Back to the Drawing Board for Korea's New Assault Rifle

Fifteen of 39 new assault rifles issued to troops in June last year have defects, which translates into a 38.4 percent failure rate, it emerged on Sunday. The military has earmarked W448.5 billion (US$1=W1,116) to distribute the Korean-made K-11 assault rifle to troops by 2018, but a committee decided in mid-February to halt production and modify the design. It has cost W18.7 billion to develop so far.

The K-11 uses 5.56 mm rounds and can also fire a 20 mm "airburst" projectile that explodes over targets hidden behind buildings or walls. One rifle costs W15 million. The military has boasted that it would be the first such high-tech rifle in the world to be issued to frontline troops.

According to Agency of Defense Development memos, seven out of 20 K-11 rifles issued to Korean soldiers in Afghanistan had eight different kinds of defects, which caused failures in laser range finders and other targeting systems. Two K-11 rifles issued to an unnamed unit exhibited barrel movements during firing and defects in the striking mechanism that ignites the ammunition. In another two issued to another unit, condensation formed inside the laser reception lens, and the night-time range finder malfunctioned. And five K-11 rifles issued to another unit showed defects in switching from single to automatic fire.

"The rate of malfunction stands at 20 percent, which is unacceptable for issuance to troops," said a defense industry insider.

englishnews@chosun.com / Mar. 07, 2011 13:28 KST