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JH Ahn was an NK News contributor based in Seoul. He previously worked as an interpreter for United States Forces Korea.
“Oh, I have never seen things like this before,” said former ROK Marine Captain Kim Jung-kyu, 70, Friday’s 150-minute U.S.-ROK Integrated Firepower Exercise.
Kim, who served during the Vietnam War and who has received the ROK Distinguished Military Service Medal, has clearly seen his share of both combat demonstrations of firepower, yet was blown away by the demonstration.
In a venue the size of 100 soccer fields, a total of 86 K-2 tanks and K-21 Armored Personnel Carriers (APC), 111 K-9 self-propelled guns and multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS), 82 FA-50 fighters, F-15K fighters and Cobra helicopters – including 21 Apache attack helicopters – and Bradley tanks took part.
‘During the recent provocation (by North Korea), our military was strong but our civilians’ readiness was even stronger’
“We cannot maintain peace and stability without the heart and mindset to go to war if necessary,” Kim said. “During the recent provocation (by North Korea), our military was strong but our civilians’ readiness was even stronger. With weapons like these and the mindset that our proud citizens have shown, Kim Jong Un would never think of provoking a war that he will certainly lose.
“This is the biggest firepower exercise we have ever held, a total of 47 units and more than 3,000 personnel participated in this,” said the Lieutenant General Im Ho-young during orientation. “Nineteen ROK Army units under 5th Corps, 11 units under Air Operations Command, and 12 units under the ROK Air Force Operations Command took part in exercise, as well as five units from 2nd Infantry Division and 51st Aviation Unit from U.S. Army.”
THE BUNKER BUSTER
“Should war between two Koreas occur in the future, the key factor in winning the ground war will be the fighting capability of long-range artillery,” said Seo Sung-woo, a former ROK Army Sergeant and weapons expert. “In that sense the ROK Army’s K-9 self-propelled gun has once again proven today that it is the one of the world’s most powerful self-propelled guns and will serve as a key weapon in deterring the enemy’s march. Also, the ROK and U.S.’s armored tanks all exceed the T-62, North Korea’s most common tank, in both offensive and defensive capability.”
John Grisafi, NK News director of intelligence, explained that such public demonstrations are important for a national military, especially for shaping public perceptions and confidence in the military’s ability to defend the country.
“Air shows and other military demonstrations for the public are a major public relations tool for the military,” said Grisafi. “They serve to show its capabilities and tactics, increasing public understanding and boosting confidence in the military.
‘Much of the content of the demonstration focused on showing superior firepower capabilities and the ability to suppress enemy fo’
“Additionally, these events are big recruiting tools, with the hope of encouraging people to consider careers in the military. In this particular case, it is important for the ROK military and U.S. Forces Korea also to show how effectively they can coordinate operations and either deter or retaliate against North Korea,” Grisafi said. “Much of the content of the demonstration focused on showing superior firepower capabilities and the ability to suppress enemy forces. The inclusion of a bunker buster also highlights the ROK’s desire to show it can effectively counter North Korea’s military strengths.
“Though the demonstration was planned before the August 20 artillery exchange, the timing certainly increased interest in the ROK military’s ability to deter and retaliate against the North, and the ROK military was definitely cognizant of this.”
At the end of the exercise, South Korean President Park Geun-hye, who stayed throughout the whole exercise, praised the 80 ROK soldiers who decided to postpone their terms of service to remain and defend the country during North Korea’s recent artillery provocation.
“All of the Republic of Korea will be relieved by your efforts to defend the country when she was at risk. I hope you maintain the patriotism you have shown recently and become the model citizen for Korea.”
All images by JH Ahn