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North Korea Table of Contents

North Korea

Weapons and Equipment

In the 1980s, in order to make the army more mobile and mechanized, there was a steady influx of new tanks, selfpropelled artillery, armored personnel carriers (APCs), and trucks. The ground forces seldom retire old models of weapons and tend to maintain a large equipment stock, keeping old models along with upgraded ones in the active force or in reserve.

Beginning in the late 1970s, North Korea began to produce a modified version of the 115mm gunned T-62 tank, which was the Soviet army's main battle tank in the 1960s. Based on general trends and photography of armed forces parades, it is clear that North Korea has made considerable modifications to the basic Soviet and Chinese designs in its own production.

Although the majority of units remain "straight-leg" infantry forces, that is, lacking significant motorized or mechanized transport, the army contains a significant number of well equipped mechanized units, with about 2,500 APCs. These mobile forces are equipped with a mix of older Soviet-made APCs, some Chinese-made APCs, and some indigenously produced APCs, such as the M-1985.

Probably because of its initial Soviet tutelage and the limited ground attack capability of the air force, great emphasis is placed on using massive artillery firepower. North Korean ordnance factories produce a variety of self-propelled guns, howitzers, and gun-howitzers. In the 1980s, North Korea produced a significant amount of self-propelled artillery, mating towed artillery tubes with chassis already in the inventory. North Korean strategic thought also seems to be based on the primacy of developing an offensive capability, reflecting an appreciation for firepower probably dating to the Korean War. Further, P'yongyang is willing to invest the time and effort necessary for effective defense of its ground forces from air attack and artillery fire.

With the exception of the 170mm M-1978 Koksan gun first noted in a parade in 1985, a new turreted self-propelled gun observed in a 1992 parade, and perhaps a few other systems, most artillery was developed from older Soviet and Chinese designs. All incorporate proven technologies or components.

North Korea continues to produce a range of Soviet antitank guns, most of them dating from 1940s and 1950s designs, and ranging in size from 57mm through 100mm. Infantry units also are armed with Soviet bloc-derived equipment.

The army has an extensive facility hardening program. Almost all the forward deployed artillery can be stored in wellprotected underground emplacements. The passive defenses in the forward corps include a large bunker complex to conceal and protect infantry forces, mechanized units, and war matériel stockpiles.

Data as of June 1993