SEOUL -- South Korea has secured an export deal worth $3.2 billion to supply a medium-range surface-to-air missile system to Saudi Arabia. The weapon called "Cheongung-II" features the function of intercepting aircraft and ballistic missiles at an altitude of about 15 kilometers (9.3 miles).
The missile interceptor is South Korea's core air and missile defense system against North Korea's ballistic projectiles. The defense solution can continuously fire a maximum of eight guided missiles from a single launcher while also providing a 360-degree response capability to aircraft threats. It strikes a target around 40 kilometers away while flying at a speed of Mach 4.5 (5,000 kilometers per hour).
According to the Ministry of National Defense on February 6, South Korean defense contractor LIG Nex1 signed an agreement with Saudi Arabia to export ten units of Cheongung II. This marks the second instance of Cheongung-II exports, following the export to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in January 2022.
The contract also involves Hanwha Systems, a defense contractor that produces Cheongung-II's multi-function radar (MFR), and Hanwha Aerospace, a defense solution company in charge of launcher production. MFR can carry out combined tasks with a single radar such as detection tracking, identification, jammer response, and guided-missile capture and tracking communication.
In October 2023, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol agreed with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to enhance the bilateral strategic partnership. Among the agendas discussed between Seoul and Riyadh, a military arms provision project, including anti-air defense systems, was one of the main focuses.
South Korea views the North's long-range artillery and large-caliber multiple rocket launchers as significant security threats, primarily because of Seoul's geographical vulnerability. As the densely populated capital is located near the border, it falls within the range of North Korea's artillery.
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