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South Korea’s new Mid-Term Defence Plan for 2021-25 provides 300.7 trillion Won (€215 billion) over five years to implement its Defence Reform 2.0 plan – a stated growth of 6.5% over the period. About one third of will be allocated to equipment procurement, the balance to operations and manpower.

The Ministry of National Defense (MND) aims to reduce manpower from 555,000 to 500,000 by 2025 but retain its combat power, by investing in more high-technology platforms and weapons. All three services are re-organising but the Army will lose two corps and three infantry divisions.

According to the plan, the desire is to increase service personnel skills to enable the operation of more complex equipment. As part of the reductions, the MND wants to increase its civilian workforce from 7.8% of total manpower (about 47,000 people) to 10.7% (about 60,000).

Its equipment plan is focussed on increasing ISR assets through deployment of more satellites, manned and unmanned aircraft and both land and underwater sensors – the latter to detect submarines.

For ballistic missile defence (BMD), MND hopes to introduce the new L-SAM system by 2026 that can intercept targets in their terminal phase and add to the existing M-SAM (CHEOLMAE-II) medium-range BMD system, as well as increasing missile performance and numbers. The number of land- and sea-based BMD detectors will also be increased.

Artillery capabilities will improve, with an A1 upgrade to the K9 THUNDER self-propelled howitzer and the introduction of a 230mm rocket artillery platform. The Army will receive new K-2 tanks, attack helicopters and a 6x6 armoured vehicle.

The plan states that the new LPX-II amphibious ships are likely to be more like light carriers in the region of 30,000t, primarily deploying the F-35 rather than helicopters. However, they will maintain an amphibious role transporting soldiers and equipment. This is part of a wider Navy effort to increase power projection: it intends to expand the size of the fleet with new 6,000t ships and a new 3,400-4,000t submarine to increase its ability to undertake more maritime patrols.

The Air Force will continue to introduce the F-35, produce the KF-X fighter and develop new long-range air-to-ground and air-to-ship missiles for them. There is also a concerted effort to develop satellite systems and unmanned platforms, including UAS, USV and UGV over the longer term – through to 2030.

Tim Fish reporting from New Zealand for MON

The Republic of Korea Navy will receive new surface vessels and submarines as a result of investments under the Mid-Term Defence Plan. (Photo: South Korean MND)

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