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The North Korean Military

Military North Korean Military Tennyson's Militaries 2003

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#1 tennyson

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Posted 03 June 2003 - 03:01 PM

As the North Korean situaton enters yet another period of tension, I've decided to post what I have accumulated about the North Korean military from a variety of sources, with the caveat that the information available to me is either estimated or extrapolated from observed information. I have no special connections and all of my information has been gathered from publically available sources such as Jane's , World Air Power Journal, International Air Review and the Proceeding of the US Naval Institute as well as various reference books and associated general media articles. Right now I have the least hard information on the North Korean Army, so initially I will only post about thier Air Force and Navy until I can find information of a more recent vintage.So without further addo the Korean People's Army Air Force(KPAAF).

The KPAAF has a nominal strength of more than 500 front-line aircraft, with as many supporting types, although most of these aircraft are obsolescent types. Since further supplies of Russian arms and aircraft effectively ceased in late 1992, closely followed in January 1993 by the withdrawl of special trading terms by China, its other main supplier, standards of serviceability have reportedly dropped to the point where only a small percentage of the KPAAF's aircraft are airworthy at any one time.
These problems are compounded by North Korea's weakened economy and political instability, and diversion of  funding to weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear warhead development and chemical and biological weapon stockpiles. In parallel programs, ballistic missiles derived from the original SS-1 Scud have been developed as delivery systems, ranging from the SS-1B/C Scud variants, through the No-Dong 1 with its 600 mile range, the two-stage Taepo-Dong 2 intermediate range ballstic missile with a range up to 3728 miles and its three stage variant with a range in the thousands of miles. The Scud family of missiles has been  a major  source of hard currency for North Korea from the 1990s with deliveries to Iran, Yemen and several other nations. North Korean pilots have also been active in the air arms of several Middle Eastern and African  militaries until the early 1990s.
The estimated totals of current equipment comprise
25 Mig-29 Fulcrum-A fighters and 5 Mig-29UB Fulcrum-B trainers
40 Mig-23ML Flogger-G fighters and 10 Mig-23UB Flogger-C trainers
120 Mig-21PF/PFM Fishbed-F fighter-bombers and 25 Mig-21UM Mongol-B trainers
100 Shenyange F-6(Mig-19) fighter-bombers and 10 FT-6 trainers
120 Shenyang F-5(Mig-17) fighter-bombers and 20 FT-5 trainers
40 Nanchang Q-5 Fantan attack aircraft
18 Su-25K Frogfoot attack aircraft and 2 Su-25UBK Frogfoot-B trainers
30 Su-7BMK Fitter-B attack aircraft
40 Harbin H-5(Il-28 Beagle) light bombers
3 Tu-154B Careless transports
2 IL-76 Candid transports
1 IL-62M Classic transport
4 Il-18D Coot transports
10 An-24 Coke light transports
200 Y-5(An-2 Colt) utility transports
12 L-39C Albatros trainers
30 Mig-15UTI/FT-2 trainers
100 Nanchang CJ-5/6 basic trainers
20 Mi-24 Hind-D/E attack helicopters
10 Mi-14PL Haze ASW helicopters
20 Mi-8/Mi-17 transport helicopters
15 MD 500D and 50 MD500E close support and observation helicopters
10 Hughes 300C training helicopters
the Mi-2 transport helicopter may still be in service

The North Korean Air Forces is known to employ AA-2 Atoll, AA-7 Apex and AA-8 Aphid AAMs and it may have been supplied with the AA-10 Alamo radar guided missile and the AA-11 Archer infrared guided missile before  the end of official Russian support. They employ no known precision guided ground attack weapons relaying upon Russian types of unguided bombs and rocket pods although they probably employ AT-3 antitank missiles on thier attack helicopters.
The North Koreans have an extensive but all but completely obselete ground-based air defence network with SA-2, SA-3 and possibly later Russian surface to air missiles as well as Russian types of 130mm, 100mm, 57mm, 37mm and 23mm AA guns as well as an extensive supply of 14.5mm machine guns and Sa-7 series manportable SAMs.
The North Korean air force has made every effort to hide and fortify its facilities, incorporating air defence centers into undergound facilities inside mountains as well as building airfields directly into mountainsides on the Swiss model.
"Only an idiot would fight a war on two fronts. Only the heir to the throne of the Kingdom of Idiots would fight a war on twelve fronts."

— Londo, "Ceremonies of Light and Dark" Babylon-5


#2 tennyson

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Posted 03 June 2003 - 04:49 PM

There are some wildly differing figures out about the personnel strength of the North Korean Navy(for example in October 1993 South Korean officials stated that North Korea had a 40,000 man navy, and some sources have given figures as high as 60,000 active and 40,000 reserve personnel, but these are very unlikely totals given the observed vessel strengths of the North Koreans) so I am going with the more conservative 9000 man figure plus reserves given by The Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World. Thatbeing said the data for North Korea is still marginal in comparison to my other posts, due to secrecy of the North Korean government and the South Korean and other governments reluctance to release accurate iformation. But somethings that have been determined are that most of the North Korean Navy's weapons and sensors are 1940s to early 1950s equipment of Soviet or Chinese origin, except for imported Japanese commercial navigation radars. Nearly all naval ship and craft construction has now halted.

22 Romeo class diseal electric attack submarines( generally similar to the Soviet version built in the late 1950s)
4 Whiskey class diseal electric attack submarines may still be in service for training and battery charging duties
22 Sang-O class coastal submarines in either an armed version with 4 533mm torpedoes or a minelayer/special forces insertion version with 16 mines or 15 special forces troops
40+ Yugo(US-nickname) class midget submarines with either 2 533mm torpedoes or 6-7 special forces troops
1 Soho class frigate(4 SS-N-2A Styx SSMs, 1 100mm gun, 4 37mm, 4 30mm, and 4 25mm AA guns, and 2 RBU-1200 ASW rocket launchers)
2 Najin class corvettes( 2 SS-N-2A Styx SSMs, 2 100mm guns, 4 57mm, 4 30mm and 8 25mm AA guns, 2 depth charge racks and 30 mines)
12-15 Soju class guided missile patrol craft(4 SS-N-2A Styx SSMs, 4 30mm AA guns)
6 ex-Chinese Huangfeng class guided missile patrol craft(4 HY-1 SSMs, 4 25mm AA guns)
8 ex-Soviet Osa-I class guided missile patrol craft(4 SS-N-2A Styx SSMs, 4 30mm AA guns)
up to 98 Sin Hung class torpedo boats(2 torpedo tubes, 4 14.5mm machine guns)
up to 12 ex-Soviet P6 class torpedo boats(2 533mm torpedo tubes, 4 25mm AA guns, 8 depth charges)
13 Taechong I and II class patrol craft( 1 100mm gun, 2 57mm and 2 25mm AA guns, 4 14.5mm MGs, 2 RBU-1200 ASW rocket launchers, 2 depth charge racks, mines)
6 Chinese Hainan class patrol craft( 4 57mm and 4 25mm AA guns, 4 Type 81 ASW rocket launchers, 2 depth charge mortors, 2 depth charge racks, mines)
14 Chinese Shanghaii-II class patrol craft(4 57mm and 4 25mm AA guns, depth charges, mines)
3 Sariwon class patrol craft(4 57mm AA guns, 16 14.5mm machine guns)
18 Soviet SO 1 class patrol craft( 6 armed with 4 25mm AA guns, 4 RBU-1200 ASW RL, 24 depth charges, mines, while the other 12 have 1 85mm tank gun, 2 37mm and 4 14.5mm AA guns)
1 ex-Soviet Tral class patrol craft of late 1930s vintage, in service for missile tests in 1993 but may have since been discarded)
18 Sinpo class patrol boats(2 37mm AA guns and 4 depth charges)
51 Chong Jin class patrol boats(1 85mm tank gun, 4 14.5mm AA guns)
52 Chaho class patrol boats(4 14.5mm AA guns, 1 122mm BM-21 bombardment rocket launcher), intended to provide artillery support for landing operations)
10 or more TB-11A class patrol boats
the North Koreans have also built a large number of craft with mainly wooden hulls and low freeboard to infiltrate commandos into South Korea
22 Yukto-I and II class minesweeping boats( only capable of sweeping moored mechanical mines)
10 Hantae class ultility landing craft(can carry up to 3 tanks and up to 350 unsheltered troops)
7 Hanchon class utility landing craft( capable of carrying 2 tanks or 200 trops for short distances)
18 Hungnam class medium landing craft(can carry 35 tons of vehicle cargo or up to 100 unsheltered troops short distances)
7 US fast infilitration launches(the American who sold these was arrested in November 1998)
up to 95 Nampo class assault landing craft(up to 30 troops each)
135 Kong Bang class surface effect personnel landing craft(ie. hovercraft based on a British design, can carry maybe a squad of infantry)
North Korea also has a vast number of infiltration launches and small 1or 2 man submersibles
1 Kowan class submarine rescue ship
There are undoubtly a large number of small service craft for use as stores carriers, personnel ferries, etc. but no data is avalaible.
"Only an idiot would fight a war on two fronts. Only the heir to the throne of the Kingdom of Idiots would fight a war on twelve fronts."

— Londo, "Ceremonies of Light and Dark" Babylon-5


#3 tennyson

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Posted 04 June 2003 - 12:35 PM

The North Korean Army has some 950,000 personnel(2000), with at least 800,000 available for front-line service. The North Korean Army is basically a "one throw of the die" force, with limited logistics infrastructure, and primitive medical and support services. Should the first all-out assault fail to be decisive, then there is little capability for a sustained conflict or for defence against an effective counter-attack.
North Korea's operational deployment is straightforward and very direct, with a large percentage of the armoured, elite infantry, and artillery units with huge stocks of munitions positioned on, or near the Demilitarized Zone. Any assault is generally assumed to begin with massive infilitarion of special forces troops into the South using an extensive tunnel network built under the DMZ, as well as by sea and air. These forces would attempt to disrupt or overrun as many of the South Korean and US defensive positions as possible before the main armoured thrust attempts to break through the main line of resistance. Once that has been achieved thier goal is generally assumed to be Seoul and beyond in attempt to achieve victory before US reinforcements could arrive.
The North Korean Army has been described as well trained and heavily equipped but almost all of its equipment is obsolete. It also faces a growing doubt about its motivation and ultimately, its loyalty given the widespread starvation, poverty and economic collapse of the Communist regime.
The known organization of the North Korean Army is 20 operational corps with
27 infantry divisions
15 armoured brigades
14 infantry brigades
These are supported by
14 field artillery brigades
6 heavy artillery brigades with both towed and self-propelled guns and additional multiple rocket launchers
9 dedicated multiple rocket launcher brigades
1 Scud surface-to-surface missile brigade with an additional FROG(Free Rocket Over Ground) short-range surface-to-surface missile regiment
The Special Purposes Forces Command has nearly a 100,000 troops organized into
10 specialist sniper brigades
12 light infantry brigades
17 reconnaissance battalions as well as an estimated 1500 embedded agents in South Korea

The North Korean Army is estimated to be equipped with
3500 T-62, T-55, T-54, T-34/85 and Type 59 main battle tanks
560 PT-76 and M1985 light tanks
2500 BTR-80A, BTR-60, BTR-50, BTR-40, BTR-152, Type 531 and M1973 armoured personnel carriers  and BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicles
4400 122mm, 130mm, 152mm and 170mm self-propelled artillery of various older pattern Soviet and Chinese types
2500 107mm, 122mm and 240mm multiple rocket launchers(most of them self-propelled on the back of trucks like the BM-21)
3500 122mm, 130mm and 152mm towed artillery
7500 82mm, 120mm and 160mm mortors
1700 82mm recoilles rifles
5000 AT-1, AT-3, AT-4 and AT-5 antitank missile launchers(AT-4 is roughly equivalent to MILAN I and AT-5 is roughly equivalent to HOT 1 antitank missiles)
11,000 14.5mm, 23mm, 37mm, 57mm, 85mm and 100mm towed antiaircraft guns
11,000 SA-7 and SA-16 manportable surface to air missile launchers
30+Scud/No-Dong ballistic missiles launchers( I think this is an underestimate but it was the only one I could find that actually gave a figure)
24 FROG-3/5/7 mobile surface-to-surface missile launchers

The North Korean Army has no organic air support and all aircraft and helicopters are operated by the Air Force.
"Only an idiot would fight a war on two fronts. Only the heir to the throne of the Kingdom of Idiots would fight a war on twelve fronts."

— Londo, "Ceremonies of Light and Dark" Babylon-5




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