August 29, 2017:
Flexible when it has to be South Korea has allowed Germany to take South Korean non-electronic goods as part of offset deals. This is being applied to the recent order for another 90 Taurus stealthy cruise missiles from Germany. In the past South Korea insisted that these offset deals involve only defense related items. These offset deals are common when a nations buys weapons from a foreign supplier and part of the deal is some or all of the purchase price be matched by the seller nation buying products from the other. Thus when South Korea buys German missiles Germany is obliged to buy a certain amount pf South Korean products. This “offset” feature encourages two-way trade and makes the purchase of foreign goods, especially weapons, more politically acceptable. Until now South Korea wanted to encourage foreign nations to buy South Korean military or industrial gear as offsets. But South Korea is buying so much foreign military gear that it agreed to allow non-military electronics (smart phones and computers) to be included. South Korea dominates international markets in some of these non-military electronics categories.
In late 2016 South Korea began receiving the first of the 170 Taurus it ordered in 2013. South Korea needs the Taurus missiles for their F-15K fighter bombers, which can launch Taurus from off the east or west coasts of North Korea and quickly destroy numerous key targets inside North Korea. In early 2017 South Korea and the Taurus manufacturer completed modifications to the F-15K fire control system so it can handle the Taurus. That allowed test launches can be conducted so the Taurus could enter service with the South Korean Air Force. Since July South Korean officials have mentioned Taurus as one of the many precision weapons that would be used against North Korea if there were a war.
Taurus was developed by German and Swedish firms and entered service in 2005. It is a 1.4 ton cruise missile that has a range of over 500 kilometers and a cruising speed of about 1,100 kilometers an hour. It travels at low altitude (35 meters/112 feet). The guidance system includes a thermal imaging sensor that seeks out a specific target shape and can land within three meters (under ten feet) of it in any weather or at night. Taurus uses a half ton (481 kg) warhead that has special features for penetrating (up to six meters of concrete) well protected underground bunkers. The warhead also has excellent fragmentation effect against surface targets. Taurus costs about $1.2 million each.
Delivery was delayed for nearly a year because the United States was reluctant to sell South Korea a top secret military grade GPS receiver that has proved to be immune to known North Korean GPS jammers. The U.S. has been reluctant to export key electronic devices to East Asian allies because of the ease with which Chinese spies are getting access to military secrets in South Korea, Japan and Taiwan. Chinese espionage has been successful in the United States as well, but not to the extent it has with its East Asian neighbors. South Korea, Japan and Taiwan are working hard to cope with the espionage problem and the United States has been relenting on a case-by-case basis with some key tech. Given the increasing aggressiveness of North Korea, it seemed prudent to get Taurus delivered as soon as possible.