The Republic of Korea has secured approval from the US State Department for the acquisition of Subsonic Sea-Skimming Aerial Targets (SSAT) for its KDX-III Batch-II AEGIS destroyers.

The $170.6m sale, comprising five BQM-177A SSATs alongside other logistical and programme support elements, is indicative of South Korea’s commitment to advancing its naval defence capabilities, with the target drones used to improve proficiency in surface-to-air target prosecution.

According to GlobalData’s South Korea defence market intelligence, South Korea plans to develop a blue-water naval force capable of projecting naval power over long distances and is in the process of inducting new KDX-III AEGIS-equipped destroyers. 

While the primary focus of the sale is to facilitate Combat System Ship Qualification Trials (CSSQT) for the new KDX-III Batch-II AEGIS destroyers, the acquisition also reflects the Republic of Korea’s ambitions to stay ahead of evolving security challenges in the Asia-Pacific region.

By enhancing its anti-air warfare capabilities, South Korea aims to reinforce its position as a key US regional ally, promoting political stability and economic progress, read a 7 March statement from the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency.

The proposed sale will see US defence contractors such as Kratos Defense and Northrop Grumman contribute to the acquisition programme.

The Republic of Korean Navy achieved a milestone in 2012 by completing combat system ship qualification trials (CSSQT) aboard the second Sejong the Great-class ship, Yulgok Yi I. The trials validated the AEGIS combat system’s capability through anti-air multi-mission warfare exercises, electronic attack scenarios, and live air defence engagements.

Commissioned in August 2010, Yulgok Yi I is part of the Korean Destroyer experimental (KDX-III) programme.