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Weapons: Koreans Build A Better OICW
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July 29, 2008: South Korea has developed a new infantry weapon, the XK-11[VIDEO], that appears to be identical in concept of the U.S. Army XM-29 (or OICW, for Objective Individual Combat Weapon). The South Korean version weighs 13.4 pounds and combines a 5.56mm rifle with one firing 20mm, computer and laser controlled, shells. The 18 pound XM-29 was developed, in the 1990s, as a replacement for the 40mm grenade launcher. The 40mm rounds weigh 19 ounces each, the 20mm OICW round weighs half that.

But there were several major problems with the OICW. It was too heavy and ungainly, and the 20mm "smart shell" it fired did not appear capable of effectively putting enemy troops out of action. So, in August, 2003, it was decided to take the 5.56mm portion of the OICW and develop it as a separate weapon (the XM-8) and develop the grenade launcher part that fired the "smart shell" as the XM-25. But the XM-25 would use a 25mm shell, which would generate 50 percent more fragments (and heavier ones at that) than the 20mm shell of the OICW. The XM25 was expected to reach the troops by 2008. But that didn't happen, as tests were disappointing.

The 20mm and 25mm "smart shells" use a computer controlled fuze. The XM-25 operator can select four different firing modes via a selector switch on the weapon. The four modes include "Bursting" (airburst). For this to work, the soldier first finds the target via the weapons sighting system. The sight includes a laser range finder and the ability to select and adjust the range shown in the sight picture. For an air burst, the soldier aims at an enemy position and fires a round. The shell is optimized to spray incapacitating (wounding or killing) fragments in a roughly six meter radius. Thus if enemy troops are seen moving near trees or buildings at a long distance (over 500 meters), the weapon has a good chance of getting them with one shot. M-16s are not very accurate at that range, and the enemy troops will dive for cover as soon as M-16 bullets hit around them. With smart shells, you get one (or a few) accurate shots and the element of surprise.

The South Korean weapon appears to operate the same way as the 20mm shell of the XM-29. The South Koreans say they will issue the XK-11 in two years, on the basis of two weapons per squad (an infantry unit containing 10-12 men). Each XK-11 costs about $16,000, which is 20 percent cheaper than the XM-29. It's unclear if the South Koreans found solutions to the problems the XM-29 and XM-25 encountered, or simply developed an improved XM-29 and decided it was useful in small numbers. The South Korean announcement made no mention of those American weapons.


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trenchsol       7/29/2008 6:28:29 AM
So there are couple of OICW's out there: Korean, Australian and FN-2000. FN-2000 seems to be ready for deployment. It has become a standard service rifle in Slovenia, Can someone compare those systems here, on forum, please ?

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Camp       7/29/2008 9:40:27 AM
"Korean New Rifle : XK-11"
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Camp       7/29/2008 9:51:39 AM
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PBAR       7/29/2008 10:31:56 PM
Odd that the Koreans are developing a new rifle and yet still issue steel helmets and no body armor (except to those going on overseas deployments). 
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dba       7/30/2008 1:42:48 PM

Apparently SK army has lots of body armors in storage but don't use them in training because they are worried about unnecessary wear/tear and damage.  A guy posted on a Korean military forum that his company was selected to test new helmets almost 10 years ago but apparently the idea was shelved for whatever reason.  As for SK soldiers abroad being equipped with body armor, obviously SK army wants to minimize casualty as much as possible and also it's easier to give body armor to 3000 soldiers versus 680,000.  SK army obviously wants to show their soldiers in their best sunday outfit on the world stage.  And lastly, SK has to maintain an armed forces of 680,000 with enough decent training/equipment that gives them the 6th place in the ranking of military forces in the world.  Btw, SK has the 10th or 11th largest economy with increasingly westernized society that demands more funding in non-military areas.

But also it's because of greed, stubbornness, and desire for cool toys.

A few months ago there was a heated debate on a S. Korean military forum about the less than desirable state of personal gear of SK soldiers.  The incident that started this debate was a visit by a US nuke sub to SK on a rainy day.  It was in SK port and SK counterparts were there to conduct joint press briefing.  It was a rainy day.  What the author of the forum was emphasizing was the water proof boots  (worn by one of the senior officer of the US sub) and gore tax jackets worn by all US soldiers (officers only?).  SK officers in contrast wore uniforms that were NOT water proof or resistant at all.  He than posted photo of a SK soldier's bloody feet after marching miles in less than good marching boots issued by SK army.

The forum posters basically laid out these reasons for the lack of improvement in personal gear of SK soldiers.
1. Supply for non-high tech stuff like boots are apparently supplied by local manufacturers who are decorated veterans, descendants of decorate veterans and/or fighters who fought against Japanese during the occupation.  The contracts are apparently given without competitive bidding.  You can see where that's going.  A guy posted that he actually worked in a shop that made boots for SK army and claimed the actual cost (material and labor) for a pair of boots was a FRACTION of what the SK army paid for.  This is apparently a well known secret but hard to correct because there is so much money to be made by the involved parties, manufacturers and officers in charge of procurement.  This arrangement of contracts for a select few worked in the past when SK was really poor and the gov't couldn't afford to really take care of them other than giving them a chance at getting favorable military contracts.  Obviously this is from the old age and must be corrected.
One poster said 'I wouldn't curse the army so much if SK couldn't AFFORD to give them decent boots like in the past but now we can...'  One other irony is that SK has had a pretty advanced shot/textile industry for 2 - 3 decades.  If you are old enough you will remember that lots of the shoes sold in US in 1980' - 90' were from SK, before cheaper Chinese ones flooded the US market.  And a SK shoe manufacturer recently won a contract to supply boots for the entire Indian army.  Indian army selected the SK maker because the boots were strong/good enough to withstand wear and tear on the rocky terrain they patrol and yet affordable.
You might ask why can't the soldiers buy their own?  Well there is the regulation and also some superiors don't like the look of some soldiers in nicer boots while others are not, especially in a army of conscripts...

2. Bureaucracy and stubbornness.  There are apparently some pretty good ideas on improving personal equipment of SK troops such as webbing gear/optics/personal-weapons floating around but it's hard to change the habits of the old guys in charge...  If it's not broken why fix it?  And cost is a big issue.

3. Everyone likes cool toys.  One poster in the boot discussion claimed not fielding a K-2 MBT company (or a battalion) would free up enough fund without increasing military expenditure to equip decent boots for all SK army soldiers and may be even gore tax jackets.  As of now though, SK army is more interested in procuring weapons that are COOL and hopefully will win wars, not for less than cool stuff that makes the life of a soldier bearable...

And while SK soldiers and ex-soldiers complain about lack of decent boots compared to US soldiers, NK soldiers and civilians are starving to dea
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dba       7/30/2008 1:55:05 PM
"It's unclear if the South Koreans found solutions to the problems the XM-29 and XM-25 encountered, or simply developed an improved XM-29 and decided it was useful in small numbers. "

SK army apparently wanted 20mm shell that has flatter trajectory compared to 25mm one.  Weight of shell is also an issue.

OICW would be useful in Korea where there are lots of cities/towns and hills that give soldiers easy cover against bullets that fly in a straight line.  SK can't exactly afford to call in a jet with 500lbs bombs every time they find enemy hiding in a building or behind some cover.  My guess is that SK version isn't that much better than the US version but given their terrain and budget, it meets the need of SK army.

One funny thing.  A SK posted on a forum wondering who will carry the heavy gun that obviously will be a magnet for enemy bullets and noted it probably won't be the senior members of the infantry squad... 
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