UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


Korean People's Army

The Korean People's Army is the "revolutionary armed wing" of the Worker's Party as stated in Article 46 of the party constitution, with first and foremost loyalties to the party. The Korean People's Army was established on Feb. 08, 1948. The KPA is the vanguard of the Korean revolution,the revolutionary armed forces of the Workers Party Of Korea. The Army-First/Songun idea was articulated by Leader KIM JONG IL, who declared that the choice was Army-first politics to maintain indepedence or become the colonial slaves of imperialism.

North Korea has always regarded the army as the backbone of national defense. According to statistics in 2015, the number of its army was about 1.2 million, which surpassed the ground forces in the US or South Korea. But huge numbers cannot represent everything. Unlike the situation in "Homeland Defense", the real North Korean army is actually a hodgepodge. Its elite troops have high combat literacy, while the other part has low morale and even lacks training. Not only that, their equipment is generally outdated. In 2015, the North Korean Army had about 6,000 tanks and 2,500 armored vehicles, but the majority were old equipment from the Cold War era.

Among the 6,000 tanks, there are about 2,000 T-55, 1,000 T-62, and 500 PT-76 amphibious tanks manufactured by the Soviet Union and the country, and 1,000 Type 59 supplied by China. As the most important one, the T-55 is actually a product launched by the Soviet Union after the end of World War II: When they were unveiled in the 1950s, Western troops were shocked by its performance and design. But after 60 years, from the most basic weapons and armors to fire control and observation systems, they are gradually diverging from the requirements of modern warfare.

The T-55 was first tested in the 1967 Middle East War. At that time, Egypt and Syria used them to challenge the Israel Defense Forces. Later, it appeared in the forefront of the Cold War, such as the jungles of Vietnam and the deserts of the Middle East. The poor performance on thes battlefields was due in part to unfamiliar training and poor command. During the Gulf War, the complete defeat of the Iraqi T-55 proved that even from a purely performance perspective, they were completely old and backward.

The conditions of these tanks themselves are also very bad: since the embargo began, the logistics of the North Korean army has become more and more stretched, and this dilemma is difficult for North Korea's own military industry to change. Due to the lack of electricity and the floods encountered in 2010, North Korea’s most famous tank industrial bases-"Ryu Kyung-soo Factory" and "Guicheng Tank Factory"-have been experiencing difficult recovery in production.

After the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991, a large amount of equipment was abandoned in Ukraine, Belarus and other countries and regions. The North Koreans realized the value of these equipment and shipped them back to China in the name of "parts" or even "scrap iron", while the other source was the Middle East: out of consideration of confronting the United States, the Soviet Union had provided them to local countries. A large number of weapons, which aroused the attention of North Koreans.

Since the 1970s, North Korea sent military delegations which brought back the latest equipment and intelligence: Among their "trophies", the largest was a damaged T-72 tank, in addition to various equipment and parts: Among them are the automatic loading machine obtained from Syria, the explosive reaction armor provided by Pakistan, and the night vision equipment provided by Egypt... They were quickly applied to the tanks produced by North Korea, and this type of tank is actually Upgraded and improved version of Soviet-made T-62.

North Korea obtained T-62 in 1976. As the main weapon of the Soviet army in the 1960s, the T-62 was equipped with a 115mm gun, and its protection level was roughly equal to that of the T-55. Using this as a blueprint, North Korea soon launched an imitation. Initially, North Korea produced this type of tank at a rate of 100 vehicles per year, some of which were exported to Iran in the 1980s: but Because the equipment and armor were not as good as the original T-62, this so-called "improved version" had a bad response in Iran. Not surprisingly, as soon as the new technology was acquired, North Korean engineers immediately invested it in the improvement. But these improvements cannot change the fact that they are still using technology from the Cold War era. In the face of ever-increasing military contrast, North Korea has to turn to another country, which is Russia, which inherits the Soviet mantle.

However, in this regard, they have not gone further than in the past. On August 2, 2001, Kim Jong-il made a special trip to visit the Ural Machinery Plant in Russia, trying to purchase T-90 tanks from the plant, but considering the international environment, the Russian side did not give any affirmative answer. After returning to North Korea, Kim Jong Il immediately gave instructions: "We also want to build our own T-90!" So the "Storm" was born. This tank was officially put into production in 2009 and equipped with a powerful 125 mm gun.

But it is not difficult to find from the photos that its fire control equipment is imitated from T-72; the chassis and suspension system are from the improvement and use of T-62. Foreign countries generally believe that although its combat effectiveness is equivalent to the early improved model of the T-72, it is still difficult to match the US M1 tank. Ch'onma-ho IV/V and P'okpoong-ho have entered production, but in small numbers, and are individually and collectively no match for South Korean Forces.

It is this situation that led North Korean leaders to focus on other areas: Since the 1960s, the North Korean Army’s heavy artillery and rocket artillery have been liberated from front-line support missions to play a more offensive role against related weapons. Reports from the North Korean newspapers have gradually occupied the main page of North Korean newspapers.

This change is related to the adjustment of the grand strategy. As the equipment gap widens, North Korea is increasingly lacking confidence in defeating its opponents on the frontal battlefield. At the same time, its decision-makers also clearly realize that South Korea’s defense system is not impenetrable. But there are many weaknesses: its troops are concentrated in the area close to the 38th parallel, and the capital is only 50 kilometers away from the border. If it can focus on Seoul and military bases near the border, even if it cannot severely damage the Korean troops, it will be enough to strike its people. Morale.

Since the 1970s, the North Korean army has placed its hopes on long-range artillery and rocket launchers. The most famous of these is the "Gushan Cannon". Whenever there is a crisis on the Korean Peninsula, its image will appear in propaganda films. Although historically, its performance is far from perfect.

North Korea’s research on long-range rockets can be traced back to the 1980s. The early model was called M-1985. This weapon followed the Soviet army’s thinking: that is, at the beginning of the offensive, it would send bullets to enemy positions. , And then make up for the shortcomings of traditional artillery. After that, in order to improve the performance of the M-1985, North Korea developed improvements such as the M-1991. Each improvement in it meant greater power and longer range, and also gave them the ability to bomb Seoul.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 24-06-2021 17:59:56 ZULU