South Korea plans to mass-produce a new indigenous medium-range anti-tank guided missile (ATGM), the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) announced on Thursday in a written statement.
DAPA and the Defense Agency of Technology and Quality (DTaQ) reported that the South had “successfully” carried out a live-fire test of its first domestically-produced anti-tank guided weapon on Tuesday at Pocheon in Gyeonggi Province.
The missile, entitled “Hyungung” in Korean and “Raybolt” in English, is a man-portable anti-tank guided missile for infantry units, and will be delivered to the country’s military this year.
In the “Mid-term Defense Plan for 2018-2022” released by the Ministry of National Defense (MND) in mid-April this year, Seoul unveiled its plan to integrate the Hyungung – which is designed to destroy tanks like North Korea’s Songun-ho – into the armed forces.
The indigenous weapon system will replace the “superannuated” 90mm/106mm recoilless rifles and the U.S. TOW (Tube-launched, optically-tracked, wire-guided or wireless) missiles, which were introduced to the ROK Army in 1975.
“The in-country development of Hyungung succeeded in in 2015 (hosted by DTaQ) and the full-scale mass production will start as it successfully completed the test-firing of the quality certification,” DAPA said in the written statement.
“The newly developed weapon is still moved by a vehicle but it can be carried as it weighs approximately 20kg which is lighter than TOW missiles whose weight is around between 80 and 90kg,” Kim Min-seok, a senior researcher at the Korea Defense and Security Forum (KODEF), told NK News.
Kim said the range of the anti-tank missile is shorter than the TOW missiles due to its reduced weight.
The South Korean-produced missile has faced controversy, however, over its effectiveness in a real-life combat situation against North Korean tanks.
“Soldiers can’t run away right after launching an anti-tank guided missile since it takes around 15 seconds until hitting a target in the case of the TOW missiles. The tank may be able to avoid the bombard or kill the person who fired the missile,” Kim said. “But the soldiers can run away right after the launch in the case of Hyungung.”
DAPA said the new weapon system has “excellent performance” in terms of available range and penetration power, and is capable of attacking the “vulnerable” top part of enemy tanks and of launching an attack while mounted on personal portable and small-sized tactical vehicles.
The Hyungung is a third-generation “fire and forget” anti-tank guided missile, enabling the user to track and hit a target without further manipulation once it is launched.
The new ATGM carries “tandem shaped” charge warheads in order to destroy reactive armor and penetrate main armor.
“The North’s new Songun-ho and Pokpung-ho tanks have the reactive armor, so the original TOW missiles can’t destroy them, and this is why the military [developed the Hyungung],” Kim said.
North Korea’s Korean People’s Army (KPA) possesses approximately 4300 tanks, while South Korea has around 2400 tanks, according to a 2016 Defense White Paper published last December.
In the report, the MND added that Pyongyang is also “improving its operational capabilities through equipment modernization, with its armored and mechanized units now being equipped with Chonma-ho and Songun-ho main battle tanks.”
Meanwhile, the North in February last year said it had developed a “Korean style” anti-tank guided weapon, claiming the laser-guided rocket has the longest firing range of its type in the world.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
All photos credit to the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA)
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