News Zone

Recent News

The military unit organization to be restructured to prioritize an AI-based manned-unmanned complex combat system

Overview of the Defense Innovation 4.0 Basic Plan


Revising and incorporating the extensive guidelines and strategies for the year 2040

Creating a CONOPS and establishing the ROK 3K Defense system

Formulating a decisive counteraction to indications of North Korea's deployment of nuclear arms and missiles

Developing a command structure to ensure seamless coordination for joint and combined operations

Focusing on key areas that require significant changes

The military unit organization to be restructured

The military unit organization to be restructured

The Defense Ministry revealed the Defense Innovation 4.0 Basic Plan on March 3, which encompasses comprehensive guidelines and strategies intended to strengthen the military by 2040, based on a fresh national defense policy introduced during the Yoon Suk Yeol administration. The Basic Plan pledges to nurture a resilient, science and technology-oriented armed forces powered by artificial intelligence, capable of surmounting demanding defense scenarios through a complete overhaul of the national defense structure akin to building the military from scratch.


This aligns with President Yoon's assertion made at a gathering of senior officers last July, in which he stressed the need for revamping the entire military system to the extent of redesigning the overall defense posture and advancing towards a robust, science and technology-focused military force through Defense Innovation 4.0.


Defense Innovation 4.0 intends to enable the military to become a powerful, combat-oriented force capable of effectively countering asymmetric threats, such as Pyongyang's nuclear arms and missiles, with superior strength and achieving victory in upcoming battlefield settings. The plan also prioritizes reinforcing the cooperation among the three military branches and boosting the morale of soldiers, in addition to fostering an Industry 4.0-driven, AI-based, robust military force by innovating the force enhancement systems.



Dramatic reinforcement of capabilities to counter North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missiles


As part of Defense Innovation 4.0, the ROK military will create a Concept of Operations (CONOPS) and operations performance system for "Korea 3K Defense" to ensure a robust defense mechanism for self-protection in the event of clear indications of North Korea's deployment of nuclear arms and missiles.


In the Kill Chain domain, the military will augment the accuracy of attacks on North Korea's stationary and moving targets and obtain soft kill capabilities, including electronic warfare in the cyberspace. As part of the Korea Air and Missile Defense (KAMD) dimension, the military will create sophisticated and layered missile defense capabilities. Under the third axis, Korea Massive Punishment and Retaliation (KMPR), the ROK military will reinforce its capacity for high-precision, forceful strikes and deep penetration.


Specifically, the military will utilize the Kill Web approach to devise a CONOPS that can interrupt and dismantle North Korea's nuclear weapons and missile systems either pre or post-launch, increase combined training and exercises between ROK and the US, and establish a strategic command by 2024.



Development of proactive military strategy and CONOPS


Military strategies will be developed to handle significant security threats and adapt to changes in the battlefield environment in a proactive and organized manner. Additionally, a concept of joint operation will be created, utilizing AI and other advanced technologies to enable operations that integrate all domains.


The South Korean military plans to run a demonstration unit at guard posts, general outposts, and major coastal, offshore, and rear bases. This will be done by utilizing an AI-based manned-unmanned complex system security operation concept. Military officials have announced that they will conduct the necessary research this year to be able to run the demonstration unit next year.



Securement of AI-based core advanced forces


The South Korean military will gradually construct a complex combat system that combines manned and unmanned technologies in line with technological advancements. This process will take place in stages. The first stage will involve the development of a remote control system. In the second stage, a semi-autonomous system will be demonstrated. Finally, the semi-autonomous system will be implemented, and the transition will be made to a fully autonomous system.


In order to ensure that the unmanned system has an effective combat power, several measures will be taken. These include building a network linkage standard and a secure cryptographic system, establishing an integrated control system for drones, securing necessary frequency bands, and developing application technologies.


In addition, Industry 4.0's hyper-connection, hyper-convergence, and super-intelligence technology will be utilized to establish an infrastructure for Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) and develop it into an AI-based next-generation command and control system. This will involve integrating the C4I systems of the joint force and each military service, and organizing C4I data to be stored, classified, processed, and integrated.



Innovation of military structure and education & training


The military has made the decision to speed up the process of maximizing combat power by creating a military structure that is optimized for the future battlefield environment and by innovating the way education and training are conducted. The command structure will be adjusted to suit future joint operations, and the unit structure will be redesigned, focusing on an AI-based manned-unmanned complex combat system.


To counter asymmetric threats, including unmanned aerial vehicles from North Korea, a drone operations command will be established to carry out strategic operational missions. Additionally, an optimal troop size will be determined to achieve an efficient troop structure.


Additionally, the military will create a "defense education and training management system" to standardize the management of military education and training. "Scientific training sites" will also be developed to store and utilize big data related to training. Moreover, "comprehensive defense training sites" will be established for joint training exercises.



Reconstruction of defense R&D and force augmentation system


To ensure the timely acquisition of weapons systems, the military will simplify the weapons system acquisition procedure. Furthermore, a defense R&D system will be established based on innovation, openness, and convergence. A Korean defense innovation group will also be launched to serve as a technology diffusion bridge between the private and public sectors. To enhance international defense science and technology cooperation, a Korea/US defense science and technology council will be established, and a defense science and technology cooperation center will be set up.


The budget for defense R&D will be raised to over 10% of the total defense budget by 2027, with the aim of developing 30 strategic defense technologies in 10 categories, including quantum, energy, and hypersonics.


To promote innovation in defense science and technology, acquisition-related units within the Ministry of National Defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Defense Acquisition Program Administration will be restructured, and the military services' requirement planning function will be strengthened.


Focusing on key areas that require significant changes


The Defense Innovation 4.0 initiative will concentrate on essential areas that necessitate significant alterations. The changes will be gradually introduced to make an impact in operational units, and new systems, laws, and organizations will be created to establish a foundation for fundamental changes. Based on advancements in science and technology, and changes in organizations, laws, systems, and budget, modifications will occur in three phases: establishing a groundwork for innovation, achieving the outcomes of innovation, and accelerating the results of innovation.


According to the Ministry of National Defense, Defense Innovation 4.0 is anticipated to bring about several results in the field of defense, such as enhancing deterrence capabilities and response strategies to counter North Korea's nuclear weapons and missiles, as well as asymmetric threats. The initiative aims to address the shortage of troops by transitioning to a military structure that emphasizes complex manned-unmanned systems, maximizes combat effectiveness, and minimizes wartime casualties.


Additionally, the Defense Ministry foresees that Defense Innovation 4.0 will contribute to improving the nation's industrial technology by disseminating specialized science and technology expertise developed in the defense industry to the private sector. It is expected that defense science and technology will serve as a new driving force for the country's industrial growth.

By Hyun-woo, Seo <>

<Copyright ⓒ The Korea Defense Daily, All rights reserved> 


  • (Presentation and Follow-on discussion)