piloted the F-15k that launched the missile. “We are ready to retaliate the enemy’s provocations with precision strike capability.
South Korea is seeking to adopt a total of 260 Taurus missiles by 2018 and mount them onto its fighter jets such as the F-15K. The military had initially planned to acquire 170 Taurus missiles, but decided to increase the amount last October after North Korea conducted its fifth nuclear test.
Manufactured by the German-Swedish joint venture Taurus Systems, the missile costs about 2 billion won ($ 1.8 million) each. The missile is 5.1 meters long and weighs 1,400 kilograms. It is capable of carrying a 480 kilogram warhead and flying as low as 40 meters off the ground at a speed of Mach 0.95.
“Considering the current security situation, we will do our utmost to field the Taurus as soon as possible and help the Air Force boost its capability,” said Lee Sang-moon, who oversees Taurus acquisition at the Defense Acquisition Program Administration.
By Yeo Jun-suk/The Korea Herald (firstname.lastname@example.org)