Reports on Tuesday revealed that the K721 naval mines intended to thwart enemy warships exploded properly only one in six times during tests, a success rate of only 16.6 percent. What would happen if such a weapon were to be fielded in actual battle?
In December last year, the Navy destroyer Euljimundeok was left defenseless for five hours after even its reserve generator failed during a drill on the West Sea. And nine out of its 12 communication-use batteries were faulty, apparently causing a delay in sending the SOS to command.
The reliability of the country's weapons has deteriorated to a dangerous level. The landing ship Dokdo was left floating idly on the West Sea on Sept. 10 after one of its generators caught fire. Two of its four generators were already inoperable due to an error by a crewman in April and the remaining one damaged by sea water as sailors tried to extinguish the fire.
The new submarine torpedo Hongsangeo (Red Shark), which cost W100 billion (US$1=W1,058) to develop, has an accuracy rate of only 40 percent, far below the required 75 percent.
As North Korean artillery shelled Yeonpyeong Island, a quite number of the K-9 howitzers and radars used by the Marines to take out enemy artillery positions failed. Faulty maintenance caused a T-50 trainer jet and F-5 fighter plane to crash last year and this year. This happened while Korea is actively pushing to sell the T-50 to other countries.
No weapons are perfect, but Korean-made armaments are proving to be very poor indeed compared to advanced countries, and they seem to be deployed without proper testing. The U.S. conducts hundreds of tests before fielding a weapon, but here there are fewer than 10.
The reason is fiscal restraints, but that is a reality the military must learn to deal with. It must increase the efficiency of tests and apply more stringent standards. Better training programs must also be developed for personnel who use the weapons. And most of all, top brass must realize that their mistakes are getting too frequent. People are becoming anxious, and with good reason.