Saudi Arabia is the latest export customer for the South Korean Chunmoo MLRS (multiple launch rocket system). Chunmoo is similar to the American MLRS carried by, and launched from, a HIMARS vehicle. The UAE (United Arab Emirates) already has twelve Chunmoo systems and Poland ordered 288 systems with delivery beginning later in 2023. The South Korean military has 218 Chunmoo systems in service.
In 2018 South Korea formed a special artillery brigade consisting of its Chunmoo MLRS using a newly developed 239mm guided (GPS/INS) rocket with a range of 160 kilometers. This 239mm rocket was certified as ready for service in 2017 and are designed for use against fortified positions.
The new brigade has at least three battalions, each with 12 Chunmoo MLRS vehicles. These 36 Chunmoo vehicles could carry 432 of the 239mm guided rockets and would be deployed to deal with the hundreds of fortified North Korean firing positions for their long range artillery. The Chunmoo 239mm guided rockets are designed to penetrate bunkers and destroy the enemy artillery and rocket launchers. Most of the Chunmoo launchers would be deployed near the DMZ with the others available to be brought up to replace losses and keep hitting targets. Like the American MLRS it is based on, the Chunmoo is designed for rapid reloading.
In mid-2915 South Korea put the first locally produced Chunmoo MLRS into service with unguided rockets. Chunmoo is an improved version of the American MLRS that South Korea has been using since 1998. Like the American rockets, the Chunmoo ones can use GPS guidance but the South Korea guided rocket was still in development in 2015. While the American MLRS initially used a 25 ton tracked vehicle, Chunmoo uses a 25 ton 8x8 truck that also carries two rocket pods and these pods can each carry a different caliber rocket. Chunmoo is faster on roads, does well off roads and is easier to maintain than the tracked American MLRS vehicle (M270). Chunmoo vehicles have a crew of three and the crew cab is armored against machine-gun fire and shell fragments. The U.S. introduced the HIMARS truck in 2010 that carried one pod of six missiles and proved more useful and popular than the expensive to maintain tracked M270.
Chunmoo is superior to anything North Korea has and is designed to quickly destroy North Korean artillery in the first hours of another North Korean invasion. South Korea originally ordered 58 Chunmoo vehicles to complement the 54 American MLRS vehicles it already had and eventually replace the older American systems. South Korea has long manufactured the MLRS rockets locally under license. Both systems fire rockets from containers the rockets are shipped from the factory in sealed containers that the rockets are launched from.
Compared to the American MLRS, Chunmoo has superior fire control and a more modern vehicle to carry and fire the rockets. Chunmoo uses three different size rockets (compared to two for the U.S. MLRS) with a max range of 160 kilometers or more. Chunmoo can carry two 130mm rocket pods each containing 20 rockets weighing 55 kg (121 pounds) each with a range of 36 kilometers. In 2015 there was also available a container with six American designed 227mm unguided rockets weighing 295 kg (649 pounds) each with a range of 80 kilometers. These are manufactured under license in South Korea and are interchangeable with the American 227mm MLRS rocket. The new 239mm guided rocket is delivered six to a pod. The 239mm guided rocket is a bit heavier than the unguided 227mm one with a penetrating warhead. Unlike the United States, South Korea still uses a lot of unguided rockets while the Americans have gone over to all GPS/INS guided rockets. The South Koreans are apparently switching over to all guided rockets in their Chunmoo vehicles because these are the most effective weapons against the fortified (in bunkers or caves) North Korea firing positions on the DMZ.