The Republic of Korea Armed Forces (Daehanminguk Gukgun), also known as the ROK Armed Forces, are the armed forces of South Korea. Created in 1948 following the division of Korea, the ROK Armed Forces is one of the largest standing armed forces in the world with a reported personnel strength of 3,725,000 in 2016. South Korea’s military forces are responsible for maintaining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the state, but often engage in humanitarian and disaster-relief efforts nationwide. Today, the South Korean armed forces enjoy a good mix of avant-garde as well as older conventional weapons. South Korea has one of the highest defense budgets in the world, ranking 10th globally with a budget of more than $36 billion U.S. dollars.
The ROK Army (ROKA) is by far the largest of the military branches. This comes as a response to both the mountainous terrain native to the Korean Peninsula (70% mountainous) as well as the heavy North Korean presence, with its 1-million-strong army, two-thirds of which is permanently garrisoned in the frontline near the DMZ. The current administration has initiated a program of self-defense, whereby South Korea would be able to fully counter the North Korean threat with purely domestic means within the next two decades. The army consists of the Army Headquarters, the Aviation Command, and the Special Warfare Command, with 7 corps, 39 divisions, some 520,000 troops and estimated as many as 5,850 tanks and armored vehicles, 11,337 artillery systems, 7,032 missile defense systems and 13,000 infantry support systems.
The ROK Navy (ROKN) is the armed forces branch responsible for conducting naval operations and amphibious landing operations. As a part of its mission, the ROK Navy has engaged in several peacekeeping operations since the turn of the century. The ROK Navy includes the Republic of Korea Navy Headquarters, Republic of Korea Fleet, Naval Logistics Command, Naval Education and Training Command, Naval Academy, and Republic of Korea Marine Corps, which is a quasi-autonomous organization. The ROK Navy aims to become a blue-water navy by 2020. Although the National Armed Forces Organisation Act stipulates that the ROK Navy includes the Republic of Korea Marine Corps, the ROKMC is a semi-autonomous organization that carries out much of its functions independently.
The ROK Air Force (ROKAF) maintains a modern air force in order to defend itself from various modes of threats, including the North Korean Army. The ROK Air Force fields some 450 combat aircraft of American design. In contrast, the North Korean Army has roughly 650 combat aircraft, but mostly obsolete types of Soviet and Chinese origin. Korea began a program for the development of indigenous jet trainers beginning in 1997, this project eventually culminated in the KAI T-50. A multirole all-weather version of the T-50 is the modified FA-50, which can be externally fitted with Rafael’s Sky Shield or LIG Nex1’s ALQ-200K ECM pods, Sniper or LITENING targeting pods, and Condor 2 reconnaissance pods to further improve the fighter’s electronic warfare, reconnaissance, and targeting capabilities. The South Korean government also announced its plan to develop indigenous helicopter manufacturing capacities to replace the aging UH-1 helicopters, many of which had seen service during the Vietnam War.