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Korean People's Army Air Force

The air force became a separate service in 1948. The air force adapted Soviet and Chinese tactics and doctrine to reflect North Korea's situation, requirements, and available resources. Its primary mission is air defense of the homeland. Secondary missions include tactical air support to the army and the navy, transportation and logistic support, and insertion of special operations forces. A large force, the air force also can provide limited support to ground forces.

DPRK operational thinking reflects both Russian doctrine and North Korean experiences with heavy UN bombing during the Korean War; it relies heavily on air defense. The DPRK houses a large percentage of its military industries, aircraft hangars, repair facilities, ammunition, fuel stores, and even air defense missiles underground or in hardened shelters.

North Korea's pre-war airfields were destroyed and not repaired during the war. By the end of 1953, the Corps of Chinese Volunteers was withdrawn from Korea and KPA units took control of positions at 38th parallel. A major reorganization of all the KPA armed services began, accompanied by massive acquisitions of new weapons systems from the USSR.

Some ten airfields were constructed for the NKAF at that time. In 1961, USSR and DPRK signed the Treaty of Mutual Assistance and Military Cooperation with many additional secret protocols that even now are classified. In accordance with these protocols, in 1961-62, the NKAF received MiG-19 supersonic fighters and S-25 "Berkut" SAM's. The KPA received airborne and artillery chemical ordnance and began training for combat under chemical and radiation contamination conditions. After 1965 the North Koreans began receiving MiG-21F fighters and S-75 "Dvina" SAMs.

Air Force Order of Battle
Air combat commands 3
Air division 1
Interceptor regiments 12
Ground attack regiments
Il-28 3
Su-25/7 1
MiG-19/A-5 2
MiG-15/17 2
Transport regiments
An-2 6
Unspecified 6
Helicopter regiments 6
In 1992, the air force comprised about 1,620 aircraft and 70,000 personnel. At that time there were three air combat commands under the direct control of the Air Command at Chunghwa, one air division (the Eighth Air Division, probably headquartered at Rang) in the northeast, and the Civil Aviation Bureau under the State Administration Council. The three wings under the Air Force headquarters of the KPA each had one fighter regiment, one bomber regiment, one An-2 aircraft regiment, one helicopter regiment, and one anti-aircraft rocket regiment.

Each wing was capable of waging independent operations. The air combat commands, consisting of different mixes of fighters, bombers, transports, helicopters, reconnaissance aircraft, and surface-to- air missile (SAM) regiments, were created by integrating and reorganizing existing air divisions during the mid- to late 1980s. Decentralized command and control gave more authority to regional commands.

At the national level, air defense was once the responsibility of the Air Defense Command, a separate entity from the air force, but which probably was collocated with the Air Force Headquarters in P'yongyang. However, that function probably was transferred to the air force in the late 1980s. The air combat commands appear to have primary responsibility for integrated air defense and are organized with semiautomated warning and interception systems to control SAMs, interceptor aircraft, and air defense artillery units.

  • The First Air Combat Command, in the northwest, probably headquartered at Kaech'n, is responsible for the west coast to the border with China, including P'yongyang.
  • The Second Air Combat Command, headquartered at Toksan, covers the northeast and extends up the east coast to the Soviet border.
  • The Third Air Combat Command, headquartered at Hwangju in the south, is responsible for the border with South Korea and the southernmost areas along the east and west coasts.

As of 1996 the North Korean air force consisted of six air divisions under the direct control of the national Air Command: three are composed of fighter wings, two of transportation wings, and one for fighter training.

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Page last modified: 26-12-2016 19:38:54 ZULU