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North Korean Armor systems


North Korea is one of the handful of countries on the planet with an indigenous tank design and production capability. Although most of the KPA armor inventory is older Soviet design and origin equipment, in recent decades the North has designed and developed three distinct generations of tanks, which have been locally produced in small numbers. Although not the equal of the best in the South, they are decent second rate products, and nice exemplars of Juche and Songon.

While North Korea maintains large amounts of military equipment, much of it is outdated, making it quantitatively superior to most armies but qualitatively inferior. Due to the high cost of modern military equipment and the lack of funds for and access to the same from years of economic sanctions and poor economic policies, the country retains obsolete hardware, as evidenced by the presence of the T-34/85—a World War II-era tank—in some of its lower-priority armor units. The age and variety of equipment from the former Soviet Union, Russia, and China, and its own internally produced equipment generate major logistical issues for the KPA to effectively keep the assortment of weapons systems fully functional. The various types of ammunition required by weapon systems that date from the 1940s also puts additional strain on the military’s logistics.

The KPA will concentrate its combat power at the decisive point and time and will weight its main effort with additional assets. The country believes that it will only need a 2:1 ratio in favor of its ground forces at the decisive point to achieve offensive success. The offensive main effort will operate on a narrower front than the attacks to its flanks, with the supporting attacks dispersing over a wider front to deceive the enemy on where the main attack will occur. The KPA will use the terrain to maximize its success and deception operations when dispersing to avoid excessive concentration that could make units a lucrative target.

KPA doctrine also stresses the use of armored vehicles in all its operations. Ground forces will use the speed of vehicles to exploit all openings and, when on defense, the KPAGF will employ their mobile forces to counterattack any enemy penetration. Military vehicles will use both major and minor roads to move quickly, and light infantry units possess the ability to travel on foot through the rugged mountainous terrain to sneak up on enemy positions from an unexpected direction. The KPAGF will attempt to use their tanks and other vehicles in areas where the enemy does not operate mechanized or armored units, because the KPAGF fear a direct tank-on-tank battle due to their inferior weapon systems.

Due to the tiered nature of the KPA, where frontline and higher-priority units receive the most modern equipment and reserve units operate less-capable equipment, the same type of KPA unit may not operate the same type of equipment. For example, units along the demilitarized zone (DMZ) may field T-62 or even newer domestically produced tanks, while reserve units may operate T-54 or even vintage T-34/85 tanks.

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 provided by China. As the most important one, the T-55 was 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 armor to fire control and observation systems, they have fallen behind the requirements of modern warfare. In all modern conflicts, the tank has been present fulfilling a main or secondary role. Sometimes his presence was decisive, as in the case of the involvement of the M-1 Abrams tank in the last Iraq war in 2003. In otherconflicts, its role was dissuasive, carrying out a deployment of forces to formalize an intention. This was the case with the Russian intervention in Ukraine by sending several battalions of T-72B tank sto reaffirm determination.

South Korea has a force of about 1400 K1 88 tanks in its A1 version, manufactured with the help of the team that designed the M-1 Abrams. Tot hese tanks must be added some 390 K2 Black Panther, the most sophisticated and costly in the world, which reaches 8.5 million dollars per unit. This force of tanks is completed with some M-48 Pattons.

Isolation and determination to carry ona policy of self-sufficiency promoted processes ofmodernization through reverse engineering and support from allies like Iran, Syria, Russia and China. Of the total tanks, only about 1200 are considered modernized Chonma-Ho (T-62) and 200 Popkung Ho (T-72), which would serve in the 105th Guards Division. The rest is made up of the now obsolete T-55, T-34 and PT-85 (an improved version of the PT-76 amphibious tank).

Tank acquisition costs have multiplied exponentially since its invention. For example, the Indian program called Arjun 1. This project began in the decade of the 1970s and ended only in the 1990s, increasing the cost per tank by 2000%. In the 1970s, only 30% of the cost of the tank was attributed to technology on-board electronics. Towards the new millennium, this number already exceeded 50% of the total cost.

The maintenance and operating costs of the tank are very high. For exemple: to do training for a single tank, a 2 km run and fire with 4 APDSFS rounds (one low number compared to 82 that NATO stipulates as "optimal" for its crews in a year), the operator will have spent in just a few minutes about $15,000, the same as an hour flight of an F-15C multifunction fighter plane. The deep maintenance that should be considered throughout the operational life of the tank increases the whole equation.

Taking costs into account, history shows that it is preferable to have "few" well-maintained tanks and not "many" obsolete or in limited service. Such was the case with the hundreds of antiquated tanks of Soviet origin of the Iraqis who were defeated by American forces in Operation Desert Storm of 1991. For this reason, modern armies keep the tanks they can afford, a number that rarely matches "the tanks they need."

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. If you say, they The poor performance on the aforementioned battlefields was due 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 T-55’s weapon is a manpower-loaded 100mm cannon. It can only fire 2-3 rounds per minute and can penetrate 200mm armor from 500 meters away. However, the frontal inclined armor is only 100mm, the US M1 The tank can easily penetrate it from 3000 meters away.

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.

From the 1970s, North Korea sent military delegations to the local area, and they 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 an upgraded and improved version of Soviet-made T-62.

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 the country in the name of "parts" or even "scrap iron." 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.

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 equivalent to that of the T-55. Using this as a blueprint, North Korea soon launched an imitation called "Tianma". The original version of "Tianma" was called "Tianma-76", which is equivalent to a replica of T-62. 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 of the Tianma.

Specifically, compared with the "Tianma-76", the "Tianma-91" replaced most of the electronic equipment, and carried an anti-aircraft missile near the crew hatch. At the same time, it also installed a flat main gun. The turret has better bullet-proof inclination, and part of its area is also equipped with reactive armor, which will help resist anti-tank missiles and RPG attacks. But these improvements cannot change the fact that they are still using technology from the Cold War era. Facing the ever-increasing military contrast, North Korea has to turn to another country, which is Russia, which inherits the Soviet mantle.

On August 2, 2001, Kim Jong-il made a special trip to visit the Ural Machinery Plant in Russia, trying to purchase the T-90 tanks of 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 tank. 125 mm gun. The altered shape of the turret and accessory equipment indicate that it is equipped with an automatic loader and the fire control system is more sophisticated than in the past. For this reason, North Korean officials have repeatedly declared that the "Storm" is "comparable to T-90" in performance. , 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.

Currently, aboard the latest tank generation, the target acquisition cycle is faster, accurate and possible at a greater distance of intervention. Some designs have already incorporated processors to lighten tasks with artificial intelligence. The tank was invented to destroy fortifications, beat weapons supporting infantry and, of course, other tanks. Everything indicates that this will continue to be the mission in times to come and that, if properly equipped and complemented, the tank will be able to contribute new capabilities in modern conflicts.

The Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum in the DPRK tells about the feats Generalissimos Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il performed in leading the war to victory and pursuing the Songun (military-first) policy. The Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum shows the achievements of President Kim Il Sung who organized and led the Korean War to victory and displays the materials related to mass heroism of the Korean People's Army and people.

The museum, located at the Pothong River bank in the capital city of Pyongyang, was remodeled into a monumental edifice in 2013, the 60th anniversary of the victory in the Fatherland Liberation War (1950-1953), under the care of supreme leader Kim Jong Un. This reflects his deep respects to the war victors in the 1950s. Kim Jong Un initiated the reconstruction of the museum and gave on-site guidance to it on 18 occasions. He also offered his autograph "Respects to the Great Age" to be displayed at the sculpture "Victory".

Originally it was built in Central District of Pyongyang in August Juche 42 (1953) as the Fatherland Liberation War Museum, but later it was rebuilt in Sosong District in April Juche 63 (1974) and called as present name. It has over 30 halls including over 80 showrooms. According to a lecturer of the museum, it has been visited by nearly 800 000 people from home and abroad over the last one year. The museum shows the visitors how the DPRK could win in the face-off with the U.S. in the 1950s and hardens their will to build a thriving socialist nation at the earliest date under the guidance of Kim Jong Un.

Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum



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Page last modified: 30-06-2021 11:42:37 ZULU