UAE buys Korean surface-to-air missiles reaching Mach 5 speed

SEOUL, ($1=1,209.71 South Korean Won) — The United Arab Emirates has decided to buy South Korean surface-to-air missile systems Cheolmae-II, BulgarianMilitary.com has learned, citing a press release from the South Korean company Hanwha Defense. The total value of the deal is approximately $ 3.3 billion.

UAE wants SAM systems, intercepting at an altitude of 20 km
Photo credit: Wikipedia

The UAE will receive surface-to-air missile systems including rocket batteries, a freight vehicle, and a radar system. The production of Cheolmae-II will be carried out by two South Korean companies – the aforementioned Hanwha Defense and LIG Nex1.

BulgarianMilitary.com recalls that back in November 2021 it announced that negotiations had begun on the sidelines of the International Exhibition of Defense and Security held in Dubai, the UAE, and South Korea. “On the South Korean side, however, we want to be careful. Although the UAE Ministry of Defense’s statement is positive, we still need to see how the negotiations on the details go,” said then the Defense Acquisition Program Administration [DAPA] – the South Korean military program agency. “This purchase will make the United Arab Emirates the number one export customer of Cheolmae-II”.

The deal is already a fact and it turns out to be the biggest deal to export surface-to-air missile systems to a foreign country. Hanwha Defense CEO Son Je-il said: “This UAE export agreement makes sense because it is a meaningful result achieved by the Korean government and various defense companies working together as a team.” According to Son Je-il, the company will try to sell K9 Thunder self-propelled howitzers to the UAE as well.

What does the UAE get?

After arming with the S-400s, the Russian MoD has received a new S-350 anti-aircraft missile system
Russian S-350E, Photo credit: Wikipedia

Cheolmae-II is a South Korean medium-range surface-to-air missile [SAM] system. This missile system is not a purely South Korean design, as Russian state-owned companies Almaz-Altai and Fakel have been involved in its development, especially in terms of technological support. Moreover, Cheolmae-II incorporates Russian 9M96 missile technology, which is the main weapon of the famous S-350E and S-400 air defense systems. It is no coincidence that the appearance of the Cheolmae-II is very similar to that of the S-350E.

Cheolmae-II has been in service with South Korean artillery since 2015. It consists of four to six 8-cell transporter erector launchers [TELs], X-band multifunctional 3D radar with PESA phased array, and a vehicle. The radar can detect up to 40 targets simultaneously at a distance of 100 km.

The missiles are powered by a solid-fuel rocket motor and can hit targets at a distance of between 15 and 20 km. The missiles can reach a maximum speed of Mach 5 [1.1 mi / s; 1.7 km / s]. The missile is directional and has an integrated inertial navigation system [INS]. INS is a navigation device that uses a computer, motion sensors [accelerometers], and rotation sensors [gyroscopes] to continuously calculate by dead reckoning the position, orientation, and velocity [direction and speed of movement] of a moving object without the need for external references.

What is the UAE’s air defense now?

The United Arab Emirates’ missile and air defenses currently rely in part on two high-altitude Terminal Defense batteries [THAAD], acquired by the United States and recently awarded a $ 255 million Lockheed-Martin contract to ensure that it is maintained in working condition [MCO]. They complement the American Patriot PAC-3 system, acquired in 2008.

Also, to intercept missiles operating at lower altitudes, the Emirati forces have 50 Russian systems Pantsir S1 and MIM-23 Hawk medium-range missiles.

It is assumed that the new anti-aircraft missile systems that the UAE buys from South Korea will replace the existing MIM-23 Hawk medium-range missiles – the same as Seoul did years ago.

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