Cutting-edge technology becoming part of life for ROK military

Cutting-edge technology becoming part of life for ROK military

The latest in technological advancements form the core of an ambitious new program launched by the Republic of Korea’s (ROK’s) Ministry of National Defense to meet challenges involving Soldiers’ training, quality of life and equipment needs.

The ROK military embraces the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution, which is a concept typically associated with emerging technologies related to the internet of things, robotics, virtual reality and artificial intelligence (AI). The concept is often credited to Klaus Schwab, the German-born writer and founder of the World Economic Forum, headquartered in Switzerland.

Termed the Fourth Industrial Revolution Smart Defense Innovation by the Defense Ministry, the program aims to maximize the use of technology and reduce demand for human labor in many operations. An aging population in South Korea has created the need for the ROK military to make this adjustment.

The program “focuses on innovation competencies in areas such as education and training, personnel and duties, and military and facilities,” in what it calls “total life cycle” management, according to a July 2019 report by the Defense Ministry.

Limited land and other constraints have reduced opportunities for live combat training, the report said, prompting the greater use of high-tech alternatives. “Our military plans to overcome these constraints and build an LVC [live, virtual, constructive]-based scientific training system (pictured) that incorporates advanced technologies such as virtual and augmented reality to enable training under the same conditions as the actual battlefield environment,” the report said.

When it comes to improving Soldiers’ quality of life, big data and AI are projected to play a substantial role. Customized menus and nutrition management are in the works, as is “telemedicine” that will enable the remote diagnosis and treatment of Soldiers.

“In addition, we will develop custom-made clothing and personal outfits using 3D printing, 3D human body scanning, and ergonomics,” the report stated.

“Smart” logistics centers and repair shops, even “smart” ammunition will improve the efficiency of defense resource management, it added. New AI-enabled systems will monitor military hardware and other assets ranging from missiles to bullets to enhance their lifespans and maximize their utility.

Robots will replace humans for the loading, unloading, retrieval and packaging in the smart logistics centers. New repair shops, or “smart factories,” will employ 3D machines, precision robots and data analysis to establish an “easy, quick and efficient maintenance environment.”

“Smart ammunition,” the report explains, “is equipped with various sensors and automatic control system for controlling ammo, humidity, fire, and access control. This will improve the reliability of the ammunition and extend the life span of the ammunition.”

Technology will also improve facilities maintenance. Terrain modeling and other automated processes will aid in the design of new facilities and optimize their upkeep with the aim of improving cost and time efficiencies.

“It is expected that the effectiveness of education and training will be enhanced,” the report concluded, “the security and welfare of Soldiers will be enhanced, and the efficiency of defense resource management such as defense and military facilities will be maximized.”

Felix Kim is aFORUM contributor reporting from Seoul, South Korea.