South Korea has completed development of the homegrown Long-range Surface-to-Air Missile (L-SAM) system, the state arms procurement agency said Saturday, marking a major step in efforts to bolster the military’s air defense capabilities, Report informs via Yonhap.

The L-SAM, which is designed to shoot down incoming targets at altitudes of 50-60 kilometers, was recently assessed as combat-suitable as it met the military’s technical requirements, according to the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA).

With the completion of its development, the L-SAM is expected to begin production next year and be deployed for operations by 2028.

Once deployed, the L-SAM is expected to play a key role in the country’s multilayered missile shield, called the Korea Air and Missile Defense.

The South Korean military currently operates the homegrown Medium-range Surface-to-Air Missile system and the U.S. Patriot Advanced Capability-3 system to intercept incoming missiles at lower altitudes than the L-SAM.

For targets at higher altitudes, the country has so far relied on the U.S. Forces Korea’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system that can defend against upper-tier threats at altitudes of 40-150 km.