South Korea is in the final phase of developing an indigenous low-tier missile defense system to better cope with North Korea's growing missile threats.
All testing and evaluations of the M-SAM (medium-range surface-to-air missile) have been completed, and it now awaits a final process next month to determine its suitability for intended combat missions.
The M-SAM, a core element of the country's Korea Air and Missile Defense system, aims to intercept incoming hostile ballistic missiles at altitudes of around 20 kilometers. It employs a hit-to-kill technology.
The state-run Agency for Defense Development, in tandem with LIG Nex1, has been developing the M-SAM by modifying the existing Cheongung surface-to-air missile. The military is expected to sign a contract to mass-produce it in the latter half of this year.
Seoul authorities aim to deploy the M-SAM between 2018 and 2019. They initially planned to deploy it in the early 2020s but moved up the deployment a year due to Pyongyang's escalating missile threats.