September 17, 2011: South Korea is equipping some of its patrol boats with French Mistral portable anti-aircraft missiles. This would be the first time the South Korean Navy equipped its ships with a portable missile like this. Although South Korea has its own (locally developed and built) missile (Singung) that is similar to Mistral, that one is used exclusively by the army. Mistral has long been used by patrol boats, and the naval version is built to handle the damp and corrosive salt water conditions. Years of Mistral experience at sea was also a reason to buy. Mistral has a range of 5.3 kilometers and is to provide South Korea patrol boats off the west coast protection from North Korea warplanes or helicopter gunships. Mistral can also be used against small boats.
Seven years ago, South Korea developed its own portable surface-to-air missile; the Singung. Weighing 13.6 kg (30 pounds), and comparable to the U.S. Stinger and French Mistral (both of which South Korea already had), the Singung proved capable of hitting aircraft up to seven kilometers away 90 percent of the time. The main reason for spending $60 million to develop their own missile was to save money. The Mistral, at $200,000 each, was bought because it was cheaper than the Stinger. But the Singung only costs $153,000 each. The high tech Stinger was overkill for the generally ancient aircraft North Korea possesses, which was why the slightly less capable Mistral was bought. But now the South Koreans can afford to buy several thousand Singungs, and provide another competitive (especially on price) weapon for the export market. Starting in 2004, at least 500 Singungs were produced annually.