South Korea is set to start the production of 120mm self-propelled mortar system later this year.

The move was reported by state-run news agency Yonhap citing the arms procurement agency.

In a defence project promotion committee meeting, the South Korean government decided to sign a KRW770bn ($648m) contract in the fourth quarter to produce the mortar system.

The 120mm self-propelled mortars are expected to be deployed next year.

In 2019, the new weapon system was developed to replace the ageing 107mm mortars mounted on K200A1 armoured tracked vehicles.

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By GlobalData

It has a maximum speed of 70km/h and a range of 12km, nearly double of 107mm mortars. Additionally, the 120mm mortars are equipped with autonomic fire control and reloading system and can rotate 360°.

The system is based on a variant of South Korea’s K200A1 tracked armoured vehicle.

Last month, South Korea conducted an annual joint military exercise with the US amid high tensions in the Korean peninsula.

The exercise focused on the maintenance of the combined defence posture. However, the scale of the exercise was reduced due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Earlier this year, South Korea also trimmed its defence budget to fund Covid-19 measures, as well as subsidise businesses.

As of 10 September, South Korea has reported more than 21,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases. The death toll stands at 346.

Globally, the disease has infected more than 27 million people and killed around 904,000.