S-400 to Seoul? How South Korea Indirectly Acquires Cutting Edge Russian Air Defences

S-400 to Seoul? How South Korea Indirectly Acquires Cutting Edge Russian Air Defences by Military Watch for Check Point Asia

Politically precluded from buying Russian outright Seoul instead enlists Russian help in developing nominally domestic anti-aircraft weapons

Check Point Asia’s note: Article argues that South Koreans want Russian anti-aircraft technology because they recognize it is better. Another possibility is that they enlist the help of Russians because Americans are traditionally extremely loathe to engage in technology transfers even to their clients. (The reason Turks soured on the Patriots.)

A number of longstanding Western military clients have recently taken steps to acquire Russian made surface to air missile systems to provide an effective air defence capability.

This has come as a result of the severe shortcomings of Western made air defence systems such as the Patriot missile battery, as demonstrated by its repeated combat failures when deployed in the Middle East by Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United States.


The latest of these has been South Korea, which has long shown a strong and longstanding interest in Russian made aircraft and air defence systems but has been unable to acquire them due to pressure from Washington.

Following the end of the Cold War state of the art Soviet arms, from the Su-27 air superiority fighters to the T-90 battle tanks and even the hulks of Soviet aircraft carriers, became widely available for export to almost any state regardless of its geopolitical affiliation.

South Korea showed interest in acquiring the S-300 air defence battery from Russia in the 1990s, which would not only provide it with a more capable long range anti aircraft system than any fielded by North Korea but would also provide an unparalleled security guarantee against missile attacks from the north.

As a result members of the U.S. Congress in 1997 voiced deep concerns over the possible sale of the S-300 systems to South Korea, purporting that Seoul should as a U.S. ally instead purchase the American made Patriot system. They noted in particular that the acquisition of the Patriot would ensure interoperability with assets assigned to U.S. Forces deployed to Korea.

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