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Republic of Korea to develop Korean version of ‘Iron Dome’ air defense system to protect core infrastructures in the capital

Republic of Korea to develop Korean version of ‘Iron Dome’ air defense system to protect core infrastructures in the capital area

● 2021 - 2025 Mid-term Defense Plan
Putting military spy satellites and medium altitude unmanned surveillance planes into operation and beginning procedures to acquire a light aircraft carrier
Developing ultra-small spy satellites to “improve image capture cycle for near real-time monitoring of all areas of the Korean Peninsula”
Launching project to develop an interceptor system against long range artillery and strengthening air forces for the production of homegrown fighter jets (KF-X)


The keyword of the ‘2021-2025 Mid-term Defense Plan,’ unveiled on August 10, is ‘technology-intensive.’ As the Ministry of National Defense stressed, “The military will continue to push toward a technology-intensive structure, in which combat power is strengthened despite a reduction in troops.” Accordingly, a budget of 300 trillion and 700 billion won, to be invested over five years, will be intensively distributed to the reinforcement of high-tech force and stable defense management. Specifically, it is noticeable that defense force improvement expenses, which are earmarked for the reinforcement of a high-tech force in preparation for omnidirectional security threats, have shown an average annual increase of 7.2%, exceeding the overall mean (6.1%).

Defense capability improvement – ensuring a high-tech force to respond proactively to omnidirectional security threats

With 100 trillion and 100 billion won earmarked for defense capability improvement, the Ministry of National Defense plans to invest this funding into surveillance and reconnaissance, missiles, Korean missile defense, land force, maritime and landing force, air and space force, manned and unmanned mixed system, response to disasters, strengthening defense research and development (R&D) capabilities, and promoting the defense industry. In the surveillance and reconnaissance area, the ministry plans to dramatically expand video and signal data collection capabilities for the next five years. To do this, the ministry plans to develop ultra-small spy satellites, as well as put military spy satellites and homegrown medium altitude unmanned surveillance planes into additional force integration by 2025. “We will improve the image capture cycle for real-time monitoring of all areas of the Korean Peninsula,” a ministry spokesperson commented.

Work on strengthening the missile force will also be pursued. Having successfully developed a new ballistic missile with a world-class payload, the ministry is spurring the advancement of missile capabilities. The ministry plans to increase the quantity of missiles while advancing missile capabilities, such as accuracy, velocity, destructive capabilities, and striking targets, both quantitatively and qualitatively, for the next five years.

Specifically, the military is focused on strengthening the ballistic missile response forces that can provide combined multi-layer defense against ballistic missile threats throughout the Korean Peninsula. The ministry plans to augment the number of antiballistic missiles more than twofold, as well as to have Patriot and Cheolmae-Ⅱ missiles at its disposal, in order to acquire about three times as many as its current number of interceptor missiles.

The military will also begin developing a Korean-style 'Iron Dome' interceptor system that will be able to protect the capital area and core facilities from a long range artillery threat. In addition, the military plans to develop the detection system and omnidirectional missile response capability by improving the performance of the ballistic missile operations control center to increase the target processing capability by more than eightfold, as well as to introduce ballistic missile early-warning radar and Aegis destroyer radar with an extended detection range to more than double the missile detection capability.

The land force is focused on the acquisition of overwhelming firepower through being mobilized and networked. The ministry plans to expand the command control system that is built in battalion or a higher level units to small units, and also plans to share the battlefield situation by connecting from the operational command to individual combat soldiers with the command communication network. To do this, the ministry plans to begin procedures to put the military satellite communication system-Ⅱ, tactical information communication network (TICN), battalion combat command system, and individual combat system into force integration.

For effective combat in the operational area, which was expanded after the reform of the military structure, the military will also increase the mobilization rate of infantry divisions by completing the deployment of wheeled armoured vehicles and putting medium-sized tactical vehicles into force integration. In addition, the military also plans to increase firepower by putting the 230mm multiple army tactical missile system into force integration, as well as improving the performance of the K9 self-propelled artillery so that it can load shells automatically.

The maritime and landing operations area is focused on the achievement of three-dimensional maritime operations capabilities suitable for future combat. The ministry plans to begin a program to acquire a light aircraft carrier by 2021. Having a displacement of around 30,000 tons, the carrier will be able to host vertical take-off and landing aircraft. It is expected that the carrier will serve as a multipurpose military base that can react to supranational and non-military threats, as well as the headquarters of a maritime task force The military also plans to put the Aegis destroyer into additional force integration, acquire a Korean version of a 6,000-ton destroyer, construct a 3,600 to 4,000-ton nuclear submarine, and develop a landing attack helicopter and assault amphibious vehicles-Ⅱ.

The air·space force is best represented by the Korean fighter jet (KF-X) program. The ministry has a plan to launch the production of KF-X during the period of mid-term plans. "Production of the KF-X will pave the way to beginning research and development in the air armaments area, which has previously been dependent on the advanced countries,” the ministry announced, stating that “We will begin developing long-range air-to-surface and air-to-ship guided missiles to be loaded on KF-X.”

The ministry also plans to establish manned·unmanned mixed-use combat system embracing land·sea·air forces by using fourth industrial revolution technologies. The main unmanned land systems, which will be researched and developed during the period of mid-term plans, include small-sized spy robots, unmanned search vehicles, and multipurpose unmanned vehicles. In addition, unmanned marine systems, such as unmanned surface vehicles, unmanned undersea vehicles for reconnaissance, and autonomous underwater mine finders, as well as unmanned air systems, such as micro unmanned air vehicles, communication relay drones, medium and large-sized attack drones, and vertical takeoff and landing unmanned air vehicles will also be put into development and force integration.

The ministry plans to increase its capacity to respond proactively to non-traditional threats, such as terrorism, cyber terrorism, and natural disasters. First, the ministry plans to reinforce its equipment and materials, such as refractive guns and binocular night vision goggles, and to develop the ability to detect cyber threats early, to ensure a complete readiness posture against terror. At the end of this year, laser anti-aircraft weapons against the drone threat will be deployed in the main national facilities on a trial basis. The ministry also plans to push forward with putting nuclear, biological, chemical (NBC) reconnaissance vehicle-II against NBC attacks into force integration, as well as launching a dry-type decontamination machine program against viruses, such as COVID-19. The ministry also plans to increase its capacity to protect Koreans overseas through the additional introduction of large platform experimental type ships and large transport aircrafts.

In addition, defense R&D will be strengthened through the development of eight defense strategy technology areas, including autonomous operation and superintelligence, and some funding will be distributed to the promotion of leading defense companies and support for defense exports.

Force Management – stable defense management and the improvement of service conditions

The area of force management is interlinked with the structural reform of the military. The Ministry of National Defense announced that it would ensure stable defense management and set morale-boosting service conditions, even in the reform of troop structure. To accomplish this, the ministry developed a plan to secure the completeness of security operations by strengthening force support and reinforcing security forces for the maintenance of war capabilities. The ministry plans to greatly expand the targets of performance-based logistics (PBL) support and combat system life time support (LTS) during the period of the mid-term plans. In addition, the ministry plans to strengthen the follow-up logistics support for the newly introduced high-tech force management to maximize its effectiveness. Specifically, the ministry stressed its plan to establish a security operations posture and operation discipline by reinforcing security facilities, such as fences, guard posts, and boundary lights, and increasing security manpower.

Support for the reform of the defense manpower structure, which will be conducted during the planned period, is expected to help minimize the effect of the reduction of forces on standby. The ministry will also begin procedures to improve reserve forces training conditions by reinforcing the combat equipment of mobilization-centered troops and raising the reward for mobilization training to the level of sergeant’s wages.

The training system for enlisted soldiers will also be enhanced. The ministry plans to distribute a live simulation system to the artillery, armored, and mechanized forces, as well as to conduct actual-combat training at all army camps at least twice a year by using a new platoon-level MILES (Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System). The ministry plans to build nine corps-level and division-level combat training centers by 2025, and to secure proficiency by expanding the augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) training system that uses innovative fourth industrial revolution technologies. To build a smart and strong force based on high-tech information and communication technologies, the ministry will also begin the process of building the Army’s smart unit, Navy’s smart battleship, and Air Force’s smart air wing. Along with this, it is expected that smart ammunition storage and smart logistics centers will help our military manage supplies in an effective way.

The ministry will also focus on better benefits for both soldiers and officers during the period of the mid-term plans. In addition to increasing the monthly pay of enlisted soldiers to 676,000 won (based on sergeant’s pay) by 2022, the monthly pay of a sergeant will be increased to 963,000 won by 2025. Fatigue duties, such as weeding, will also be devolved to civilians in order to ensure self-development conditions. GOPs and the prefabricated barracks for troops in riverbank and coastal areas will be upgraded into permanent facilities, and floor-type barracks in the recruit training center will be changed to bed-type barracks.

A welfare program for military officers will also be put into operation. With a push to upgrade residential facilities for military officers, the ministry plans to achieve a housing support rate of 100% for 82,000 official residences and 110,500 quarters for officers by the end of 2025. Considering the need to ensure military service is compatible with family life, the ministry also plans to increase the number of childcare centers in the military; to 155 this year and to 187 by the end of 2025.

Taking the COVID19 situation as a lesson, the ministry plans to push forward with improvements to its medical system so that the military can comprehensively protect the safety of all the people, as well as soldiers. The ministry plans to stock up on preventive goods, such as masks and hand sanitizers, and to expand medical equipment, such as medical kits and mobile ambulances, in order to smoothly provide support for civilians in the event of the outbreak of an infectious disease, such as COVID-19. The ministry also plans to upgrade the accommodation facility for trainees of the military to one room per person so that military facilities can be used as shelters and quarantine facilities in a national disaster situation, and to begin implementing preventive service on barracks to prevent the spread of disease in the military. In addition, the ministry plans to increase soldier access to medical care by operating a hospital bus service for each division, and to push forward with a program to strengthen the primary treatment function by upgrading the division-level medical systems.

To take the lead in reducing fine dust, the ministry plans to introduce 1429 environment-friendly vehicles, such as electric cars and hydrogen-powered cars, and to provide 50 anti-dust masks per year during the period of the mid-term plans.

Resident-friendly military facilities will also be provided with operating support. The ministry plans to dismantle buildings with asbestos to create a defense environment that can coexist with the community. The ministry also plans to pay compensation to local residents who had difficulty with noise caused by military facilities, such as military airports.

By Maeng Su-Yeol < >

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