This Cheap Weapon Is Keeping the Korean Demilitarized Zone Safe
Policy + Politics

This Cheap Weapon Is Keeping the Korean Demilitarized Zone Safe

Lee Jae Won

The demilitarized zone along the 38th parallel separating North and South Korea is one of the most heavily armed areas of the world. As tensions between Pyongyang and the United States and its allies rise after a series of missile tests, a relatively cheap weapon is one of the South’s main deterrents to a conflict on the ground. 

Raytheon's M982 Excalibur artillery shells were sent to the DMZ in 2012, two years after North Korea launched artillery at its Southern neighbor, killing four people. Each of the shells cost $54,000, a pittance when you consider the F-35 airplane program meant to deliver U.S. missile payloads in a conflict cost upwards of $1 trillion dollars. A Tomahawk Cruise missile costs about $1 million. In 2016, Raytheon received a $31.8 million contract to make more of the Excalibur shells.

Related: Here's How North Korea's Military Stacks Up Against the US 

The area between North and South Korea is quite mountainous, which makes the Excalibur the ideal weapon for the region. It strikes vertically -- meaning the missile comes straight down from the sky - and strikes within 13 feet of its target 92 percent of the time. It also can burrow into the ground and explode, or detonate over a target.

The weapon is used by five countries and is accurate within 25 miles. It uses GPS navigation, which is more effective than traditional artillery because it visually locates a target before firing at it. GPS also allows the Excalibur to change course after being fired.

The weapon has been used extensively in Afghanistan, where it’s been a great success. It set a record-setting artillery strike, hitting Taliban insurgents in Helmand province with a weapon 22 miles away. It’s so accurate that it is authorized to be used within 500 feet of friendly troops.

Check out this video of the Excalibur in action below.