Press Coverage

Title 『Special Editorial II』 Army’s Road to the Future
Date 2020.06.15 Hit 1973
Attached file file 5_01_034.JPG(5.00 MB)


4th Industrial Revolution and Army Vision 2050

 Yong-won Yoo,

Editorial Writer and Military Journalist of Chosun Ilbo



In October 2016, 103 small drones were air-dropped from three FA-18 super hornet fighters over the China Lake test site in California. ‘Called “Perdix,” they were ultra-compact drones with a length of 16.5 cm, wingspan of 30 cm and a weight of only 290g. These unmanned aerial vehicles showed high-tech swarming flight, such as making self-decision and flight formation without control of the ground control station. It was the first time that so many unmanned aerial vehicles were carrying out autonomous swarming flight. It is known that they share a kind of 'brain', change the number of UAVs per group by themselves, and adjust flight status with other UAVs in the group. It is an artificial intelligence (AI) drone.



In addition to the UAV, the U.S. Navy is also studying the unmanned swarming boats. When passing through high-risk straits, unmanned boats are operated in large quantities. In August 2014, the U.S. Navy mobilized 13 unmanned boats to conduct a ship escort test. The US Marine Corps is testing unmanned swarming landing assault amphibious vehicle for amphibious warfare, and the US Army is testing ground swarming robots made up of several self-driving vehicles.



China is also most actively researching the drone and robot technology second to the United States. In May, it successfully tested 56 unmanned boats for swarming operation. It showed the ability to operate a larger unmanned boat than that of the United States. These artificial intelligence swarming drones and robots are considered one of the 'Game Changers' that fight to the finish of the future battlefield. In the global defense industry, the fourth industrial revolution technology wind, such as drones, robots, and artificial intelligence, is also blowing. It's no longer surprising news that 3D printers made fighter engine parts, pistols, and more.



The Army unveiled 'Army Vision 2050' earlier this year, reflecting the trend of the fourth industrial revolution. In preparation for the major transformation of the future war paradigm, it is said that the vision paper drew the “concept army” that the army is trying to reach 30 years later. The vision paper introduces the concept of combat aimed by the future army from the prospects of future megatrends and war paradigm shifts over the next 30 years to ‘trans super soldiers’ and ‘intelligent combat robots’. As seen from the subtitle of “Super Class Army that Lead Time and Space,” the ultimate goal is to create a superclass army.



The military structure is transformed into a flexible “Lego type” structure that can be freely reorganized depending on the situation, and it is converted into a slim combination focused on professional personnel while maximizing efficiency with a super-connected manned and unmanned collaborative system. Drones and robot soldiers can be injected in conflict areas to carry out military operations with AI support, and combatants are reinforced with 'trans super soldiers' that surpass human limitations, changing the dominion of the battlefield with energy and supersonic weapons as a game changer. "The Army Vision 2050 contains the blueprint of a thrilling future army that will be passed on to juniors. This will be a guide that brings together and guides all of our efforts to build a future army," said Army Chief of Staff Wook Seo in the preface of the paper.



The reason why the Army presented the ‘Army Vision 2050’ by actively embracing the 4th Industrial Revolution technology is because the reality of the Army is that much desperate. The reduction of military resources due to the demographic cliff and the reduction of 118,000 troops over the next five years after 2018 in accordance with 'Defense Reform 2.0' will reduce the total number of ROK troops to 500,000 by 2022, two years later. The declining troops are all army forces from 483,000 to 365,000. This is a reduction of 23,600 soldiers per year over the next five years. It means that 2 or 3 divisions are lost every year. The corps is also reduced from 8 to 6 by two folds.



By the end of last year, some divisions, such as the 20th Division of the Army, the most elite mechanized unit, were merged and disappeared into history, causing power vacuum from some perspective. There are also concerns that the army is engulfed in the “triple tsunami” because reducing troops was added to shortening the period of service (3 months) and introducing an alternative service system. This concern is more exacerbated because North Korea still has 6.5 million reserves in addition to the 128 million regulars.



In October 2017, at the National Assembly's inspection, then Army Chief of Staff Kim Yong-woo expressed the difficult realities of the army, saying that “the army is a situation that needs to promote large-scale military structural reforms in a short period of time, including consolidation of the 1st and 3rd Field Military Commands by 2022 with the reduction of more than 120,000 troops, the dismantling of two corps and seven divisions and reorganization of about 2,000 battalions”.



" such as reorganizing the battalion." Former Chief of Staff Kim also said, “Transfer of wartime operational control, shortening of military service, and rapid reduction of military service resources are variables that can affect the army's ability to maintain its proper military power and combat readiness.”



Accordingly, the concept of constructing a new army of military forces called the “Five Game Changer” was promoted. The five game changers are to build five core forces to respond to changes in the security environment, such as reduction of military forces and shortening the service period, advancement of the North Korean nuclear and missile threat, and changing the war paradigm. The five major game changers can be divided into three dimensions: strategic, operational, and tactical levels. First of all, at strategic level, all-weather, ultra-precision, high-power missile power, strategic maneuvering corps with high intelligence, mobility, and lethal firepower capable of taking over the center of enemy's line (Pyongyang, etc.) within a short period of time, strengthening of special warfare power including reorganization of special mission brigade carrying out removal of enemy commanders. At the operational level a drone-bot squad that combines drones and robots to carry out various missions with a variety of new concepts is included. At the lowest one, tactical level, the “Warrior Platform” was chosen, which can significantly enhance the combat capability of combatants on an individual level. These five major game changers can be considered as a total sum of the desperate measures, survival strategies, and development strategies of the army, which faced unprecedented challenges such as massive troop reduction, shortened service life, and North Korea's nuclear and missile threats.



I have recently read a book called KEVLAR LEGIONS, detailing the US Army transformation from 1989 to 2005. This book describes the process by which the US army underwent radical transformation and transformed itself into a troop of high intensity like Kevlar, a strong bulletproof material. The US Army even with the history of changing chief of staff five times over the past 16 years, has never lost the momentum of transformation and has finally been reborn as the world's strongest army. I hope that our army, facing the “triple tsunami”, will be able to overcome the crisis and realize the dream of “Army Vision 2050”, taking a lesson from the “Kevlar Legion”.




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