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South Korea to start production of anti-aircraft laser weapon


Seoul, July 11
South Korea will begin production of a laser weapon designed to strike down enemy drones for deployment this year, the defence procurement agency said Thursday, in a push to become the first country to operate such a weapon.

Last month, the Defence Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) signed a deal worth about 100 billion won ($72 million) with South Korean defence company Hanwha Aerospace for its production amid efforts to acquire advanced weapons systems, Yonhap news agency reported.

The laser weapon is capable of defending against small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and multi-copters at close range by firing a laser-generated using fiber optics, according to DAPA.

It can fire a laser beam for about 10 to 20 seconds, raising a targeted area's temperature to over 700 C and disabling internal components, such as an engine or a battery, DAPA spokesperson Jo Yong-jin said in a briefing.

The weapon system can operate as long as electricity is supplied, and a single firing is estimated to cost only about 2,000 won, DAPA said, noting the laser is not visible and does not produce any sound.

"Cost per fire is extremely cheap compared with other guided weapons," Jo said. "Responses to low-cost strike assets and weapons, such as small drones, will be able to take place very effectively and efficiently."

He declined to offer further details of the weapon's capabilities, citing operational security.

If the system is deployed as planned late this year, South Korea will become the first known country in the world to have its military operate such a laser weapon, according to DAPA.

It said the system could become a "game changer" in future warfare if its output is increased to respond to threats posed by ballistic missiles and larger-sized aircraft.

The production comes after South Korea began developing the laser weapon in 2019, investing a total of 87.1 billion won in the project. The system was assessed as combat-suitable in April last year after undergoing successful live-fire tests.

DAPA said it plans to develop an improved version with enhanced output and range.

The military has sought to beef up its response capabilities against small UAVs after five North Korean drones intruded across the inter-Korean border in December 2022.