South Korea Approves SM-3 Buy, Plus New Air-to-Air Missile and Fourth Batch of Frigates

Flames erupt from a ship-launched missile

SM-3 missile launch – U.S. Navy

South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) signed off on four weapons programs on April 26, comprising procurement of SM-3 missiles, a new air-to-air missile, frigates, and a Close-In Weapon System (CIWS), valued at a combined $4.6 billion. Work on several of the programs will extend into the mid-to-late 2030s. However, the SM-3 and air-to-air missile programs are still subject to feasibility studies and program reviews.

The SM-3 missiles will be integrated onto KDX III Batch II Aegis destroyers, which are built by South Korean shipbuilder Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI). The missiles will be purchased from the U.S. through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program. The SM-3 acquisition is valued at KRW 803.9 billion ($581 million) and will conclude in 2030.

South Korea also wants to develop and build a new domestic long-range air-to-air missile for its KF-21 fighter under a KRW 1.57 trillion ($1.1 billion) effort. DAPA approved a draft business strategy for this new acquisition program, which is expected to run from 2025 to 2038.

Approval was also given for a fourth batch of light frigates, which are replacing Ulsan class light frigates and Pohang/Donghae class corvettes. Delivery of Batch III ships began in 2023 and are expected to conclude in 2027. The DAPA announcement said Batch IV work will run through 2032 at a cost of KRW 3.2525 trillion ($2.3 billion).

Finally, DAPA signed off a CIWS project to help ships protect themselves from aircraft, missiles, and other threats. The government announcement indicated this acquisition would be scaled to reflect the increased threat of drones at sea. The project is valued at KRW 895.7 billion ($647 million) and will be completed in 2036.

Senior North America Analyst, U.S. Defense Budget Analyst, and Military Force Structures of the World Analyst at Forecast International | + posts

As editor of International Military Markets, North America, Shaun has cultivated a deep understanding of the vast defense markets in the United States and Canada. Shaun's perspective on defense procurement and budget issues has been cited in a variety of defense periodicals, including Defense News and National Defense Magazine. Further, Shaun played an integral role in the development of Forecast International's U.S. Defense Budget Forecast product, which offers an unprecedented level of insight into the Pentagon's acquisition budget. In addition to providing original analytical content for the U.S. Defense Budget Forecast, Shaun oversees an internal defense budget forecasting process involving Forecast International's team of skilled systems analysts following release of the DoD's annual budget request. Shaun is also in charge of managing Forecast International's Weapons Inventory database.

About Shaun McDougall

As editor of International Military Markets, North America, Shaun has cultivated a deep understanding of the vast defense markets in the United States and Canada. Shaun's perspective on defense procurement and budget issues has been cited in a variety of defense periodicals, including Defense News and National Defense Magazine. Further, Shaun played an integral role in the development of Forecast International's U.S. Defense Budget Forecast product, which offers an unprecedented level of insight into the Pentagon's acquisition budget. In addition to providing original analytical content for the U.S. Defense Budget Forecast, Shaun oversees an internal defense budget forecasting process involving Forecast International's team of skilled systems analysts following release of the DoD's annual budget request. Shaun is also in charge of managing Forecast International's Weapons Inventory database.

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