Korea deploying K11 airburst assault rifles

South Korea looks to be the first country to deploy a next-gen airburst grenade / assault rifle weapon in combat. Korea Times reports

South Korean troops to be deployed in Afghanistan will be armed with the latest K-11 airburst assault rifles for self-defense, according to the Ministry of National Defense.

The ministry unveiled the timeline as well as the troop numbers and equipment to be sent to the Central Asian nation, last week.

About 350 soldiers will be dispatched to Afghanistan with the main mission of protecting 120 South Korean civilian reconstruction workers, Defense Minister Kim Tae-young said in a National Assembly session. Two dozen civilian reconstruction workers have already been sent to the war-torn country.

Daewoo K11. From Wikipedia.

Built in the style of the now defunct XM29 OICW, the Daewoo K11 features a 5.56mm assult rifle mated to a airburst grenade launcher and ballistics computer. Where is differs from the XM29 is that the grenades are 20mm, not 25mm, and the grenade launcher is bolt action, not semi-automatic.

Like the XM29, a ballistic computer programs each grenade before firing, instructing it how long after firing before detonation. This video of a prototype K11 demonstartes the functionality.

It will be very interesting to see how well this concept works in real combat. The US Army tests found that a 20mm grenade was not big enough to be effective in a airburst configuration. Unless I am mistaken, the shrapnel from an airburst grenade will go in all directions, and therefor at least 50% is going up instead of down towards the intended target.

Many thanks to Snafu Solomon for sending me the link.

Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


  • Matt Groom

    13.5 lbs means it’s no light weight, but I applaud the Koreans for using a logical system like a bolt-action instead of a more complex semi-auto design. A 9.8″ barrel is pretty laughable in 5.56 though.

  • It’s relatively easy to put in a proximity fuze on the round, to sense where ground is. It is also easy to make the warhead a directional one, pointing in one sector along the side. Then, you just have to detonate exactly when the warhead is pointing at the ground.

    You do not need much of a dent in the explosive surface to start having a lensing effect. The side lobes of the explosion, and the shrapnels, are still useful, too.

    • Jimmy, good point,

  • Carl

    I guess in theory you could have the shells burst in front of and towards the target, with an effect sort of like a long-range shotgun. I wouldn’t know if this is an option (or practical) though.

    Anyway, it would be cool with a SHTF-mode on the selector that fires everything at once, preferably in full auto.

  • SpudGun

    Since the only countries really engaging the enemy on the frontline are US, Britain, Canada and Austrailia – the rest of the ISAF forces could be armed with K98s. light sabers or sporks for all I care.

    But I could be wrong, some panicky South Korean might unload his 20mm into a bus full of school kids who get too near the construction site and then we’ll know just how effective these weapons are.

    Not that I’m cynical about the committment of other countries in this theatre of warfare.

  • Geoff H

    The video was interesting. It looks like it could be effective even if not lethal. I know I’d hate to be on the receiving end of one of the grenades.

    The dispersion of the shrapnel will depend on a number of factors. I think the pattern would be conical from the point of detonation if the charge is at the rear of the grenade. Yes, a lot of the shrapnel will not be directed towards any specific target, but that is part of the benefit of the grenade, it scatters the shrapnel all around.

  • Big Daddy

    First off that is something I would not want to lug around the battlefield for sure!!!! Why not just use the South African made neopup with the computer module and ammo? The person using that weapon can also carry a lighter PDW.

    So far the best weapon of it’s type was the Barrett XM-109. It was 25mm and was a mix of grenade launcher and anti-material weapon. The over head burst feature is kind of stupid in my opinion because of the fact only a small amount is actually directed toward the ground. Plus those rounds are very small, 20mm is small for that kind of feature, half the warhead is the fusing. You are much better off using it with a high trajectory 40mm round whose warhead would be coming down at the enemy, not over it. the 40mm also has more room for the fuse and much more fragments and explosive. In fact a simple and even more effective round would be a 40mm bouncing Betty. It would hit the ground and bounce up about a meter then explode. No need for computers just a spring.

    What an infantry unit needs is both a semi automatic point weapon and a high trajectory mortar type of weapon. The point weapon can be used against enemy positions that are protected by cover such as a wall or inside a building. It can also be used against light vehicles and even as an anti-material rifle to destroy communication equipment and supplies at a distance. A M-32 40mm type weapon seems more suited for using special fuses connected to a range finding computer as to explode the round over the enemy. This unit can also be used on the anti-material rifle so that the same fuse and computer could be added to a special round that first penetrates a wall then explodes.

    Considering the helmets and armor soldiers are wearing now I question how effective a small charge from a 20mm round exploding overhead will in fact take out a soldier either wounding him or killing him. I can see those small fragments bouncing off the helmet and body armor.

    I would also instruct my snipers and marksmen to shoot at distance and try to take out anyone carrying those weapons before they even get into range.

    This love affair with the Ripley gun is not new. It does not work with the technology we have now. The weapon is too heavy and slow to use in a real fire fight. I do like the concept of the neopup, being able to fire small HE anti personnel rounds at a good rate of fire does give a small tactical edge in terms of advancing and retreating. It provides very good cover fire along with the lighter squad automatics being used like the m249 instead of the heavier M240 type machine guns which would be more effective but at a cost of weight and manpower.

    I think a lot of people do not look at a weapon or weapon system in terms of how it is used in infantry warfare. They center it more so on it’s effectiveness as an individual weapon and that is wrong. You have to look at it in terms of how it fits into what the small unit tactics are and if it is useful or just something the soldiers eventually leave with the armorer and take a few extra LAW’s, M203’s or something.

  • Martin

    I like the layout of big-over-small in weapons like these. Though, the clip-on bi-pod has to go.

  • I notice everyone is slamming this concept, but it would have been a big help if our guys had these when their outposts were assaulted. The 20mm has been used for years as an anti-personnel and equipment round. The distance is great enough to make it a kind of “helper” to area weapons like the machinegun, 40mm grenade launcher etc.

    As far as the barrel of the 5.56 is concerned, its about the same length as the Commando version of the M-16 besides, its just a secondary weapon—much like a pistol carried on the hip.

    I like it. Its simple, its being deployed and we’re still working on our version of this thing. Maybe simpler really is better.

  • Ty

    Yo dawg, I herd you like guns so I put a gun on your gun so you can shoot while you shoot!

    I agree with Big Daddy, a more effective light mortar would be a lot more useful. You could have a laser rangefinder that wirelessly transmits target data to a mortar with a simple electronic aiming aid.

    If you want to give grunts a more effective grenade launcher, don’t strap a carbine to it. That’s just stupid.

  • Ty,
    I don’t think they intend to use it like a grenade launcher. Even the US version with a 25mm isn’t to be used like a grenade launcher. This seems to be more like a ???? I don’t know but it doesn’t appear (in the video) to be used like a grenade launcher. The S. Koreans already have 40mm in their arsenal so I don’t think they’re trying to duplicate systems.

    Mortars are good but they have limitations…so do grenade launchers. This is a different type of deal….

  • Lance

    The K-11 may be too haevy and bulky for a small staured asian male. I thought only a few per squad where issued and the rest would have K-2s? I think the size will bring issues up about the size os such a weapon.

    • Lance, yes, that is my understanding. A couple per squad and the rest with standard weapons. It is basically the granadier of the squad … I would rather have a 20mm Neopup or 40mm MGL.

  • XxleoxX

    Those bipods disgust me

  • R.A.W.

    13.5 pounds is certainly porky for an assault rifle, but it’s still lighter than an M249 and so certainly not prohibitively heavy for a soldier to carry.

    I’m not sure how lethal the airburst rounds need to be. As long as they’re unpleasant and dangerous enough that they force the enemy to surrender, or decamp from their cover positions so that direct-fire weapons can nail them it’s valuable enough. A group of Taliban, say, ambushing a coalition convoy from behind some big rocks would probably find airburst-fused mini grenades to be an unpleasant surprise and hard to negotiate even if a single shot didn’t kill them all outright.

    Finally, the XM-29 was indeed 20mm for most of its development. Only when it got spun off into the XM-25 did the caliber get bumped up to 25mm IIRC.

  • Might not be the best, but I still would not mind having one in my gun cabinet…

  • Mark


    With the fuse in the front and the propellant in the back, there is not much left for effect. The overall length is 100mm, i guess the charge is 25-30 mm long.

  • Carl

    Ty, lol, thanks for the laugh.

  • Vitor

    @ Lance,

    The current generation of south koreans and japaneses are considerably taller and more robust thah their ancestors, thanks to a better nutrition. Of course they are not exactly dutchmen height wise, but it’s not rare at all to find a 6 foot japanese or southern korean anymore.

  • Lance

    But the gun is still BIG and bulky im 6,3 and I find it big and bulky like the XM-29.

  • jill

    White Horse Rangers.

    Fear them.

    I would fight next to the South Korean Army before any other brother out there.

  • Spudgun

    Denmark have taken quite a few KIA’s this year in Helmand in the green Zone. There are serious combat enganegemnts for the danish troops on a daily basis.

    Compared to the number of troops deployed, Denmark have taken a ,ot of casualties in A-stan, especially after our units have been redeployed south.

    Thats also why we are now fielding Leopard 2 tanks in the field as support.

    That is real combat! Not blue helmets. The Danish troops have reported many engagements at extreme close range, 30-50 meters, in the high fields in the green zone. many real firefioghts and lots of problems with IED’s

  • subby

    This is a great assault weapon for south korean troops to fight North Korea. If wielded en mass with skill it would exponentially increase the killing power of their infantry. They are deploying them in Afghanistan to work out any kinks in the system, due to how harsh the environment is there. They won’t actually be using them in combat against the taliban.

  • Kilahti

    If you fire one of those grenades trough a window it might be effective… On the other hand if you can do that then you might as well use a regular grenade laucher, since the grenade would just detonate inside the house anyway.

    (Also, simpler grenade lauchers do not have those fancy/fragile computers on them.)

  • Lance

    I just like the K-2 rifle anyway this is a bonous GL. The Dawoo is the best rilfe made in the Oreiant.

  • Mark


    The charge is bigger than I expected.

  • Their 20mm shell has its electronics up front, so there’s marginal fragmentation forward. The shell has most likely a flat base, so the frag pattern backwards is probably poor as well.The latter my be intentional to reduce the minimum safe distance.

    The shell has basically a fragmentation pattern that’s almost vertical to the longitudinal axis of the shell. The fragmentation cannot be focused “down” because the shell is spin-stabilised (rotating, with unknown orientation over the target). Spin stabilization is useful for electronically timed fuzes because these fuzes can sense the distance by simply counting revs. That neutralizes the error source of different muzzle velocities that could mislead simple clock fuzes.

    Here’s a German forum thread with additional pictures of gun, shell and shell components:

    The shell doesn’t need to be lethal to be useful. It may often be enough if it’s unacceptable to its target. You want them to move to expose themselves and to avoid certain firing positions that would be exposed to the 20mm. Infantry combat is much more about denying choices than about the final killing.

  • Big Daddy

    Infantry combat in insurgencies is different then in other types of wars. In this type of war the idea is to engage the enemy then call in an air strike to annihilate them.

    We lost sight of this because of the collateral damage. So it is more important that once the enemy is engaged they are NOT chased away or denied an area but eliminated. That’s why any troops facing these fighters must have superior firepower and the ability to launch a final blow.

    The best way to achieve this is actually longer range aimed fire from a rifle or the use of larger anti-personnel warheads on short range missiles. Not some clumsy grenade launcher with a moderate warhead smaller than a bang grenade launching tiny fragments at a low velocity.

  • subby

    Considering the terrain and the fact that soldiers have to carry armour and ammo. This is the lightest way to cause long distance explosive damage. Also, this is the first time its been fielded in war. If it turns out to be not useful then they will drop it, but I doubt South Korea who is technically still at war with North Korea would ever develop or arm its troops with a weapon that isn’t effective.

    40mm grenade launchers are nice. But they are also a heavy and difficult to aim over long distances.

  • Thomas

    i would rather throw rocks

  • Groot Mamba

    Wait for the new Neopup video. It will address some concerns regarding the lethal potential of the round.
    There are two things that needs to be understood with these type of weapons:
    1. The first being; delivering a payload with direct fire; 20mm or bigger. Neopup bombs in at 310+m/s…with a flat (not curved) trajectory.
    The neopup does this with a proven 20mm payload. It was conceived on paper and immediately materialised.
    2. One needs a platform to deliver the goods. The Neopup delivers alright

    Look at the current Neopup video and to the Korean K11. The Neopup pops big metal drums, not baloons. The thing to watch is the explosion generated by the 20 x 42B.

    This explosion kills,maims or deters an attacker. The K11 is neat by all standards. Detonating at a preselected range. A good sniper will take you out while you try and lace a target/threat with the K11

    The Neopup should be seen as a demoralising tool. Take time and think about what I’m saying

    I have shot a few different 20mm rounds:Neopup and NTW
    The above mentioned have generating more interest than Barrets payload rifle.

    The US is the market for weapons,yes. I feel that the US will only adopt weapons from their own country as well as ammunition.
    As some one once told me: “how would you like to go up against an enemy wielding the Neopup” You have an AR in Afghanistan and the enemy a Neopup. With an AR one must hit your target..with the Neopup..well,close is more than good enough.
    I will try and get some pics of the Neopup next to the AR. This will give one an idea of the compact size of the weapon system.

    As was said before: the Neopup with a good PDW(this is another topic of discussion)..well that’s what I want

    There are BIG name companies that are trying to develop what the Neopup already has to offer. Yes a big name can get you far, but a well designed and truly effective weapon system is what makes the difference in a combat scenario. There is no fashion statement in battle only effectiveness and functionality.

    I trust that the new video will be extremely informative as well as educational

    Groot Mamba

    • Groot, there is a huge difference between the neopup concept and this. The neopup shoots grenades, the K11 is like a very very light flak cannon.

  • HerbG

    It seems to me that a 20mm projectile in the hands of troops in the field is far superior to a 25mm or 40mm on somebody’s drawing board! Also, I’ve had some experience with ROK troops, and they can hold their own with just about anybody. The ones I knew were tough, experienced, and very disciplined.

  • let’sgetitrightthefirsttime

    If the blast goes in all corrections then if it were evenly spread 25% would be going up 25% would be going left 25% right and 25% down

  • valorius

    Seems to me the best use for the grenades would be in a direct fire antivehicle HEAT role.