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Ch'onma-ho

The Ch'onma-ho (translated variously as Flying Horse, Sky Horse, or Pegasus) is generally used to describe a North Korean derivative of the Soviet T-62 tank, but may also be a term used locally for T-62 tanks and derivatives broadly. Between 1980 and 1989, the Second Machine Industry Bureau was believed to have produced some 470 Ch'onma-ho tanks. With an estimated production of 1200 to 1250 tanks of this model forms the backbone of the North Korean armored divisions.

The T-62 tank was very similar to the T-55 in almost every respect (size, speed, armor). The main difference was in the adoption of the large 115mm smooth-bore cannon which enabled much higher velocities than possible with rifled cannons. They Soviets immediately rushed this tank into production as a stopgap measure. Most telling is the fact that the T-62 ended production before the T-55, so it was not considered an important tank after the development of the T-64/72/80 series. North Korea was the last state to build T-62s, having built around 2,000 of them with production ending around 1997.

Based on general trends and photography of armed forces parades, it became clear that North Korea subsequently made considerable modifications to the basic Soviet design in its own production. By 2005, it appeared that the Ch’onma-ho series might include as few as 3 and perhaps as many as 7 different variants, including a variant with an 125mm gun similar to the Russian D-81 series or derivatives. Separating imported T-62s from locally upgraded or produced Ch'onma-ho tanks is likely impossible at this point without first hand knowledge of each individual vehicle.

The exact provenance of the origins of the Ch'onma-ho design are unclear. The authoritative IISS The Military Balance and SIPRI trade registers agree that North Korea began receiving and/or producing T-62 or T-62-like tanks in the 1970s. The SIPRI trade register suggests that these vehicles came from the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia. In addition, according to a former KPA colonel who defected to South Korea in 1999, the North Koreans stole the blueprints of the T-62 from Syria in the late 1970s. These blueprints were then reportedly used to develop the North Korean version of the T-62 by the Second Machine Industry Bureau, who reportedly received the first order to produce the tanks in 1976.

Back in the mid-seventies, the North Korean industry launched the production of a licensed version of the Soviet T-62 medium tank. In the DPRK, this technique was called "Chonma" (the names "Chongmaho" and "Chollima" are also found). Such a vehicle was shown publicly for the first time only in the early eighties. Subsequently, on the basis of the existing tank, several new combat vehicles were created, differing from each other in one or another design modifications, as well as the increase in the main characteristics associated with them.

On 15 April 2017, a military parade was held in Pyongyang to mark the 105th anniversary of Kim Il Sung's birth. As part of this festive event, the armed forces of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea showed for the first time several new types of weapons and military equipment. For obvious reasons, all these novelties have attracted the attention of specialists and the general public around the world. The DPRK is traditionally in no hurry to advertise its developments, which is why each parade attracts increased attention of foreign countries. This time one of the highlights of the program was the upgraded Chonma-216 tank, which attracted attention due to several of its features. According to reports, the new version of the Chonma-216 tank is the next development in the whole family of armored combat vehicles.

North Korea is traditionally in no hurry to disclose details of its latest developments, and also does not specify the specifics of their production and operation. As a result, at the moment one can only study fragmentary data and make predictions about the future of promising technology. A realistic assessment of North Korean tanks, including the modernized Chonma-216 armored vehicle, is possible only based on the results of real combat operations.




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Page last modified: 30-06-2021 11:42:33 ZULU