Army dedicates a new combat team to drones

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Army dedicates a new combat team to drones

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Members of the drone combat team pose for the camera during their launching ceremony at the Third ROK Army headquarters in Yongin, Gyeonggi, on Friday. [KOREAN ARMY]

The Korean Army launched a drone combat team on Friday as part of a plan to become a more efficient fighting force less reliant on manpower.

The drone force, manned by around 80 personnel, will be part of a new ground intelligence unit that also includes operations analysis and counterintelligence teams. Col. Kim Young-kyun has been appointed as the drone team’s inaugural commander.

A ceremony to commemorate its launch took place at the headquarters of the Third ROK Army in Yongin, Gyeonggi, on Friday. ROK is the acronym for South Korea’s official name, the Republic of Korea.

“In a rapidly changing strategic landscape, the role of ground forces in safeguarding peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula has become more important than ever,” said Kim Yong-woo, Army chief of staff, at the ceremony. “Using technology of the fourth industrial revolution, we will develop this ground intelligence unit armed with ‘dronebot’ combat capabilities into a world-class military force capable of dealing preemptively with any existing or future threats.”

Military use of unmanned aircraft and land vehicles has been increasing at an unprecedented rate across the world, and the Korean Army is looking to drone technology to optimize military efficiency in the face of a shrinking draftee pool in coming decades.

This new unit is equipped with a variety of different land and air-based dronebots, a combination of the words “drone” and “robot,” which have a range of capacities including reconnaissance and electronic combat.

The Army believes such a force will be key to enhancing its combat capabilities and reduce the likelihood of human causalities in the line of duty. The plan is to eventually expand this ground intelligence unit into a division-level force and include drone units in battalions across the country by 2021, said Army officials.

Acquiring drone-based combat capability is one of the five game-changers first brought up by the Army chief of staff in October 2017 as part of the Defense Reform 2.0 Initiative pursued by President Moon Jae-in. These game-changers are cutting-edge military technologies the Army considers key to victory in the contingency of armed conflict. These include the formation of air-ground task forces and a special operation division, the acquisition of all-weather, super precise, high powered missiles and the enhancement of equipment for individual combatants.

BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [shim.kyuseok@joongang.co.kr]

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