Military


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. 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. Between 1980 and 1989, the Second Machine Industry Bureau was believed to have produced some 470 Ch'onma-ho tanks.

The initial Ch'onma-ho (also referred to by sources as the Ch'onma-ho I or Ch'onma-ho Ga) has been described as a minor upgrade to the original T-62A design, and also featured a 14.5mm KPV machine gun mounted on top of the turret instead of the more common 12.7mm DShK machine gun. The Ch'onma-ho II (also referred to by sources as the Ch'onma-ho Na) was an upgrade on the existing design incorporating an externally mounted laser rangefinder above the main gun.

On 25 April 1992, a new variant appeared at a large parade held in Pyongyang, North Korea, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the North Korean People's Army. This variant was subsequently referred to as the Ch'onma-ho III (also referred to by sources as the Ch'onma-ho Da) and incorporated a laser rangefinder above the 115mm main gun, a thermal shroud on the main gun, full hull skirting, turret smoke grenade launchers (two sets on each side of the turret), add-on armor to the turret front and possibly the glacis, what appeared to be explosive reactive armor (ERA) "bricks" on the turret sides (from the turret midpoint back to the turret rear), and what was identified as an improved fire control system.

Additional variants, referred to as Ch'onma-ho IV and V (also referred to by sources as the Ch'onma-ho Ra and Ch'onma-ho Ma respectively) are upgunned variants of the family, developed during the 1990s. The Ch'onma-ho IV is reportedly a variant of the Ch'onma-ho III with an auto-loading 125mm gun similar to the Russian D-81 series or derivatives. The Ch'onma V is reportedly a Ch'onma-ho V with some manner of night-vision capability. North Korea also reportedly developed command and armored recovery vehicle variants and used the Ch'onma-ho chassis for self-propelled artillery pieces, as it had with its existing tank fleet. The Ch'onma-ho IV and V may have been influenced by the delivery of a small number of T-72 tanks in the 1990s for testing and evaluation. North Korea also reportedly acquired a single T-90S from Russia in August 2001, which may influence future upgrades to the Ch'onma-ho design and appeared to have been used in the development of the P'okpoong-ho (also referred to as the M-2002). North Korea has also reportedly sought to export Ch'onma-ho tanks, or at least the design, with the tanks or derivatives of this T-62 upgrade reportedly being acquired by Iran in the 1980s.




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