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Korean People's Army Navy - Modernization

North Korea builds small- and medium-size submarines mainly in the Nampo and Wonsan Shipyard, but also in other small- and medium-size shipyards along the two coastal lines where naval and military bases are scattered.

Submarines, most of which are of the 20-some Romeo-class, are outdated and slow, but they are sufficiently capable of blocking sea lanes. These vessels could attack ROK surface vessels, emplace mines anywhere within the ROK maritime territory, or secretly infiltrate commandos into the South.

The forward deployment of small high-speed boats such as torpedo and missile boats provides North Korea with an enhanced capability to launch a surprise attack on US combat vessels in the waters along the front line. In particular, the missile boats are equipped with Styx anti-ship missiles with a range of 45 km. The submarines could be used in conducting such missions as blocking sea lanes, placing mines or landing commandos. North Korea deploys 95 km-range Samlet and Silkworm ground-to-sea missiles on its eastern and western coasts. The Silkworm missiles are estimated to be capable of striking vessels near Inchon on the western coast and near Sokcho on the east.

Continuing to build attack warships, North Korea has tried to enhance its naval capabilities through developing new ground-to-sea missile systems, such as extending the striking range of the Silkworm missiles. North Korea also deploys 80-95 km-range ground-to-ship Samlet and Silkworm missiles on both east and west coasts. Silkworm missiles, deployed in the forward area, are able to launch anti-ship attacks as far as Tokjok-do in the Yellow Sea and Sokcho and Yangyang on the east coast. Coastal defense artillery includes 122-mm, 130-mm, and 152-mm systems.

The DPRK has a credible mine warfare capability. There are numerous small surface ships that are capable of delivering mines within both the navy and civilian sectors. Mines will be used to defend against amphibious assaults, defend strategic ports, and provide seaward flank protection for land forces. Defensive mine fields will be monitored by coastal observation teams and radar, and they will be supported by well emplaced artillery and missile batteries. This will make close approach and mine clearing operations extremely hazardous. DPRK has a large inventory of older technology mines, significant historical experience with their effectiveness, and, most importantly, the willingness to use them.

In addition to naval units, there also are noncombatants in the North Korean merchant marine, including ten cargo ships operating directly under the KWP and the Ministry of People's Armed Forces. There are sixty-six other oceangoing vessels in the merchant marine operating under the flag of the Ministry of Sea Transportation.

In November 2016 Chad O'Carroll noted "... a heavily armed, 77-meter long vessel with radar cross-section (RCS) reducing features docked adjacent to a helicopter-capable but minimally armed support ship. Equipped with two Kumsong-3 anti-ship cruise missile launchers, a short-range surface-to-air missile system, torpedo launchers and rotary canons, the reduced-RCS corvette also includes capacity for large caliber naval cannon... "

“These ships are the culmination of over two decades of experimentation with new naval warfare concepts, and a clear indication of the direction that North Korean shipbuilding is headed in,” said Joost Oliemans and Stijn Mitzer, the NK Pro contributors said in their analysis of the vessels’ capabilities.

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Page last modified: 30-06-2021 11:42:39 ZULU