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ROK Army Weapons Acquisition

Weapons production for the army began in 1971 when the Ministry of National Defense constructed a plant to assemble United States-designed Colt M-16 rifles. The memorandum of agreement between the United States and the Republic of Korea authorized production of enough rifles to supply South Korean army units. However, the agreement prohibited the production of additional M-16s without the permission of Colt Industries and the United States government. In the mid-1970s, South Korea signed agreements to begin licensed production of many types of United States-designed weapons, including grenades, mortars, mines, and recoilless rifles, with the same stipulations as those for the M-16 rifle. South Korea also began to manufacture ammunition for the weapons it produced for the army.

By 1990 South Korean companies had army contracts to produce tanks, self-propelled and towed field guns, two types of armored vehicles, and two types of helicopters. A division of Hyundai produced the 88 Tank (formerly called the K-1 tank) at Ch'angwon. The K-1 was the result of a joint United States-South Korean design. The 88 Tank's 105mm gun was an improved version of the same caliber gun that was standard on South Korea's M-48A5 tanks. Although a few components of the tanks' fire control and transmission systems were imported, Hyundai and South Korean subcontractors manufactured most of the systems. One of the Samsung Group's businesses produced 155mm M-109 self-propelled howitzers. KIA Machine Tool was the manufacturer for the KH-178 105mm and the KH-179 155mm towed field guns. The KH-178 and KH179 guns were derived from United States-designed artillery but were considered indigenously designed. Daewoo Industries and Asia Motors had a coproduction agreement for an Italian-designed wheeled, armored personnel vehicle. Bell Helicopters Textron of the United States and Samsung coproduced UH-1 helicopters. Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, also of the United States, had a contract with Daewoo to coproduce H-76 helicopters.

Due to changes in the strategic environment as well as in the nature of future warfare, current ground force modernization is focused on reinforcing combat engineering equipment, combat service support elements, and core force capabilities such as tanks, armored vehicles, self-propelled artillery, and helicopters in order to execute three-dimensional, high-speed maneuver warfare.

Between 1980 and 1990, the army increased in size by only a small margin. During this same period, however, new units were formed; the procurement of new tanks, armored personnel carriers, field artillery, antitank guns, air defense missiles, helicopters, and other types of military equipment significantly improved the defensive capabilities of the ground forces.

In 1980 the army had approximately 1,200 United States-produced M-47 and M-48 tanks and 500 mostly United States-produced M-113 armored personnel carriers (also some Fiat 6614 wheeled armored personnel carriers). By 1990 South Korea had manufactured 200 of the domestically produced T-88 tank and had upgraded most of its M-48s to M-48A3s or M-48A5s. During the period from 1980 to 1990, the number of field artillery pieces more than doubled, going from 2,000 to 4,200 pieces, and South Korea began to introduce larger guns to extend the effective range of fire.

In 1980 the army was equipped with 57mm, 75mm, 90mm, and 106mm recoilless rifles for antitank use and TOWs. In 1990 the TOW and LAW still were the primary antitank weapons. The 106mm/90mm recoilless rifles increased in numbers and were the basic antitank system for the infantry, although lower caliber weapons still existed. The TOWs were relatively scarce and were organized into independent units separate from the infantry divisions' main organization and equipment.

To meet diverse demands made of the air mobility capability for the future battlefield, the military is introducing new models of heavily armed attack helicopters, medium- and large-sized maneuver helicopters, and small reconnaissance helicopters. At the same time, the military is reinforcing aircraft-loaded equipment that is capable of being used in nocturnal operations and for secretive infiltration, thus enhancing survivability and operational capability.

The ROK Army turned over the Air Defense mission to the ROKAF in 1991. Previously, the army was responsible for the ground component of South Korea's air defense network.The national air defense network comprised only 100 Vulcan antiaircraft guns and a small number of Nike-Hercules and HAWK surface-to-air missiles in 1980; by 1990 there were 600 antiaircraft guns, and the Nike Hercules and HAWKs had both increased in number and undergone significant upgrades. There were two surface-to-surface missile battalions and several antiaircraft gun battalions. The surface-to-surface missile battalions were equipped with United States-produced HAWK and Nike Hercules missiles, the former having a range of 42 kilometers, the latter a range of 140 kilometers. The field armies have small quantities of three types of man-portable, shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles. These included the British-produced Javelin and the United States-produced Redeye missile. Additionally, there were three types of antiaircraft guns in use: the Swedish-produced Bofors L/70 40mm; the Swiss-produced Oerlikon GDF-002 35mm; and the domestically produced Vulcan 20mm.

In August 2002 it was reported that South Korea had agreed to purchase Russian weapons, valued at $534 million, to offset part of a loan estimated at $1.95 billion, which was extended to Russia at the time of normalization of diplomatic ties between the two countries in 1990. The deal was also aimed at mollifying Russians over Seoul's unilateral cancellation of the project to buy 636-class submarines.

South Korea will pay $267 million, while the rest of the amount will be defrayed by Russia in the form of loan repayment. The project, aimed at modernizing South Korean armed forces, calls for the purchase of T-80 tanks, BMP-3 armored vehicles, LCAC hovercraft assault ships, KA-32 transport helicopters and IL-103 trainers. The two countries reached the tentative agreement on the procurement items after four rounds of talks from December in 2000 to October in 2001. In May, they finalized the agreement in which the price dropped by 15-30 percent to $534 million after negotiations.

On 17 April 2013, the Republic of Korea's Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) announced it would purchase 36 AH-64E Apache Guardian helicopters through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program. The value of the FMS sale was estimated at $1.6 billion. For the US Army, this purchase by South Korea was expected to account for almost one-tenth of Army FMS for the fiscal year.

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Page last modified: 18-04-2013 14:37:42 ZULU