Forces: August 26, 2005

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The Republic of Korea (ROK) has been a country facing a potential attack for over half a century. As a result, their military is well-trained, and is well equipped with modern weapons and other gear.

The ROK army is large (560,000 troops). In terms of personnel, this is slightly over three times as many as the United States Marines (180,000). This is organized into 49 divisions and 19 brigades divided among 11 corps. The ROK has a large number of tanks (over 2300). Of these, 1000 are the modern Type 88 main battle tank (also known as the K1), which has a 105mm main gun. The ROK also has a large number (850) of M48A5 tanks. These are M48s that have had their 90mm main gun replaced with a 105mm gun. The Republic of Korea has ironically acquired some Russian tanks to be precise, the T-80U. The ROK has 40 of these tanks about battalion strength. The ROK also acquired 40 BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles (again, roughly a battalion). The ROK also has a large force of armored personnel carriers. The bulk of this force uses 1700 Korean Infantry Fighting Vehicles (which have a .50-caliber machine gun and a .30-caliber machine gun). The ROK has 420 M113 armored personnel carriers and 20 BTR-80s.

The ROK Navy has been engaged in a huge modernization drive, going from 60-year-old Gearing and Allen M. Sumner-class destroyers to the KDX series of destroyers. The KDX-1 is a 3,900-ton vessel equipped with a 5-inch gun, eight Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and Sea Sparrow surface-to-air missiles. The ROK Navy has three of these vessels. The KDX-2 is a 5,000 ton vessel, and has a 5-inch gun, a 32-cell VLS for SM-2 missiles, eight Harpoon anti-ship missiles, a launcher for the Rolling Airframe Missile, and a Goalkeeper close-in-weapon-system. The ROK is planning to have six of these vessels. The KDX-3 is planned for introduction in 2007 or 2008, and is slated to displace 7,000-9,000 tons. It will be on par with the U.S. Arleigh Burke and Japanese Kongo-class destroyers. The ROK also has nine Ulsan-class frigates, which displace 1600 tons, and have 2 76mm guns, two twin 30mm or 40mm guns, six 12.75-inch torpedoes, and eight Harpoons. The ROK also has 24 Pohang-class corvettes, which come in two variants. The first is an anti-ship version which has two Exocet anti-ship missiles, a 76mm gun, and a twin 30mm anti-aircraft gun. The second is an ASW version , which has two 76mm guns, two triple 12.75-inch torpedo tubes, and two twin 40mm anti-aircraft guns. The ROK Navy also has a large force of diesel submarines nine Type 209-class submarines, with three Type 214s under construction.

The ROK Air Force has long used American F-5E  and F-4 fighters. The 185 F-5Es and the 130 F-4s are joined by 153 F-16s. The ROK Air Force uses all three of these fighters in both the air-defense and ground-attack roles. The ROK is also going to add 40 F-15K fighters, a variant of the multi-role F-15E this will replace at least some of the F-4 Phantoms. The ROK Air Force is trying to develop a new-generation helicopter (the KMH) and a new airborne early-warning aircraft (the E-X).

The ROK Marine Corps is small (25,000 men), and has two divisions and a brigade. It is equipped with 60 LVTP-7 amphibious vehicles and 42 AAV-7s (a modified version of the LVTP-7). The ROK Marines also have 60 M47 tanks, equipped with a 90mm gun, a .50-caliber machine gun, and two 7.62mm machine guns. This force is officially under the ROK Navy, but usually operates under command of the ROK Army.

The Republic of Korea has a modernizing, well-trained force. Its needed it. Its neighbor to the north has over 700,000 troops within 90 miles of the demilitarized zone, and its dictator, Kim Jong-Il, has been known to be very unpredictable, on one occasion kidnapping a South Korean director and holding him prisoner for eight years. The ROK will need to remain ready. Harold C. Hutchison (hchutch@ix.netcom.com)

 


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