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[Ministry of National Defense] 2022-2026 mid-term defense plan

“Make swords sharper, make shields stronger” to secure the capability to strike high payoff targets… monitor symptoms for 24 hours… take the initiative in responding to security threats 
Pushing for the force integration of military-use spy satellites and the development of micro-satellite reconnaissance system 
Strengthening security threat deterrence capabilities…scheduled to complete the introduction of the F-35A fighter jet
Helping soldiers have 10 million won in deposit funds after discharge from military service, enhancing the quality of food and clothing

[Ministry of National Defense] 2022-2026 mid-term

The 2022~2026 mid-term defense plan includes the aim of making rapid progress in strengthening both ‘sword and shield’ to take the initiative in responding to omnidirectional threats, such as nuclear and weapons of mass destruction (WMD). This spending on the improvement of defensive strength, amounting to 106 trillion and 700 billion won, will be used to establish a 24-hour monitoring system for signs of threats in the Korean Peninsula area, and to strengthen ballistic missile defense capabilities. The ministry also clarified that it will continue to reinforce missile capabilities, where range, destructive power, and accuracy are enhanced, to improve strategic deterrence capabilities. The spending on force operation, amounting to 208 trillion and 500 billion won, will be used to foster elite forces by reforming the structure of military manpower and troops from a troop strength-intensive structure to a technology-intensive structure based on high-tech weapons.

Regarding the improvement of defensive strength in the 2022-2026 mid-term defense plan, “We will secure airtight security with the aim of ‘building forward-looking, technology-intensive strong forces who can take the initiative in responding to omnidirectional security threats’,” the ministry said in a statement. This will involve ‘strengthening the omnidirectional threats deterrence capabilities,’ ‘establishing the operational response capabilities to achieve the Defense Reform 2.0 initiative,’ and ‘strengthening innovative defense research and development (R&D) that can lead the future.’


Establishment of a system to monitor the Korean Peninsula area 24 hours a day

First of all, the military will establish a ‘24-hour monitoring system’ against threats, in order to strengthen its omnidirectional threat deterrence capabilities. This will involve the force integration of spy satellites for military use, and the development of a micro-satellite reconnaissance system. The military will continue to conduct 24-hour monitoring by obtaining video information on the Korean Peninsula area from spy satellites and high-altitude unmanned aerial vehicles·middle-altitude unmanned aerial vehicles (HUAV·MUAV). The military also plans to reinforce the capability of the ‘Baekdu’ reconnaissance aircraft to collect various signal information, such as telecommunications.

To improve Korean missile defensive capabilities to respond to provocations, such as in ballistic missiles and long-range artillery, strengthening of capabilities will also be conducted on every phase, ranging detection, command, control, and interception. This will involve additional force integration of an early warning radar with improved detection range capabilities, and significant improvement of the target handling capabilities by upgrading the performance of ‘Korea Theater Missile Operation Cell,’ which plays a core role in responding to ballistic missiles.

In the area of interception, the military will push for the significant introduction of long and medium range anti-ballistic weapons, such as Cheongung-Ⅱ·L-SAM, as well as upgrading the performance of the existing patriot missiles. The military will also work on the development of a Korean 'iron dome,' as a ‘long-range artillery interceptor system,’ to secure the capability to protect the metropolitan area and core facilities.

Improvement of strategic target strike capabilities

The mid-term defense plan also involves strengthening the military's capability to deter security threats by securing long-range precision strike capabilities against high-value targets.

“The military will complete the introduction of stealth fighters to have effective deterrence capabilities against potential threats, as well as nuclear missiles, and will improve its rapid and precision strike capabilities against strategic targets by diversifying the means of striking, such as transporter erector launchers (TEL),” the ministry explained in a statement.

Accordingly, the ministry plans to complete the introduction of the F-35A stealth fighters within this year. The military also plans to continue to secure 3000-ton and higher class submarines that can destroy strategic ground targets at sea. It is predicted that mid-sized submarines will be scaled up according to the plan to develop the type of warship that is designed for the improvement of mission performance capabilities. This will also involve the force integration of special operations helicopters, in order to support secret operations by special troops.

Regarding the strengthening of missile capabilities, the ministry stressed “the military will work to ensure security and peace on the Korean Peninsula by achieving powerful deterrence capabilities through the development of missiles that are stronger, and can go further and with more precision.”

With the termination of the ROK-U.S. missile guidelines at the summit held in May, the military plans to enhance its high payoff target strike capabilities by continuing to conduct force integration on ground-to-ground and surface-to-ground missiles with increased destructive power. The military's aim is to take its missile strike capabilities to the next level - from ground targets to tunnels and buildings - and to improve the accuracy by reducing the margin of error from its current 'tennis court' size to enable precision strikes on a building entrance. 

The ministry will also push forward with the expansion of base forces for the development of its space-based defense systems. The military plans to initiate the development of the Korean Positioning System (KPS), as well as to introduce military spy satellites and defense satellite communication system-Ⅱ. The ministry also plans to develop a high-powered laser satellite tracking system and a radar space surveillance system, in order to surveil and respond to space-based threats. 

Aiming to achieve the force integration of aircraft carrier experimental (CVX) in the early to mid-2030s

The reinforcement of core forces will be carried out in keeping with the trend of technology development and variation in the battlefield environment. In terms of ground-based forces, the military will begin upgrading the performance of its wheeled armoured vehicles so that combatants can remotely fire machine guns from inside the vehicle. This will involve adding force integration of the infantry combat vehicle with strengthened mobility, gunpower, and survivability to the mechanized troops. The Army will deploy K9 self-propelled howitzers with automatic firing capabilities, which will enable more destructive and rapid firing with a smaller number of ground troops. The Army will also develop a further miniaturized counterbattery detection radar-Ⅲ.

The ministry will also work to introduce unmanned defense systems with advanced technologies, such as reconnaissance and attack drones and operational support robots, to each unit, to enable significant improvements in operation performance capabilities through combined manned-unmanned combat. 

For its maritime forces, the military will strengthen the integrated maritime operations capabilities by making way for more advanced technology in all aspects of the forces, including in the air, on the water, under water, and landing. This will involve the introduction of marine patrols and maritime operations helicopters with enhanced performance, and the replacement of old vessels with the latest 3000-ton class frigates.

“We have been working on securing more Aegis-equipped destroyers, the main combat ships of the mobile fleet, and developing a 6000-ton class Korea next-generation destroyer (KDDX) according to the plan,” the ministry said in a statement.

Regarding a light aircraft carrier, known for a mobile fleet command ship, which will carry out missions responding to supernational and non-military threats, the ministry plans to establish the basic design in the early 2020s, go through detailed design in the mid-2020s, and conduct force integration in the early and mid-2030s.

For aerial force, the F-4 and F-5 fighters, which have been used for a long time, will be replaced with Korean fighters (KF-21) now under development. This will involve strengthening air superiority and precision strike capabilities by upgrading the performance of KF-16 and F-15K fighters. This will also involve upgrading the performance of C-130H cargo planes for effective air infiltration, and securing additional large cargo planes to improve long-distance air transport capabilities. 

This will be coupled with an expanded investment in defense research and development (R&D) and the strengthening of the defense industry capabilities. The defense R&D budget will be expanded, with a significant increase from 4 trillion and 331.4 billion won in 2021 to 7 trillion and 131.3 billion won in 2026. As part of this, spending on the research and development of high-tech weapon systems, such as radars, sonars, satellites, and missiles, will be increased from 2 trillion and 187 billion won in 2021 to 3 trillion and 445.9 billion won in 2026.

Regarding the introduction of a weapons system, the ministry plans to increase domestic spending to over 80 percent of the entire program, which aims to promote the improvement of defensive strength, in keeping with the ‘Korean-made First Acquisition System,’ which is intended to promote domestic research and development as a priority. To promote the defense industry by boosting the export of weapon systems, the ministry also decided to increase the amount of support for the development of weapons for export to 350 billion won, which is more than triple the current amount of 110 billion won.

Soldiers can raise up to 10 million won through monthly installment savings

This mid-term plan also introduces ways to improve conditions for soldiers. Soldiers’ service period will paid off in a more reasonable way, and salary increases and support for self-development will be promoted to make the service period productive, and one that does not completely cut soldiers off from society.

Regarding a rise in pay for soldiers, which has been pushed at the national level, pay will be increased to 676,100 won in 2022, based on payouts for sergeants, to achieve the goal. After that, the ministry has a plan to reach one million won in 2026, which is 50 percent the salary of first-class staff sergeants. 

The ministry will also help soldiers to save money from their monthly pay. The tomorrow reserve savings deposit for soldiers aims to help soldiers raise up to 10 million won during their service period on an 18-month installment savings plan (400,000 won per month), with the state’s aid amounting to one third of the savings.

Self-improvement aid, which was launched in 2018 to actively support soldiers’ efforts for self-improvement, such as through language classes and license acquisition, will be increased from 100,000 won to 120,000 won per year. The college remote lecture fee aid, which was launched in 2019, will also be expanded from 50 percent funded to fully funded. The soldiers’ barber fee, which is currently 7,000 won every three weeks, will also be increased to 8,000 won in 2022.

The military barracks environment, including food, clothing, and shelter, will be improved based on the perspectives of the people and soldiers. To achieve improvements in the area of food, the ministry aims to increase the basic meal funding per soldier to 15,000 won by 2024, starting by raising it to 11,000 won in 2022. The ministry also plans to deploy more civilian cooks, and to only use restaurants that meet Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) requirements by 2027.

Regarding clothing, the ministry plans to provide soldiers with sleeping bags with an enhanced level of insulation, as well as high functional winter clothes that offer better insulation and flexibility. To help soldiers safely carry out their duties, the ministry will provide tracked vehicle crews with flame-retardant shoes and sweaters, as well as an additional set of flame-retardant uniform. The ministry will also provide all soldiers with a new bulletproof helmet with strengthened bulletproof performance. In terms of improving living conditions for soldiers, the table-type military barracks will disappear in 2025, as the ministry will have 100% replaced them with beds. 

To create a service environment in which career soldiers can concentrate on their duties, the ministry will also secure 165 childcare centers by 2024 according to the plan to install a childcare center in every official residence with at least one hundred households. The ministry will also push for a plan to secure accommodations for all career soldiers by 2026. 

The ministry also established a plan for reserve forces who join mobilization training for two nights and three days. The training honorarium will be increased from 47,000 won as of 2021 to 132,900 won in 2026.

Number of officers to be expanded to 40.5% in 2026

Regarding the plan for manpower and unit structure, the ministry's statement said that it had "designed a defense manpower structure to correspond to the future manpower management environment. Combat units will be re-organized into skilled officer-centered units, and expert civilian manpower will be expanded in non-combat units.”

Reflecting the country’s demographic decline, the number of standing troops will be gradually reduced, from 618,000 in 2017 to 500,000 by next year. 

However, the number of skilled officers who can operate high-tech weapons will be increased from 196,000 in 2017 (31.6 percent of standing troops) to 202,000 in 2026 (40.5 percent). To use career soldiers for a long period of time, the ministry also plans to continue to expand the number of mid-class officers, such as sergeant first class and master sergeant, and to reduce the number of short-term mandatory service members. 

The ministry aims to increase the proportion of recruited female soldiers from 5.9 percent in 2017 to 8.8 percent next year. Increasing the number of female soldiers will inevitably involve the expansion of infrastructures. 2200 ladies’ rooms and 2731 amenities for female soldiers will be secured within this year.

Civilian employees, including civilian workers in the military, will be used in non-battle areas, such as maintenance, supply, administration, and education, so that soldiers can concentrate on combat. The number of civilian employees will be gradually expanded, from 32,000 in 2017 to 62,000 in 2026.

The Army will be re-organized into a troop strength-saving structure based on high technology, in order to respond to omnidirectional threats. Operational capabilities, enhanced through upgrades in artillery, armor, engineering, and aviation, will be further strengthened through force improvement, while combat capabilities will be promoted through an officer-centered re-organization. Two corps and two divisions will be reduced as part of a reduction of troop strength included in the mid-term plan.

The Navy will be re-organized into a structure befitting the operation of a 3D force on the water, under water, and in the air. The Navy will establish a ‘task force command’ that will consist of three task groups by linking with additional force integration of Aegis destroyers, and will ensure complete maritime air operations by creating an ‘air command’ that will operate maritime patrols and maritime operations helicopters.

The Marine Corps’s troop structure will be reshuffled into a troop structure capable of 3D high-speed landing operations, rapid response operations, and special operations. The Marine Corps will foster elite forces by filling its special search teams with officers, and will create a ‘marine corps wing’ by linking with the force integration of amphibious task helicopters. 

The Air Force will maximize aerospace operations and joint operations capabilities. Squadrons will be reinforced through the development and mass production of KF-21. For the improvement of space power, the Air Force plans to expand the current major-class troops, Space Operations Unit of the Korean Air and Space Operations Center, to group-class troops. The Air Force will also reshuffle the Air Support Operations Wing by linking with the Army’s troop reshuffle, in order to provide effective and close air support for ground troops. 

The ministry also said in a statement that the mid-term defense plan will include a measure to actively apply the Korean New Deal to the defense area by switching 81 percent of military cars to eco-friendly cars and recommending 50 military properties as candidate sites for hydrogen fueling stations by 2026.

김철환 By Chul-Hwan, Kim < >

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