Korean People's Army - Brigades
The North Korean separate brigades are about the same size as the division less organic artillery. A brigade is generally thought of as a military formation which is somewhere between an infantry regiment and an infantry division-size formation. North Korean brigades or their equivalents are North Korean units which are nearly division size, but lack some of the supporting fire of a division.
In the number of independent brigades, by 1990 North Korea out numbered the South by a wide margin. The North had sixty-five brigades; twenty-three infantry, twenty-three mechanized, fourteen armored and twenty-two special light infantry brigades; the South had only sixteen brigades; three infantry, three mechanized and ten special warfare and commando brigades.
To support offensive operations of the forward corps, the NKA has created four mechanized corps and an armor corps. Two mechanized, the 806th and 815th, and the 820th armored corps are positioned to support strikes by the forward conventional corps and are considered to be tactical exploitation forces. Individual mechanized brigades may be turned over to the control of the forward corps to exploit breakthroughs achieved by the infantry. Their main objective is to drive deeply behind CFC lines and set up blocking positions to cut off withdrawing or reinforcing CFC forces. Each mechanized brigade is capable of independent operations behind enemy lines.
In organizing for combat, an NKA armor brigade's assets would be assigned to the two combat echelons and reserve of the unit conducting the attack. These echelons would be reinforced according to their assigned combat tasks. NKA armor units would perform the same types of offensive maneuver as the infantry and are well suited to attacking directly from the march. In the movement to contact, a tank formation would leave its assembly area with its elements deployed in such order as to allow for a quick transition to the attack formation. In the attack and penetration, NKA tank formations would be selected to allow tanks and infantry to arrive at CFC's first line of defense at the same time. Tanks would support the infantry advance by fire and destruction of antipersonnel obstacles. During exploitation operations, tanks would assist the infantry in carrying the assault into CFC's defensive positions. Here, the speed and shock value of armor would be stressed.
The North Korean military began fielding light infantry brigades in 1969 when the VII Special Purpose Corps (SPC) was established. By the time fielding was completed, there were 22 light infantry brigades (14 assigned to the VII SPC and 8 assigned to the forward corps). As with most of the north Korean army, most of the brigades operate close to the DMZ. Therefore, they are often attached to the Forward Corps in which they are located. Each brigade is comprised of approximately 5,200 soldiers. Members of light infantry brigades are known to be politically reliable and have served four to seven years in combat branches. Light Infantry forces are typically assigned the following missions:
- Infiltrate 35-70 Km from the forward edge of the battle area (FEBA).
- Infiltrate and seize or destroy nuclear, C3I, chemical or missile assets.
- Infiltrate and disrupt or destroy sensitive facilities (especially airfields and POL)
- Infiltrate enemy defensive positions in order to conduct enveloping, or flanking attacks in support of regular ground forces.
- Infiltrate and seize, or interdict, control of major lines of communications, preventing the arrival of reinforcements or supplies to ROK and U.S. units.
- Infiltrate enemy defenses to seize and control of important terrain features and civilian facilities (i.e. dams, power plants, etc.).
- Act as reconnaissance assets to support corps and divisions.
- Act as a rear guard and delaying force, during withdrawal operations, to harass the enemy by destroying bridges, tunnels, power grids, etc..
The airborne/airmobile infantry brigades provide north Korea with the capability to project combat forces deep into the South Korean rear area. North Korean airborne/airmobile units have missions similar to their American counterparts:
- Seize and control bridges, amphibious and river crossing sites.
- Seize and destroy government command and control facilities.
- Seize and destroy critical logistic facilities and mass destruction weapons.
- Seize and control tactical targets such as airfields.
- Conduct raids and guerrilla activities in enemy rear areas.
- Conduct operations in support of South Korean insurgent groups.
- Conduct operations preventing the movement of enemy reserves and supplies.
- Conduct link-up operations with conventional and unconventional units.
- Conduct operations to rescue encircled units, provide for their resupply and assist in engineering activities.
Airborne infiltrations will be conducted by low-flying aircraft (namely the AN-2 Colt and the MD-500 helicopter). The AN-2 Colt is a propeller-driven biplane which is made from cloth and wood, making it virtually invisible to radar. The AN-2 can transport ten fully loaded passengers for 300 Km and the MD-500 can move four for 600 Km. The South Korean military also uses the MD-500, it is likely that north Korean aircraft will have South Korean markings in an attempt to make infiltration easier.
North Korean airborne operations are normally organized into assault, follow-on, and rear area echelons. The main force of the assault will be preceded by a reconnaissance element and a small airborne force (possibly with artillery and anti-armor assets) to secure the LZ/DZ for the main force. The main force carries out the expansion of the LZ/DZ to exploit resources. The follow-on echelon lands four to six hours later with the support units. Personnel normally carry a three to four day supply of ammunition and rations since aerial resupply is unlikely. Movement to the LZ/DZ is normally conducted using two or three routes with fighter aircraft in support. Dummy drops are conducted as part of a deception plan. Air drops are almost always conducted during hours of limited visibility.
Airmobile operations are conducted using a variety of helicopters. Usually airmobile operations draw personnel from a corps? light infantry brigade. Missions are conducted as deep as 50 km from the FLOT, but 15 to 20 km is more common due to the support of forward ground unit?s artillery. Units will land directly on their target if possible. Once on the ground, units conduct operations using standard infantry tactics.
The Sniper/Reconnaissance Brigades are the elite of the nKPA special operations forces. Their chain of command runs from their individual brigade to the Ministry of People?s Armed Forces. During peacetime these units are subordinate to and under operational control of the reconnaissance section of the corps headquarters in which they are deployed. During wartime, control of these units changes to the VII Special Purpose Corps.
- Conduct "direct action" operations primarily concerned with the assassination or abduction of enemy military personnel and civilians, during peace and wartime.
- Conduct diversionary operations to seize and destroy strategic objectives that cannot be destroyed by conventional means
- conduct operations to create confusion and panic in rear areas (performing sniper missions, posing as military police and routing traffic along the wrong roads and into waiting ambushes, etc.).
- Conduct reconnaissance and intelligence gathering operations (military and political).
- Provide support for other SOF operations by conducting pre-mission reconnaissance, raids, ambushes, etc.
- Conduct counter-guerrilla operations.
- Provide military training and assistance to foreign governments, revolutionary organizations, and terrorist groups.
Operations are carried out while reconnaissance brigade personnel are disguised in South Korean or American Army uniforms or civilian clothing. During combat operations the basic element is the reconnaissance team of 10 personnel, but during special operations the basic operational unit appears to be teams of three, five, or seven men. A reconnaissance and search element is composed of one or more of the following specialized teams: clearing and scouting, raiding, capture, security (with snipers), interdiction, and destruction. The mission of the clearing and scouting team is to traverse obstacles, conduct raids, and cover other teams. A raiding team raids the objective while the destruction team destroys the objective. The difference in the two teams is the destruction teams expertise with explosives. The capture team takes prisoners, finds enemy documents, and other material of intelligence value. The security team provides security through the use of snipers. An interdiction team deceives the enemy, disrupts reinforcements, and blocks enemy pursuit with obstacles.
North Korea has two amphibious light infantry brigades. These units provide the government with the capability to conduct amphibious operations in order to develop a two-front war. With only two brigades, any north Korean amphibious operation would be limited to a small, poorly defended target. Missions are conducted using large boats capable of speeds in excess of 30 knots. These boats will travel roughly 100 km out to sea before turning south for the ROK. Before the infantry comes ashore, security teams are dispatched to check the landing sight. The security teams depart from the main body about 5 km from the shore in a small watercraft (i.e. rubber raft, small speedboat, etc.). After reaching the shore their mission is clear the immediate landing area and then return to the main body. The main body usually conducts their landing operations between 2200 and 2400.
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