New landmine detector with export competitiveness ready for field use

By Kim Joo-heon Posted : November 30, 2022, 14:00 Updated : November 30, 2022, 16:33

[Courtesy of the Defense Acquisition Program Administration]

SEOUL -- South Korea's new homemade landmine detector with price and export competitiveness is ready for field use. The detector capable of finding anti-personnel metal and non-metallic land mines used ground penetrating radar and metal detector composite sensors under a supply contract involving Hanwha Systems, a defense contractor affiliated with Hanwha Group. 

The Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), a state arms procurement agency controlled by the defense ministry, promoted PRS-20K as "the world's best landmine detector with export competitiveness" for its low price and better performance than similar foreign equipment. DAPA said that PRS-20K has achieved a 100 percent localization rate.

"I think we can export our equipment, which is similar in performance to American and German products, at a relatively low price," Army Brigadier General Cho Hyun-ki, a DAPA official, told Aju Business Daily on November 30. He said the new detector would be 15 to 20 percent cheaper than American products that cost about 50 million won ($37,883) per set.

The new detector was to be shipped to military field operators in late November this year, but it has already been showcased at an exhibition in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at the spontaneous request of its host, demonstrating the early interest of potential foreign clients. In October 2021, Hanwha Systems was awarded a deal to deliver some 1,600 PRS-20K mine detectors.

DAPA said that PRS-20K is available on-site immediately after deployment because it verified its excellent performance through quality and field operation testing that began after a prototype was produced in 2020 following five years of research to acquire core technologies. South Korea has strived to develop landmine detectors for use along the heavily guarded inter-Korean border. 

Since the Korean War ended in an armistice in 1953, some two million landmines have been planted on both sides of the inter-Korean border where armed clashes and shooting have raised tensions sporadically across entrenched concrete guard posts and iron fences stretching about 250 km (160 miles) from the east to the west. 

Unlike its old version PRS-17K, which is unable to detect non-metallic land mines such as North Korean wooden box mines, DAPA said that PRS-20K detects both metal and non-metallic mines using ground penetrating radar (GPR) that detects buried objects by transmitting high-frequency radio waves into the ground. Since detected mines can be checked with an image, the detection rate was significantly higher.

North Korea's wooden box mine is a copy of the Soviet mine that was used during World War II. It consists of a wooden box packed full of explosives and a pressure fuse. The wooden box mine has the minimum amount of metal components, making it extremely hard to detect with conventional mine detectors. Because wooden-box mines are buoyant, they are easily washed down from frontline hills and mountains to shorelines and riverbanks by torrential rains, posing a constant threat to civilians and soldiers.
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