Politics, Demographics Prompt S. Korea To Update, Shrink Forces
By WENDELL MINNICK, TAIPEI
Like other countries in the region, South Korea is modernizing a shrinking military.
Bruce Klingner, Northeast Asia specialist at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, said Seoul’s decision to modernize is driven by demographics and politics.
“South Korea seeks to mirror the evolution in U.S. military capabilities and take advantage of benefits provided by the revolution in military affairs by shifting reliance from a manpower-intensive, ground forces-reliant military to a technology-intensive force with greater emphasis on air forces,” he said.
Seoul in 2005 unveiled the $280 billion Defense Reform Plan 2020, which includes decreasing the 600,000-strong military to 500,000 by 2020 and bolstering that military with a variety of advanced weapons and equipment.
“Demographic trends indicate that given declining birth rates, South Korea could simply not man the current force in the future,” said Klingner.
Over the next five years, $1.6 billion will be spent to upgrade South Korea’s missile defense capability, $126 million will buy 900 Joint Direct Attack Munitions by 2012, and $2.5 billion will purchase 20 additional fighters, improve benefits and salaries for military personnel, and buy a new command-and-control capability.
South Korea plans to develop a missile defense system independent of the U.S. military that incorporates indigenous missile systems already being developed, including the KM-SAM. Over the next five years, South Korea plans to spend $150 billion on this system.
Plans to purchase Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) batteries for $1.8 billion appear to be dead. South Korea has a requirement to replace its aging Nike Hercules air defense system, and PAC-3s were the leading contender until 2002. However, the country has abandoned plans to buy the PAC-3 and now is in talks with Germany to buy used PAC-2s.
South Korea appears less likely to participate in a theater missile defense system with the United States and Japan; instead, it is focusing on intercepting less sophisticated low-altitude missiles that North Korea is developing.
“The South Korean threat assessment differs from that of the U.S. and Japan, which see a far greater danger from North Korean weapons of mass destruction and missiles,” Klingner said. “President Roh Moo-hyun has dismissed the threat from North Korea’s missile forces, since he asserts they are not targeted at the South, apparently disregarding the Scud missiles whose range make them only effective for attacking South Korea.”
Seoul also has a $108,000 preliminary budget in 2006 for research and development of an early warning radar and C4I system that will be integrated into the new missile defense command in 2012.
The Air Force in January launched the second phase of its F-X fighter procurement program, a $2.5 billion effort to buy 20 multirole fighters in the 2010-12 time frame. Open bidding is expected to begin this spring, with a contract award in 2008.
The first phase of the F-X program ended with South Korea ordering 40 Boeing F-15K fighters in 2002 for $4.6 billion. Deliveries began in 2005 and will be completed next year. Candidates for the second phase include the F-15K, the Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon and the Sukhoi Su-35. Officially, the military has ruled out the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter because it is not a twin-engine aircraft.
The Army is producing and upgrading a variety of tanks and armored vehicles. In 2005, the military displayed the first K2 Korean Next-Generation Main Battle Tank prototype. The K2, also known as the Black Panther, has been one of South Korea’s most expensive development programs, costing $230 million since 1995.
The tank contract has been awarded to Rotem, with subcontracts for Samsung Techwin. Three preproduction models were recently displayed. Plans are for 680 tanks to replace the older K-1 tanks, with mass production beginning in 2010. Per-unit costs are estimated to be $8.5 million to $10 million, nearly twice the original per-unit cost of the K-1 tank.
Army aviation is replacing its UH-1H helicopters under a $1.4 billion Korean Helicopter Program (KHP). In 2006, Eurocopter and Korea Aerospace Industries joined forces to build a replacement, with production of the first of 245 helicopters set to begin in 2011. Prototypes will be tested in 2010. A new attack helicopter program is expected to begin in 2018.
The Army is awaiting the final results of trials for the new multipurpose vehicle (MPV) program. Samsung Techwin completed trials of its new six-wheel and eight-wheel-drive versions in January. Rotem and Doosan Infracore plan to field their prototypes for testing within the year. Overall costs for the program have not been released. The requirement for a new wheeled armored personnel carrier is part of an overall effort to replace aging M113s.
Trials and testing also are being completed on the K300 Next Infantry Fighting Vehicle, being developed by Doosan. Three prototypes were displayed in 2005. It is expected to begin replacing the older Korean Infantry Fighting Vehicle (KIFV) around 2010. Overall costs have not been released. Since 1985, Daewoo Heavy Industries has produced 2,000 KIFVs.
Samsung Techwin and BAE Systems signed a $159 million agreement to continue co-producing the KAAV7AI Korean Amphibious Assault Vehicle until 2010. This continues a contract first signed in 1995 that covered 57 vehicles in three variants. BAE produces the hull and Samsung provides components, assembly and testing.
In late 2006, Samsung Techwin completed the first K10 Thunder Ammunition Resupply Vehicle for the Army. The program, first begun in 1999, will supply 180 K10s. Per-unit costs have not been released. The K10 can carry 100 rounds and will support the 155mm K9 Thunder self-propelled artillery piece, currently in production by Samsung to replace the M107, M109 and M110 howitzers.
The design program for the KSS-III diesel-electric submarine will begin this year. Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering and Hyundai Heavy Industries are expected to build nine submarines in the 3,000- to 4,000-ton range. These boats will replace the Type 209-class KSS-I submarines. Construction is expected to begin between 2010 and 2015.
South Korea also is planning to build six additional Type 214-class KSS-II submarines for delivery after 2012. They will join three KSS-II submarines ordered in 2000 and currently being completed at Hyundai Heavy. The first, KSS-II Sohn, was launched in June 2006.
The Navy’s $1.8 billion frigate program will see six 2,300-ton FFX frigates built by 2015 to replace the nine Ulsan-class frigates built in the 1970s and 1980s. The first hull is due for completion by 2011. An additional three KDX-2 DDGs are under construction, and three KDX-3 ships equipped with Aegis are scheduled for delivery in 2008.
The Navy also is getting new air defense missile systems for its frigates and destroyers. In April 2006, Raytheon was awarded a $17.4 million Foreign Military Sales contract to supply the Navy with the Rolling Airframe Missile system.