Operational control preparations go on

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Operational control preparations go on

Official preparations are underway by the Ministry of National Defense to launch a Ground Operations Command, which will be central to the transfer of wartime operational control of troops and in defense reforms.

The Defense Ministry completed building facilities for the command within the Third ROK Army in Yongin, Gyeonggi, in October, a military source told the JoongAng Ilbo on Monday.

Starting from November, a temporary ground operations command was formed.

In an attempt to reform the military’s structure, the government merged the 1st and 3rd Armies to create the Ground Operations Command to lead frontline units in case of an emergency on the Korean Peninsula and will also function as the Ground Component Command.

The Defense Ministry did not announce the launching of a Ground Operations Command in its defense reform guideline for 2014 to 2030 released in 2014, leading to questions of how serious the ministry was about the plan.

Through the launching of the new command, the 1st and 3rd Armies will naturally dissolve. Thus, overlapping positions of the two armies are expected to disappear, which could mean as many as 10 general positions may be cut. Likewise, overlapping executive and commissioned officer positions are expected to decrease.

Once the Defense Ministry makes an operation plan for the command, it is expected to be tested out in the Ulchi Freedom Guardian military exercise in August 2018.

An army official said, “The command, which combines the 1st and 3rd Armies, is in the process of making a new operation plan.”

Once the new command is launched, the operational command structure will be streamlined between the command, army corps and divisions.

Likewise, the army corps and divisions will have an expanded role in military operations.

Army divisions have a tactical area of responsibility of 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) wide by 70 kilometers long. This will be increased by up to 3.4 times to 60 kilometers by 120 kilometers.

The ministry plans to provide additional training to army division staff to prepare for the increase in the areas of responsibility.

To bolster their combat power, 230-millimeter multiple-barrel firearms and next-generation unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), mobile radar systems and light armed helicopters will be deployed to the army corps. The armored brigade with the corps will be equipped with 41 new K-2 Black Panther battle tanks and is expected to increase its combat capability by twice.

The Ground Operations Command is expected to be transferred the tasks of the Ground Component Command (GCC) as well. The GCC is charged with commanding ground operations of the ROK-U.S. Combined Forces during an emergency on the Korean Peninsula and carrying out wartime operational control.

The GCC is currently helmed by the deputy commander of ROK-U.S. Combined Forces Command (CFC). After the Ground Operations Command is launched, the deputy commander of ROK-U.S. Combined Forces Command can focus on the role of supporting the CFC commander.

U.S. and Korean army officials will revise the combined operation plans so that the new command will be able to take on the tasks of the GCC.

Another army official said, “So that the new Ground Operations Command, which is not under the CFC, can command the ground operations of ROK-U.S. Forces, there is a need to make sure that Korean and American troops don’t overlap. The ranked army officials of the two countries plan to gather at the temporary Ground Operations Command to supplement the combined operational plan.”

In 2014, Washington and Seoul agreed to postpone the transfer of wartime operations command to around 2023 taking into consideration North Korea’s nuclear and missile threat.

BY KIM MIN-SEOK, SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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