KPA ORBAT - Divisions
The North Korean armed forces grew dramatically over the decade of the 1970s, particularly the ground forces. In 1970, CIA estimated that the North Korean Army numbered about 360,000 troops and was organized into 24 infantry divisions and brigades and one armor division. By 1979, all elements of the US Intelligence Community were reasonably confident that the North Korean Army numbered about 600,000 troops and had two armor divisions and no fewer than 30 infantry divisions and five infantry brigades, or their equivalents. On the basis of their own analyses, the Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Department of the Army, and the Director, National Security Agency, believed the North Korean Army consisted of 41 combat divisions and infantry brigades, and the US Army analysis further concluded that North Korean ground force strength may approach 700,000. The differing views as to the numbers of divisions and brigades resulted chiefly from differing interpretations of a complicated body of evidence.
Until 1986 most sources claimed the army had two armored divisions. These divisions disappeared from the order of battle and were replaced by the armored corps and a doubling of the armored brigade count. In the mid-1980s, the heavy caliber self propelled artillery was consolidated into the first multibrigade artillery corps. At the same time, the restructured mobile exploitation forces were redeployed forward, closer to the DMZ. The forward corps areas of operation were compressed although their internal organization appeared to remain basically the same. The deployment of the newly formed mechanized, armored, and artillery corps directly behind the first echelon conventional forces provides a potent exploitation force that did not exist prior to 1980.
Offense is the basic form of combat action to destroy enemy units. The north Korean infantry division's main offensive roles are to attack, destroy, capture, and secure enemy territory. An infantry division is augmented with armor, artillery, and engineer units, so that it may conduct combined arms operations. It is capable of conducting independent ground operations or operations as part of a corps. Within the limitations of equipment, it also conducts special purpose missions such as airborne/air assault and amphibious landings; though these missions are typically assigned to special operation forces. Infantry tactics also include air defense and anti-armor operations.
The north Koreans place emphasis on simultaneously striking the front with strong firepower, enveloping the enemy, and infiltrating the rear area. They will attack with multiple echelons in an attempt to expand the penetration and envelop enemy maneuver forces. They will reinforce success only. If an attack is failing they will fall back, reorganize and attack in a different area.
The envelopment is characterized by massive firepower applied on the enemy's flank. Its purpose is to divide and destroy the enemy. Employed in conjunction with a frontal attack which fixes the enemy, the envelopment surrounds them and insures their destruction. The goal of the envelopment is the isolation of the enemy. By blocking reinforcements, the enemy unit is forced to withdrawal under fire or surrender.
First echelon units will bypass any unit they can; follow-on forces are expected to destroy all bypassed units. By bypassing units, first echelon forces preserve their combat capability for future operations. Bypassing forces the enemy to abandon or change its defensive posture. It cuts the enemy off from reinforcements and blocks their ability to withdrawal ensuring their destruction.
During offensive operations the division commander's focus is timing the arrival of infantry and armor forces at the focal point of the battle. The infantry division's organic armor battalion is capable of operating independently or in a supporting role. Based on terrain, tanks are used to spearhead the envelopment or conduct the frontal attack. Tanks support the advance of infantry with direct fire and breaching obstacles.
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