|Land, Infrastructure and Transport Minister Kang Ho-in delivers the opening speech at a conference on drones at the Federation of Korean Industries Head Office Building in Yeouido, Seoul, on Mar. 10. / Yonhap|
By Ko Dong-hwan
The South Korean Army is considering using drones equipped with explosives, an army official said Sunday.
The army plans to carry out extensive research into "military swarming, which is already in operational use in the U.S., China and Russia, to our ground and naval operations," the official said.
The battlefield tactic uses dispersed combat units to attack designated targets at once.
The research will focus on the possibility using AI-based drones, and on ways to develop techniques based on Korea's advanced science and technology.
The military will analyze the effects of drone swarming on naval operations, including port defense, attacks, search and rescue, and lighting.
If the research results ― due within this year ― are positive, the Army will begin arming military drones.
In January, the U.S. Defense Department said it successfully tested 103 Perdix drones ― each 16 centimeters long ― released from three F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jets.
In November, China released an image of scores of mini-drones in flight, while Russia is reportedly studying fighter-drone joint operations.
The South Korean military said it could use the similar Coyote drone, developed by leading U.S. defense contractor Raytheon and successfully tested by the U.S. Navy in 2015, in combat exercises.
The drones can carry up to a one kilogram and can fly for up to 90 minutes at up to about 100 kilometers per hour.
North Korea may already be using drones capable of targeting South Korea, according to the South's military experts.