• North Korea’s October parade marking the 75th anniversary of the Employees’ Get together of Korea unveiled an array of recent weapons, from armored automobiles to intercontinental ballistic missiles.
  • The weaponry displays Pyongyang’s ongoing army modernization, however the number of weapons and kit on show within the parade might belie the precise extent of that modernization.
  • Go to Enterprise Insider’s homepage for extra tales.

In October, North Korea unveiled new army {hardware} in a parade marking the 75th anniversary of the Employees’ Get together of Korea.

The largest attention-getters have been, unsurprisingly, the missiles, particularly the Pukguksong-Four submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), and the Hwasong-16, which, if actual, can be the biggest liquid-fueled and road-mobile missile ever made.

However earlier than these missiles appeared on the finish of the parade, North Korea’s spectacular modernization of its typical forces was on full show.

North Korea Pukguksong 4 SLBM

North Korea Pukguksong-Four submarine-launched ballistic missile on parade, October 10, 2020.


Troopers have been seen sporting fashionable uniforms with new camouflage patterns, ballistic helmets, vests, and even touch-screen units. They have been additionally seen parading in full nuclear, organic, and chemical gear for the primary time. New automobiles designed virtually totally from scratch additionally debuted.

Chun In-bum, a former lieutenant basic within the South Korean military, described the parade as “actually a ‘new look’ for the North Korean Folks’s Military (KPA) in virtually each means.”

The parade undoubtedly reveals that North Korea’s dedication to army modernization is bearing fruit, however it stays unclear simply how far that modernization has gone.

New armored automobiles

North Korea armored combat vehicle howitzer

North Korean armored fight automobiles mounted with what seems to be a howitzer, throughout a parade on October 10, 2020.


Apart from the missiles, the brand new armored automobiles acquired essentially the most consideration.

North Korea’s armored drive has lengthy consisted of outdated Soviet fashions or barely modified home copies. However a very new armored fight automobile and a new tank present that North Korea’s armored drive is headed in a brand new path.

Whereas little is definitively identified about these automobiles, observers famous a lot of issues primarily based on their look. The eight x eight wheeled armored fight automobile, as an illustration, seems to be virtually precisely just like the US Military’s Stryker ICV.

Two variants have been proven: One armed with 5 anti-tank guided missile launchers which are probably copies of the Russian 9M133 Kornet, and one other armed with a specifically designed turret that seems to deal with a gun primarily based on the D-30 122 mm howitzer, giving it an identical look to the M1128 Cellular Gun System.

North Korea main battle tanks

North Korea important battle tanks on parade, October 10, 2020.


Each automobiles are probably supposed to assist anti-tank and fire-support operations, and assist the KPA grow to be extra maneuverable in an identical method to the US Military’s brigade fight groups.

The brand new tank is significantly extra superior than earlier North Korean fashions. Its chassis seems to be much like that of Russia’s T-14 Armata, and the turret is harking back to the US’s M1 Abrams. It additionally seems to have a lot of new applied sciences, like composite armor.

Tubular launchers harking back to Russia’s Afghanit lively safety system (APS) look like mounted on the turret, which means the tank may intercept incoming projectiles. The shortage of infrared sights suggests the tank might have a thermal sight — a significant enchancment for North Korean tanks.

There additionally gave the impression to be smoke launchers, laser warning receivers, and crosswind sensors. Two side-mounted anti-tank missile launchers have been additionally current on the turret of the tanks, which have been unusually painted in a desert-camouflage scheme.

Accelerated modernization

North Korea multiple launch rocket system

North Korean a number of launch rocket methods on parade, October 10, 2020.


There have been a lot of different new methods within the parade as effectively.

Generals and senior officers have been pushed round in what regarded like mine-resistant ambush protected (MRAP) automobiles. New 155 mm self-propelled weapons have been rolled out, as have been new armored a number of launch rocket methods and a brand new anti-air protection and radar akin to Russia’s TOR system, which fills a niche in North Korean air defenses.

The parade was the newest indication that Kim Jong Un is accelerating North Korea’s army modernization efforts, a development that has been evident with its nuclear weapons and missiles.

“Kim Jong Un was in a position to obtain this,” Dr. Sue Mi Terry, a senior fellow and Korea Chair on the Middle for Strategic and Worldwide Research, mentioned of the efforts.

“Some folks actually underestimated him when he got here into energy,” Terry informed Insider. “However on the finish of the day, all this modernization befell beneath him.”

Kim has made strengthening his nation’s army his prime precedence and needs to show that regardless of worldwide stress and tight sanctions, North Korea is able to fielding a robust drive.

“They need to present that since Singapore they have been making progress,” Terry mentioned, referring to Kim’s 2018 assembly with President Donald Trump. “That is the principle message, that they don’t seem to be going to cease.”

‘A Potemkin parade’

North Korea's new intercontinental ballistic missile

North Korea’s new intercontinental ballistic missile.

Screenshot from KCTV broadcast

As spectacular as the brand new {hardware} is, there’s cause to imagine that the parade might have been a show of methods and weapons that North Korea might not even have, no less than not but.

“Each parade is a Potemkin parade within the sense that North Korea at all times desires to hype up what they’ve,” Terry mentioned.

For instance, regardless of the brand new tank’s spectacular electronics, not one of the packing containers containing the optics have been open, which implies nobody could be positive what’s inside them.

Moreover, most of the methods haven’t been seen in assessments or army workout routines, which implies they might simply be mockups — particularly the Pukguksong-Four and Hwasong-16 missiles. That is additionally the case for North Korea’s ballistic-missile submarines, the Gorae-class and Sinpo-C-class.

Lastly, North Korea merely might not have the sources to construct and preserve such a big typical drive.

North Korea soldiers troops parade

North Korea troops have fun the 75th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Employees’ Get together of Korea on October 10, 2020.

KCNA by way of REUTERS

“I sincerely doubt that a lot of that stuff is significantly propagated among the many North Korean forces,” mentioned Dr. Bruce Bennett, a senior protection analyst on the RAND Company.

North Korea cannot fund its nuclear and standard ambitions and the financial system its elites need, Bennet informed Insider. “The cash is simply not there.”

Regardless of the hype, it is clear that army modernization has “made some sort of progress,” Terry mentioned, however it’s probably that solely sure specialised models have benefited from it.

“I feel what we noticed within the parade was actually very selective modernization,” Bennett mentioned. “Take these [infantry] troopers that we noticed. I will wager they’re virtually all particular forces.”

North Korea’s Particular Operations Drive, one of many KPA’s 5 branches, accounts for less than 200,000 of the KPA’s practically 1.three million active-duty personnel, however it’s anticipated to have a major position in a battle.

Nuclear leverage

Hwasong 15 North Korean missile (ICBM).

The Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile earlier than a check, in an undated picture launched by North Korea’s Korean Central Information Company, November 30, 2017.


Whereas the KPA’s typical army modernization is spectacular, there’s little doubt it stays qualitatively inferior to South Korea’s army and little doubt it’s inferior to the US army.

However North Korea’s actual energy is its nuclear arsenal. Pyongyang has made clear that it has no reservations about its tactical deployment, which means it’d probably be entrance and heart in any fight state of affairs.

With an arsenal believed to be between 30 and 40 warheads, North Korea can use these weapons to destroy essential infrastructure like airfields, army bases, and ports, stopping reinforcement and resupply efforts.

“The North Korean method may impair the South Korean air functionality. It may impair our deployment functionality,” Bennet mentioned. “Then the entire sudden, their typical capabilities, even when they’re solely very selectively modernized, would possibly make an enormous distinction. With [North Korea’s] particular forces on the market with that sort of tools, that will get a bit daunting for South Korea.”

That method would most probably lead to North Korea’s destruction, however having the ability to do it offers Kim “large coercive functionality in opposition to the South,” Bennet mentioned.

The KPA’s evident modernization, mixed with Pyongyang’s rising nuclear and missile arsenal, put Kim able to say himself and restrict the US’s leverage in future negotiations.

“Kim Jong-un is a really completely different sort of chief,” Terry mentioned. “I feel it is higher for us to not underestimate him.”


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