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High technology transfers, offsets, and joint projects have strengthened the
quality of military products being manufactured in the country. As a result,
several domestically-produced maritime and aerial products have been
delivered to the Republic of Korea (ROK) defence forces; and the delivery of
land assets abroad has been achieved with the export of XK2 Black Panther
technology to Turkey as part of the Altay tank, building on an earlier sale of
self-propelled 155mm howitzers to the same country.
The ROK is enhancing and streamlining its armed forces, with
modernisation plans being driven by the need to strengthen their defensive
capabilities against the ongoing threat of its nearest and most powerful
neighbour, North Korea. With North Korea continuing to antagonise the
international community with its nuclear weapons programme and growing
unease within the Asia-Pacific region as a result, ROK’s defence spending
on both domestic and foreign technology has increased significantly over
the past decade. While North Korea is the principle of focus of defence
planners, it should also be noted that Seoul has unresolved offshore
territorial disputes with China and Japan.
The ROK Army (ROKA) currently has a major requirement for a wheeled
armoured vehicle in order to safeguard the security of the Korean Peninsula
against the threat from the North. The government is seeking a high-tech
wheeled armoured vehicle with enhanced firepower capabilities as part of a
programme that will see a formal request for proposal (RFP) issued this year.
The expected competitors include Samsung Techwin’s six-wheeled Multi-
Purpose Vehicle (MPV), Hyundai-Rotem’s six-wheel-drive AMV KW-1, and
the Doosan eight-wheel-drive Black Fox Armoured Wheeled Vehicle (AWV).
Doosan Infracore’s subsidiary, Doosan DST, is already under contract
with the ROKA to provide the K21 Next Generation Infantry Fighting
Vehicle, known as the K21. The first delivery took place late in 2009, and the
vehicle is considered to be the strongest infantry armed vehicle developed
and produced with Korean technology, and amongst the most advanced
produced anywhere in the world. The K21 is a tracked vehicle, which sits on
the lighter end of the IFV spectrum at 26 tonnes, equipped with network
centric warfare capabilities; an ‘active defence’ system against incoming
rockets and anti-armour missiles; a 40mm automatic cannon and a 7.62mm
machine gun as its key weapons, a third-generation vehicle-to-tank missile
will be installed at a later date, making the vehicle capable of attacking
enemy armed vehicles, tanks and helicopters.
The K21 also possesses advanced protection for troops, being specifically
designed to protect against large calibur automatic cannon rounds,
including the 50 mm armour-penetrating munitions used by the 2A72
automatic cannon used on the Russian BMP-3 . Side armour on the vehicle
is capable of protecting against 14.5 mm AP rounds, and the top can
withstand 152 mm artillery shell fragments exploding as close as 10 m away.
It is also fitted with laser and heat sensors to detect imminent enemy attack.
Doosan DST plans to see the K21 exported around the globe, which will
see it competing against IFV products such as BAE Systems’ M2/M3 Bradley,
Russia’s BMP-3, and Singapore’s Bionix.
Doosan’s hopes for the K21 are high, and understandably so. Establishing a
foothold in the lucrative military export market is a goal held by numerous
nations within the Asia-Pacific region. Both India and China are pursuing
indigenous IFV projects, and are set to field modernised armed forces
of serious military might within the next decade with the further aim of
putting themselves on the international defence manufacturing map. Both
nations are currently carrying out massive modernisation programmes of
their armed forces, and domestic development of products has featured
strongly in their plans. Through a combination of reverse-engineering
foreign technology and working with overseas developers in joint projects
they are seeing varying degrees of success in their efforts.
At this stage two main IFV programmes are underway; the first will see
the overhaul of the Army’s Russian-built Infantry Combat Vehicle BMP-IIs;
the second will see the acquisition of 500 APCs, some of which will be fitted
with missile launchers for firing Anti-Tank Guided Missiles (ATGMs).
China has revealed a number of new IFVs in the last six months, showing
the extent to which the country is placing emphasis on the production of
tracked and wheeled assets. The ZBD-04 Infantry Combat Vehicle (ICV) has
recently entered service with the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), featuring
a heavily armed two-person turret with 100 mm gun capable of firing laser
guided projectiles on targets within 4 km. The vehicle also carries a 30 mm
dual feed canon and a 7.62 mm machine gun. The vehicle was displayed
during a military parade in Beijing in October 2009.
China also displayed the PLA’s new 8x8 ZBD-09 ICV, which is fitted with
a two person turret, 30 mm cannon and 7.63 co-axial machine gun, and
single launcher for the Red Arrow 73 wire guided anti-tank guided weapon
(ATGW); and the latest version of the WMZ551 is being marketed for export
in both 6x6 and 8x8 configurations. The light AFV has a range of weapon
options, including the 7.62 mm or 12.7 mm machine guns, and a variety
of turrets. So far within the Asia-Pacific region the only known export
customer for the WMZ551 is Sri Lanka.
INFANTRY FIGHTING VEHICLES
Close behind Singapore’s growing export success
is South Korea, whose domestic products are
attracting a great deal of interest with a number
of world class systems now making inroads into
the international market.
India’s defence requirements alone are set to
create an estimated US $100 billion market, and
will be a strong influencing factor in the nature
of future growth in the military market within the
The traditional dominance of European and North American suppliers
will be challenged in the coming years as a number of vigorous
expanding Asian nations begin to produce comparable – or better –
products at lower prices.
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