No time for K-defense complacency to set in

2023. 10. 2. 20:02
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Such a deadly accident must not take place in testing prototypes for military equipment.

Two marines died while testing out the prototype of the next-generation amphibious assault vehicle called “Korea Assault Amphibious Vehicle” (KAAV-II) in the sea off Pohang, a southeastern coastal city of North Gyeongsang. The development project led by the Agency for Defense Development (ADD) was aimed to produce an indigenous armored vehicle capable of transporting marines inland from naval ships to support battles on land.

As the landings of Normandy during World War II and Inchon during the Korean War helped turn the tide in battles, amphibious raids are particularly important in modern warfare. But the armored vehicle that should freely move on the sea and land to complete its operation submerged for unspecified reasons.

The accident occurred during the sea-test of the prototype manufactured by Hanwha Aerospace, a major weapons producer in Korea. Accidents and faults can take place at any time when testing a new weapon. Discovering any defects during the trial process can be helpful to prevent any problems later.

But such a deadly accident must not take place. Extra care and preparation are necessary for any prototypes. The victims were discovered two hours after the vehicle sank into the sea. Whether rescue and safety equipment had been fully equipped before sending the vehicle to the sea of 10 meters (33 feet) deep raises a question. Hanwha has joined the KAAV project after acquiring a defense company responsible for the K21 infantry fighting vehicle which caused a sinking accident in 2010. Although it is the largest defense company, Hanwha lost five lives from explosion accidents in May 2018 and three others in February 2019. The company should have been thoroughly prepared for any possible accidents. Military authorities must carry out an intensive investigation on the lead-up to the accident.

Korea’s defense exports have gained momentum through the war in Ukraine. Hanwha recently was awarded a vehicle contract worth $7 billion Australian dollars ($4.5 billion) from the Australian Army. Korea paraded a long-range surface-to-air missile (L-SAM) dubbed as the Korean version of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) system on the recent Armed Forces Day, just an hour before the submerging accident. In a speech marking the day, President Yoon Suk Yeol vowed to defeat the North Korean regime through the overpowering South Korea-U.S. defense system should Pyongyang uses nuclear weapons against the South.

But the pledge will lose the meaning if such accidents recur. The Korean military fired missiles in response to North Korea’s missile launch, but our missile landed in a golf course near the military base. Where another missile landed is still unknown. A missile from a fighter jet also did not fire off. If such misfires occurs in real battles, the consequences could be devastating. Korea cannot afford complacency in defense capabilities.

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