02:47 GMT +313 November 2019
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    Release the Drones! South Korean Army to Create Combat Drone Battalion

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    The South Korean Army is organizing a special division to develop combat drones specifically designed to counter North Korean threats, reported the Yonhap news agency on Tuesday.

    "The Army plans to set up a special organization to lead the development of dronebots," an official told Yonhap. A "dronebot" is, apparently, a portmanteau of "drone" and robot."

    "To begin with, we will launch a dronebot combat unit next year and use it as a 'game changer' in warfare."

    The primary purpose of the "dronebots" will be to conduct reconnaissance against North Korean targets such as nuclear test sites or missile silos. They can also be swarmed for combat, as each drone will be loaded with an explosive charge for "suicide" attacks.

    Such information could be crucial in a military engagement. The best time to deflect a ballistic missile launch is to destroy it before it ever gets off the ground, but this requires excellent reconnaissance to locate the site in the time between the missile being prepared and the missile being fired.

    On November 28, North Korea tested their Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which is capable of reaching almost any target in the world. While the ICBM disintegrated durings its re-entry to Earth, the range of the Hwasong-15 has caused alarm among North Korea's rivals as their nuclear program continues to progress.

    To counter this, South Korea announced in October an expansion of its "Peace Eye" early warning program. The program relies on drones, satellites, and spy planes to locate missile sites across the DMZ in the North so they may be taken out with an air strike before they launch their projectiles.

    That same month, South Korea spent about $900 million on a quartet of Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk reconnaissance drones. Other measures announced at the same time include new missiles to target North Korean facilities and maneuverable special forces units for tactical strikes within North Korea.

    The primary inspiration for Seoul's new drone unit will be a similar unit that has existed in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) since 2010. A battalion within the Artillery Corps, the "Sky Riders" have distinguished themselves as one of the IDF's most effective reconnaissance components. The versatile Skylark drones are used for everything from artillery spotting to field intelligence to tunnel location.

    The Sky Riders are organized into squads of four and are chosen for their teamwork and interpersonal skills, to ensure that they can cooperate while the drones they pilot are far afield in hostile territory.

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    Tags:
    UAV, drone, RQ-4 Global Hawk, Hwasong-15, North Korea's nuclear program, Democratic Republic of North Korea (DPRK), South Korea
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