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South Korea Plans to Address Dwindling Military Personnel With Unmanned Ground Robots

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South Korea plans to acquire unmanned ground vehicles for its Army and Marine Corps to address the military’s dwindling recruits and conscripts.

A tender recently published by the Defense Acquisition Program Administration lists a budget of $36.56 million for multipurpose ground robots.

The South Korean Armed Forces will purchase the required technology domestically.

Kim Jae Yeop, a senior researcher at the Sungkyun Institute for Global Strategy in Seoul, told Defense News that Hyundai Rotem and Hanwha Aerospace are the forerunners for the program. Both defense technology companies have been developing their UGVs.

Hyundai Rotem, a subsidiary of Hyundai Motor Group, confirmed that it plans to participate in the competitive tender.

“Hyundai Rotem’s UGV is the only vehicle that has been in actual operation for more than two years in various terrains in Korea,” a company spokesperson said. 

Meanwhile, Hanwha Aerospace’s Arion-SMET 6×6 UGV participated in the U.S. military’s Foreign Comparative Testing program in Hawaii in December 2023.

The South Korean military has been struggling with a falling number of active-duty personnel for years. From 620,000 service members in 2017, the number of active-duty military personnel dropped to 500,000 in 2022, which affects the nation’s capability to defend itself amid threats from neighboring North Korea.

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