April 18 (UPI) -- A low-tier missile defense system is reportedly in the final phase of development by South Korea, a military official said earlier this week.
The evaluation process follows completion of earlier testing of the medium-range surface-to-air missile known as M-SAM.
"It is fair to say that we only have an administrative procedure to complete the development of the M-SAM," the unidentified military official said.
The indigenously developed M-SAM is a key element of the country's Korea Air and Missile Defense system. It has the capability to destroy incoming ballistic missiles at an altitude of about 12.4 miles.
The missile was developed by South Korea's Agency for Defense Development and LIG Nex1 using the country's existing Cheongung surface-to-air missile. Mass production is expected to be ordered next year, with deployment planned after 2018.
Yonhap said planned production was advanced from the 2020s because of escalating missile threats from North Korea.
The new interceptors will join the Korean military's PAC-2 and PAC-3 missile defense systems -- along with the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system of U.S. Forces in Korea -- to help protect the country against missile attack from the north.