Arthur, Saab’s radar system for locating artillery, is used by South Korea’s army. Saab’s employees are on-site to train the local military personnel.
Although an armistice officially ended the fighting between North and South Korea in 1953, the Korean peninsula is still in conflict. Separated by a 4 km wide band known as the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), the border is a mere 56 km away from South Korea’s capital, Seoul.
Since 2009 the Republic of Korea Army (ROKA) has protected the citizens of the South with Saab’s Arthur artillery-hunting radar system. This innovative weapon-locating system is positioned on strategic islands and points along the border to detect incoming enemy artillery. It can give Seoul’s residents a 90-second warning time before weapons hit the city – considerably more time than the army’s previous system could offer.
One of the Arthur units is strategically located on a truck at the top of a mountain, 6 km from the border.
“The mountain is one of the tallest around, and it provides a good location to see activity across the border,” says Jong Heuck (James), one of Saab’s knowledgeable, Seoul-based local support team members.
Jong Heuck (James) spent 20 years in the Korean military before joining Saab’s local support team. “My mission as a local support team member is to be a bridge between Saab and our customers,” he says. “I want to help both sides at the same time.”
Arthur is unique in that it can scan 90 degrees of the northern horizon at a speed of 32 nanoseconds, and it can pinpoint an object the size of a coin from 60 km away. The system monitors ‘target areas of interest’ across the border.
“Blinking dots indicate targets and Arthur keeps special watch on them,” Jong Heuck explains. “The system is looking for ballistic trajectories, so it so it rejects everything other than rockets, artillery and mortars. If something is detected, the weapon type will be shown as a symbol.”
Once detected, the system automatically sends a signal to the ROKA’s Fire Detection Center, which then proceeds with retaliation protocol – the South Korean mindset is solely defence-oriented.
“The entire process occurs within just two minutes,” says Jong Heuck.
Saab’s local support team works exclusively with the customer, the South Korean military, and is charged with providing round-the-clock maintenance support and training for the military personnel who operate the systems. Those responsible for maintenance change the units every two years, so Saab’s local support team regularly conducts the entire training process.
“Whenever there is an issue, the military’s maintenance personnel are supposed to do the initial fault assessment by themselves. But if they can’t do it, they call us,” says Johan, local support engineer.
Local Support Engineer Johan says, “we train the customer’s personnel in how the system works and should be maintained. When we notice deviations, we collect the relevant information and train the military personnel, to get them back on track.”
For the past two years, Johan has been responsible for the local support to the army, along with Saab’s three Korean local support employees: James, Lee, and Henry. Johan’s long experience as a Saab employee is an asset to the team as they strive for a high level of availability for the customer.
The customer’s representative is Kang Dae Won, Warrant Officer and head of the Field Support Maintenance Unit’s Radar Support Department in the 81st Maintenance Unit of ROKA. He says Saab’s system is an important defence measure:
“As you know, we are a divided country. North Korea has big artillery units up there, so we must have good tools to detect our enemy’s action and position in order to communicate with our strike units to retaliate or respond. South Koreans can feel very safe with the Arthur systems in place.
”The proximity to North Korea has made Kang Dae Won, head of the Field Support Maintenance Unit’s Radar Support Department in the army’s 81st Maintenance Unit, immune to nerves. “We are all soldiers here, so we don’t have any special feelings about working so close to the border,” he says. “It’s almost routine.
”The local support team gets further support from a 30-person back-office team in Gothenburg, Sweden. It is responsible for maintaining and developing the product, as well as for any additional assistance requested by the local support team. One of those employees is Project Manager Fredrik, who himself spends one week a month in South Korea.
“On site, our main purpose is to find out what the customer’s needs are and to fulfil those needs,” he says. “Saab’s goal is to keep the systems working all the time. We can help both with repairs and consultation, 24/7.”
Project manager Fredrik jets back and forth monthly to oversee the local support team in Seoul and the back-office team in Gothenburg, Sweden. “It’s an interesting perspective,” Fredrik says of his time in South Korea. “It’s a civilian country that’s in a military conflict.”
Arthur is a mobile weapon-locating system, designed for tactical use on the front line. It has the ability to rapidly detect incoming artillery fire and can calculate the firing site and point of impact, enabling effective counter-fire to take place within a few seconds.
The system can also be used to direct return fire by its own artillery.