Asia Defense

US State Department Approves Sale of 94 SM-2 Block IIIB Missiles to South Korea

The estimated cost for the missile sale is $314 million.

Franz-Stefan Gady
US State Department Approves Sale of 94 SM-2 Block IIIB Missiles to South Korea
Credit: Raytheon

The U.S. State Department has cleared a possible sale of 94 Standard Missile-2 (SM-2) Block IIIB surface-to-air missile (SAM) interceptors for an estimated cost of $ 314 million to South Korea, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) said in a May 17 statement.

In addition to the SM-2 Block IIIB interceptors, the sale includes missile canisters, technical assistance, engineering and logistical support services, as well as logistics and program support.

The bilateral weapons sale is still subject to congressional approval and the quantity and price of South Korea’s new batch of SM-2 Block IIIB SAMs may change before the signing of a final sales agreement.

South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) announced the procurement of the new missiles in December 2018.

“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States by meeting the legitimate security and defense needs of one of the closest allies in the INDOPACOM Theater,” the DSCA statement notes.

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“The Republic of Korea is one of the major political and economic powers in East Asia and the Western Pacific and a key partner of the United States in ensuring peace and stability in that region.”

Delivery of the latest batch of the SM-2 Block IIIB missiles is slated to begin in 2023.

The SM-2 Block IIIB interceptors are medium-range SAMs with an operational range of around 90 nautical miles (166 kilometers) and can be deployed against subsonic, supersonic, low- and high- altitude, high-maneuvering, diving, sea-skimming, anti-ship cruise missiles, fighters, bombers and helicopters, according to Raytheon.

The ROKN last test fired SM-2 Block IIIB missiles in October 2018.

The Republic of Korean Navy (ROKN) already uses the SM-2 Block IIIB aboard some of its guided-missile destroyers. Notably, the service will deploy the SM-2 Block IIIB SAMs aboard the second batch of KDX-III Sejong the Great-class of multi-purpose destroyers.

The first batch of three KDX-IIIs, commissioned into the ROKN between 2008 and 2012, are currently being retrofitted with the Aegis Baseline 9 combat system boosting the ships’ air defenses and ballistic missile defenses.

The second batch of three KDX-III is expected to join the ROKN in the late 2020s.

“The [ROKN] intends to use the SM-2 Block IIIB to supplement it existing inventory,” the May 17 statement reads. “The proposed sale will provide a defensive capability while enhancing interoperability with U.S. and other allied forces.”

The destroyers will also carry the SM-3 Block IB missile, an exo-atmospheric missile defense interceptor used for theater ballistic missile defense. As I explained elsewhere:

The supersonic SM-3 Block IB interceptor is an upgraded variant of the original SM-3 missile fitted with an enhanced two-color infrared seeker and features an upgraded steering and propulsion capability. The SM-3 Block IB, first flight tested in 2011, is designed to destroy incoming short- to intermediate-range ballistic missile targets in midcourse. The weapon system became first operational with the U.S. Navy in 2014.

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Last month, the U.S. State Department has cleared the sale of 56 SM-3 Block IB missiles for an estimated $1.150 billion to Japan.