South Korean army showcases future force experimentation unit

Warrior Platform is an ongoing project within the Republic of Korea (ROK) Army to modernise individual equipment of all soldiers. (RoKA)

The Republic of Korea Army (RoKA) has unveiled a new unit called the Army Tiger Demonstration Brigade (ATDB) in a training exercise alongside the US Army’s Stryker Brigade Combat Team (BCT) in Paju city, near the North Korean border.

According to RoKA reports, the ATDB tested various platforms and weapons such as the K808 wheeled armoured vehicle, Hyungung anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs), as well as upgraded individual equipment such as infrared optics, magnifiers, and targeting devices.

The ATDB is designed to integrate the latest technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI), unmanned aerial and ground systems, and information-driven operational concepts into RoKA combat brigades in the coming decades.

Initial elements of the ATDB was stood up within the service’s 25th Infantry Division in Yangju, Gyeonggi-do province – which is responsible for command-and-control operations – in 2022. It is expected that all combat brigades will be converted to ATDBs by 2040.

In its 2018 Defence White Paper published in January 2019, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) stated that it had already set in motion plans under the government’s ‘Defense Reform 2.0’ to progressively reduce the number of overall standing troops to 500,000 from 599,000 by 2022 in address future challenges.

The MND also revealed that the number of troops belonging to the RoKA was to be reduced to about 365,000 (from 464,000 at the time). In accordance with such demographic fluctuations, the RoKA is reportedly reducing the number of corps from eight to two by 2022, and divisions from 38 to 33 by 2025 as well as integrating commands.

To offset the expected reduction in manpower, the RoKA in 2018 launched its Army Tiger 4.0 System concept wherein each combatant receives a ‘Warrior Platform’ comprising 33 types of personal equipment, including new communications systems, field uniforms, multi-hit ballistic vests and helmets, and sights. With each soldier effectively transformed into a sensor node, the army envisions that Tiger 4.0 will eventually take the form of a hyperconnected and artificial intelligence (AI)-driven ground combat network.

The RoKA reportedly plans to expand the Tiger 4.0 System to four battalions by 2021, four brigades by 2025, and all units by 2040. It is estimated that the effort will cost around US$1 billion.

by Jr Ng