BLU-118B thermobaric bomb. Photo: US Navy via AFP/Karen Burrows

South Korea’s military reportedly has plans to create a surface-to-surface-missile unit that can take out long-range North Korean artillery batteries that are buried deep in the mountains on Pyongyang’s side of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).

Public broadcaster the Korean Broadcasting System (KBS) says the South Korean army will combine its first and third military headquarters to form a new ground operations command in October to oversee the missile unit.

UPI, in picking up the story, says that under the new command structure, an artillery force will be armed with tactical ground-to-ground guided missiles that can hit large targets within a short period of time.

A single launch pad, according to United Press International, can fire four missiles in a matter of seconds, with the rockets capable of traveling about 150 kilometers.

“Equipped with a precision guidance function, the missiles are said to be ideal for targeting North Korea’s long-range artillery concentrated along the DMZ line,” UPI said.

Analysts say the new missile will be able to nip North Korea’s artillery threat in the bud. Thermobaric warheads on the missiles are said to be capable of incinerating everything inside a targeted mineshaft being used to hide enemy artillery pieces.

Thermobaric weapons carry explosives that use oxygen from the surrounding air to generate a high-temperature explosion. The resulting blast wave lasts much longer than that produced by a conventional condensed explosive. Examples are the fuel-air bombs used by the US during the Vietnam and Iraq wars.

North Korea has spent decades tunneling a vast network of artillery and rocket emplacements in the mountainous terrain not far from South Korea’s capital city Seoul. Analysts believe the sites, buried deep in the limestone mountains and hills, would be difficult to destroy with air strikes alone.