The Daewoo K3 is a squad automatic weapon (SAW) and light machine gun currently in service with the South Korean Army. The K3 joins the burgeoning line of indigenous firearms design and production, most coming from the Daewoo firm known for its small arms production and automobiles. The K3 fulfills the same light machine role for the Republic of Korea (South) that the Belgium Fabrique Nationale FN Minimi does for various other world power including the United States (as the M249 SAW). The K3 borrows some of what makes the Minimi a successful light platform and has seen combat actions in recent history. Production began in 1991 and is ongoing as of this writing.
The light machine gun has served a role since the days of World War 1 and provides the firepower of a machine gun with the portability of an assault rifle to the modern infantry squad. Its primary role is to support the actions of a group through delivering "suppressive" fire against a known target or position. Suppressive fire forms a distraction against the enemy and allows freedom of movement for friendly forces for the duration of the suppression. Light machine guns will usually operate from the same cartridge caliber as rifleman in the group and are most often fielded with stabilizing accessories such as a shoulder strap, shoulder stock, bipod or tripod to ensure accurate delivery of rounds. Weapons such as the K3 succeed through reliability of their internal components when exposed to the rigors of the battlefield, excellent training on the part of its operator and portability in allowing the weapon to be brought to bear on the enemy when needed by the field commander. As such, the light machine gun in the squad automatic weapon role forms a critical portion of the fire team. Some SAW systems - such as the K3 - are new-build weapons for a dedicated role. Other versions may stem from existing assault rifle designs, slightly modified with a heavier barrel and accessories for the light machine gun role.
The Daewoo K3, like other Daewoo gun products, sports relatively smooth and clean lines and appears very much from the same mold as the FN Minimi. The barrel features a baffled muzzle brake and makes up about half of the weapon's length. The gas cylinder system is fitted to the underside of the barrel, banded at the forend. The forearm sits aft of the barrel and gas cylinder and features horizontal grip lines for a firm forward grip. At the middle of the design is a conventional carrying handing, ergonomically designed with integral grips and protruding from the weapon via a curved rod. The handle can serve to carry the weapon into position or stable the weapon when the hot barrel needs changing. The receive is essentially slab-sided and relatively featureless with the exception of the feed and ejection ports. The charging handle is situated along the right side of the body. There is a forward and rear adjustable sight fitted appropriately forward and aft of the receiver. The solid buttstock allows for stable firing from the shoulder. The pistol grip is angled rearwards for a firm hold. The large trigger element is situated within a rectangular trigger ring. A bipod can be affixed to the gas cylinder underside for stabilized firing of the K3. Additionally, the system can be mounted atop a tripod for the sustained fire role. The weapon maintains a length of 1,030mm with the barrel being 533mm of this value.
The firing action of the K3 is gas-operated with a rotating bolt, the gas driving a piston into action. The K3 is chambered for the 5.56x45mm NATO standard cartridge and can accept the 30-round curved magazines of the Daewoo K1 carbine and K2 assault rifle family or fire from the more traditional 200-round disintegrating-link belt when in the fire support role. Rate-of-fire is listed at approximately 900 rounds per minute, necessitating barrel changes at intervals (though this is common practice for any light or heavy machine gun currently in use). Effective range is out to 800 meters while maximum range is out to 3,600 meters.
The Daewoo K3 has already seen extensive action with South Korean Army forces in both Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (Iraq). The system has also found a few foreign takers and include Columbia, Indonesia; the Philippines, South Africa and Thailand. The Philippines government took some heat when it selected the FN Minimi for its army's next squad automatic weapon, selecting the Western design over that of any Asian nation. To cool the fires, the government subsequently secured several thousand Daewoo K3s and South Korean-made military trucks. Since the purchase, the Philippines remains one of the largest K3 operators outside of South Korea.