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North Korea

Air Defense

Operational thinking reflects both Soviet doctrine and the North Korean experience of heavy bombing during the Korean War. The result has been in reliance on air defense. Military industries, aircraft hangars, repair facilities, ammunition, fuel stores, and even air defense missile systems are placed underground or in hardened shelters. North Korea has an extensive interlocking, redundant nationwide air defense system that includes interceptor aircraft, early warning and groundcontrolled intercept radars, SAMs, a large number of air defense artillery weapons, and barrage balloons.

At the national level, air defense was once the responsibility of the Air Defense Command, a separate entity from the air force, but which probably was collocated with the Air Force Headquarters in P'yongyang. However, that function probably was transferred to the air force in the late 1980s.

The air combat commands appear to have primary responsibility for integrated air defense and are organized with semiautomated warning and interception systems to control SAMs, interceptor aircraft, and air defense artillery units. The First Air Combat Command, in the northwest, probably headquartered at Kaech'n, is responsible for the west coast to the border with China, including P'yongyang. The Second Air Combat Command, headquartered at Toksan, covers the northeast and extends up the east coast to the Soviet border. The Third Air Combat Command, headquartered at Hwangju in the south, is responsible for the border with South Korea and the southernmost areas along the east and west coasts.

Important military and industrial complexes are defended by antiaircraft artillery. Point defenses are supplemented by barrage balloons. North Korea has an exceptionally large number of antiaircraft sites. The largest concentration is along the DMZ and around major cities, military installations, and factories.

The bulk of North Korean radars are older Soviet and Chinese models with vacuum-tube technology, which limits continuous operations. The overall early warning and ground controlled intercept system is susceptible to saturation and jamming by a sophisticated foe with state-of-the-art electronic warfare capabilities. Nevertheless, the multilayered, coordinated, mutually supporting air defense structure is a formidable deterrent to air attack. Overlapping coverage and redundancy make penetration of North Korean air defenses a challenge.

Data as of June 1993