Warpower: North Korea



The Warpower series of sites take a unique, 'by-the-numbers', quick-reference approach to the current (2023) military capabilities of North Korea. Within this site are detailed inventory counts representing the total available unit power of air, land, and sea forces of the country in its drive to reach nuclear-capable status in the Korean Peninsula region. The systems represented throughout this site represent the very tools that would be brought to bear against any foreign power committing to war against the 'Hermit Kingdom'.
Of particular note is that the North Korean military has not been a participant in any large scale armed conflict since the close of the Korean War of 1950-1953 (69 years ago). As such, its modern doctrine is most likely rooted in the old Soviet style with some influence being had from neighboring China while equipment condition and general overall capabilities remain largely unknown to the outside world. National leadership is publicly open about its desire to obtain nuclear weapons as a general 'show-of-force' in the region while also providing the nation some insurance against an all-out invasion from any Western power. At least six nuclear tests have been conducted since 2006 for both land- and air-based delivery - this despite being under heavy sanctions.

Material Suppliers


The following showcase includes Primary and Secondary supplier of military goods to the nation of North Korea, be they direct or indirect suppliers.

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Total Units: 951


On paper, the air force of North Korea manages 951 individual airframes of various makes and types covering supersonic and subsonic jets, rotorcraft, and trainers for various airman levels. It is one of the few air services to feature an active bomber force (this being the Harbin H-5 based in the old Soviet IL-28 design). It is also an operator of the hard-hitting Su-25 for CAS operations which can be bolstered by the venerable Mi-24 gunship as well.
NOTES: The reclusive nature of North Korea makes it difficult to accurately assess actual active strength of the country's air service. What is known is that its airpower is made up largely of aging types originating from both China and the former Soviet Union. The most modern of the fleet is the MiG-29 but this fleet supply is limited. The MiG-21 remains a serviceable interceptor as does the F-7. All told, the service is limited in its operational capacity due to the heavy reliance on Soviet-era and Chinese Cold War period solutions.


120
J-7
Interceptor
106
F-5
Fighter
97
F-6
Fighter
56
MiG-23
Fighter
35
MiG-29
Fighter
26
MiG-21
Fighter
18
Su-7
Fighter
80
H-5 (IL-28)
Medium Bomber
34
Su-25K
Close-Air Support
84
MD500
Light Scout
47
Mi-2
Light Utility
41
Mi-8
Transport/Gunship
20
Mi-24
Gunship/Transport
8
Mi-14
Medium Utility
4
Mi-26
Heavy-Lift
3
P-750
Utility Transport
1
An-24
Tactical Transport
135
FT-5
Fighter Trainer
30
FT-2
Jet Trainer
4
MiG-15UTI
Fighter Trainer
2
Yak-18
Basic Trainer

Total Units: 20,625


The core of North Korean ground fighting strength resides in its large collection of Main Battle Tanks (MBTs) numbering in the thousands. However, these are systems rooted in old, Soviet Cold War-era thinking with some exceptions that have been modernized to local North Korean standards (local capabilities remaining limited in general). Many date back to the T-54/55 and T-62 types. Similarly, armored vehicles are Soviet or Chinese in their origination and influence. The artillery arm of the ground forces deserves note for the quantitative offerings centered on towed, self-propelled, and rocket-launching types. Mobile artillery is of particular importance to the force as units can relocate after firing, making it difficult for enemy forces to pinpoint exact locations.
NOTES: Some values above are approximate or estimated and current equipment condition is largely unknown. MLRS artillery can range as far out as 250km (KN-15). Taken as a whole - and availability / capability aside - the ground forces actually feature a good general balance of systems to cover the various battlefield roles required of a modern army.


2,000
T-54/55
Main Battle Tank
1,200
Chonma-Ho
Main Battle Tank
970
T-62
Main Battle Tank
600
Pokpung-Ho
Main Battle Tank
550
PT-76
Amphib. LT Tank
100
Songun-915
Main Battle Tank
100
T-72
Main Battle Tank
175
Type 59
Main Battle Tank
55
Shin'heung
Amphib. LT Tank
1,000
BTR-60PB
IFV
1,000
M1992
Scout Car
500
VTT-323
APC
350
Junma-Le
APC
250
Chunma-D
IFV
220
BMP-1
IFV
35
BTR-80A
IFV
3,500
Logistics
Various
550
Tokchon
100/122mm SPH
100
Juche-po
170mm SPG
100
M1937
152mm SPH
100
M1974
152mm SPH
100
M1975
130mm SPH
100
M1981
122mm SPH
100
M1991
152mm SPH
100
M1992
120mm SPH
100
Juche 107
155mm SPH
550
M1985
152mm Towed
350
S-23
180mm Towed
1,000
M1985
122mm MLRS
550
M1993
122mm MLRS
500
BM-11
122mm MLRS
400
Type 63
107mm MLRS
100
M1985 (240)
240mm MLRS
100
M1991 (240)
240mm MLRS
250
BM-24
240mm MLRS
100
BMD-20
200mm MLRS
10
KN-09
300mm MLRS
10
KN-15
300mm MLRS
1,000
ZPU-4
Anti-Aircraft Gun
1,000
Model 1939
Anti-Aircraft Gun
550
ZSU-23-4
Air Defense Vehicle
200
ZSU-57-2
Air Defense Vehicle

North Korean military manpower by-the-numbers.


Ground infantry of North Korean fighting forces - known as the 'Million Man Army' - has access to a bevy of tactical-level small arms solutions with many originating from the Cold War period through former Soviet Union channels and from neighboring China while many other products have emerged as locally-produced (either under license or, typically, through illegal copying) solutions. Beyond the usual, expected select-fire auto-loading systems are specialized non-lethal, grenade-launching, armor-defeating (ATGMs), and airspace defense (MANPADS) products designed to provide modern North Korean squads / platoons with the means to harass - and ultimately neutralize - unarmored and armored targets, aerial threats, and stubborn, dug-in enemy ground elements. Despite the age of most of these systems, the fighting North Korean soldier has the tools to succeed even on the modern battlefield depending on training, experience, and discipline under combat conditions. A stock of at least 10,000 infantry-level mortar systems may be available to ground elements.
NOTES: Values below used (with permission) from the military stats aggregator site www.GlobalFirepower.com, detailing the current strengths and weaknesses of modern military forces by-the-numbers.



Total Population
25,831,360
(100%)

Available Manpower
9,299,290
(36.0%)

Total Military Personnel (est.)
2,000,000
(7.7%)

Active Personnel
1,200,000
(4.6%)

Reserve Personnel
600,000
(2.3%)

Active Paramilitary
200,000
(0.8%)

Total Units: 186


On paper, the Korean People's Navy may impress but a deeper look into complete fighting capabilities reveals a force limited by age and local manufacturing capabilities. The submarine force features elements nearing 50 years of service and none rely on a nuclear propulsion scheme so prevelant to frontline naval forces. The frigate fleet is made up of just a pair of nearly fifty-year-old hulls while corvette strength totals seven units - again, many of which are past their useful hull lives. The mine warfare fleet consists of a single hull. The OPV force is, by far, the most impressive with some 157 total vessels available - again, many of the hulls well beyond their 'best used by' dates. Torpedo boats and gun boats also make up part of the coastal fighting strength of the country.
NOTES: The Yono-class are 'midget' submarines of dimensionally smaller size. As such, the Sang-O class is the definitive, frontline fighting submarine of the KPN. One of the available Najin-class frigates is believed to have been 'modernized' during 2014 - capabilities remain unknown.


10
Sang-O
Diesel-Electric Sub
6
Type 033
Diesel-Electric Sub
2
Yono
Diesel-Electric Sub
1
Sinpo/Gorae
Diesel-Electric Sub
2
Najin
Frigate
4
Sariwon
Corvette
2
Nampo
Corvette
1
Amnok
Corvette
1
Fugas
Mine Warfare
157
Offshore Patrol
Various
North Korea detonated its first nuclear weapon on October 9th, 2006 and its first thermonuclear test was condusted on September 3rd, 2017, ushering a new phase of ballistic missile development alarming the region and the West. Six total tests have occurred and the ballistic missile program has accelerated under dictator Kim Jong-un when compared to his father's efforts. The current arsenal is estimated to be some 40 missiles strong and ongoing development has yeilded bigger, longer-ranged, and more powerful intercontinental ballistic missile solutions for the country as it seeks to become a nuclear-capable power on the world's stage - thus deterring the West from invasion and intimidating its Southern and regional neighbors as needed.
"Hwasong-7"

932 miles
(1,500 km)
"Pukguksong-3"

1,181 miles
(1,900 km)
"Pukguksong-2"

1,243 miles
(2,000 km)
"Hwasong-10"

2,486 miles
(4,000 km)
"Hwasong-12"

2,797 miles
(4,500 km)
"Hwasong-14"

6,464 miles
(10,400 km)
"Hwasong-15"

8,080 miles
(13,000 km)
"Hwasong-17"

9,633 miles
(15,500 km)
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