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sábado, 23 de abril de 2016

North Korea Navy: The most weak force in the nation

North Korea is one of the most closed nations to the world. The news about this country are a few for a year, and most of them, about their Lider or Military Forces. And in number they are strong, but in technology and equipment quality? It make sense that President Obama see NK as one of the threats in Asia (the other in China, one of the main allies of the Koreans)? And the Nuclear weapons? His there a military danger to Japan or South Korea? Let´s take a look, starting by the most week military force of the nation: The NK People's Navy. 

Fig.1 - North Korea Naval Organization.  Most important facts are the 2 fleets and "Brown water navy". Atack missions are a job for submarines with a variable number. Probably the 26 diesel submarines are the Romeu Class survivors. 

First, if we see the organization of the Navy, (like in the up image), there´s two fleets with no possible comunication  by sea in case of a war, Then, we look for a Navy with more than 700 ships but were most of them are small. Little torpedo and missile boats in the surface fleet and submarines (at least 26 diesel). Lots of landing craft but only a small number of support and mine warfare vessels. "Special Ships", used for infiltrations operations especially in South Korea there are no numbers. No aviation (there's a high possibility of North Korea Navy have some light aircraft or helicopters like the Mi4, the MI14 or Mi2 in use but no reable confirmation or a clear photo ) or marine corps (in some nations they are a part of  the army and there's this picture were this PT76 is seen from an landing craft, probably from the Army  ). Nevertheless is a Navy with 67 000 sailors (other sources say about 47 000 troops) and in a slow process of modernization.     

Fig.2 - North Korea have the same number of pricipal Naval Bases in west and east (5) with fleet headquarters in Toejo Dong (a Sang o submarine in  Toejo Dong Base and Nampo (Small North Korean vessels in Nambo Base ) . 

Second. A costal navy like this has to have AEW or a Aquisition Target and Guidance System that we don´t see in North Korea (there's news about drones and satellites, but...*). If in the Korean War with convencional ships this type of navy was inoperative, in the XXI century only the submarines force are partially effective (like in the Cheonan Sinking ). If we look close for example to a Najin class light frigate (image above there's a small radar for each task with no range up to 77 km (no news about Datalink to receive data from other sources). When USA or South Korea use Cruise Missiles or the multi-purpose Harpoon with efective gps guidance, range of 124 km and with correction trajectory from helicopters or other  small means, it is a nightmare for a navy like this (were is ECM or EW systems?) . Americans will allways fire first in more then 93 % of the times and with a chance of at least 60% of a direct hit.NKPN if have a 20% hit hipotese is a blast.

Fig. 3 - Nanjim Class
A small ship near the shorelines is very dificult to detected. If armed with Kh35 U (in North Korea is Kn-09 with a range of 260 km) the danger is much bigger, but without modern radars,  a Datalink and XXI century orientation systems, the ambush tactics close to the coast are less effective (and modern ships do not approach of land. LCS from US Navy are prepared to do so, but the arsenal gives a distance if they want Besides most of missiles in North Korea navy arsenal are P 15 Termit (SS-N -2 Styx and Silkworm, today a obsolent missile). There are informations about Kh28,  C602 and C802 but theres's no reable pictures only verbal information  and suspected fine and clear photos of some sites or net foruns from Russia (are this real or true? ).

Fig. 4 - The Onix Blog talks about Kh35E in KPN (Korean's People Navy).  We only see the supose racks used to put the canisters. 
Important in North Korea Navy are the torpedo boat (there are at least 200 in active service). A torpedo like the CHT-02 who sank ROAKS Cheonan was a maximum range of 13 km. So, is unlike that a torpedo boat aproach so close to a moderne war enemy ship. But if that's a problem minimized by Missiles and Ground radars, ASW and the lack of SAM roof in this litle ships is a failure hard to solved. We don't have informations about a sonar "net" to support west and east fleet like USA and South Korea have, and AA missiles in small ships is an image that so far we have not seen (MPADS are seen for example in tanks so i suppose that they are also in Navy ships, but as far a more capable missile we don't have visual or a good picture to give us the confirmation ).

Fig.5 - The Sam roof in North Korea with  related sensors. It goes about 50 Km from the coast line, that is were a "Brown water navy" goes. Most likely Korean People Army Naval Force use this radar net or have its own.  

An example. If we look to one of the bigger ships in North Korean Navy (the Sariwon class of coventional light corvettes), we see only short range ASW weapons, like the RBU 1200 anti-submarine warfare rockets and Rails for depth charges.  Theres's no ASW torpedos or an ASW helicopter. The only ships that probably can carry a light helicopter are the only one Krivak (see in port since 2007 in a severe reconstruction that doesn't have much to do with Russian Kivak's, the Soho Class of Catamarans (retired in 2009? ), and Namb'o Class of ASW frigates (seen here with an Mi4 on Deck ).

Fig. 6 - A Tral Class of light conventional Corvettes.

So, only a few of the North Korean Navy ships are capable to do ASW at some distance from the coast line. But with no medium naval SAM the air cover it is a mandatory.   If we talk about the submarines of South Korea Navy (there's some sources indicate that two of midget submarines from Dolgorae  class that had tree build specific for simulate North Korea pairs, are  still active , but let's concentrate on 19 submarines from Chang Bogo and Son Wonil class ), capable of launch the UGM 84L Sub Harpoon with a range 124 km and able to destroy naval  and land targets, we see the dificult task of the few and major ships for ASW. Nuclear USA submarines with cruise missiles like the Tomahawk have a range of 1300 km up to 2500 km. An almost impossible task for the North  Korean Navy. A long range aviation for ASW and Maritime Patrol could help enough but there's no such type of plane in North Korea arsenal, for now. An 26 could do this type of mission but the few that North Korea have are for transport tasks with basic sensors  ( ). 

Fig. 7 - Torpedo boat 23 (a G5 class former soviet motor torpedo boat) claims that he sank USS Baltimore who never  was in Korea. One example of North Korean propaganda

North Korea had long traditions  in torpedo boats and small crafts. The upgrade for missile boats was a natural change, but only in half way. More than  217 against a minimum of 24 and possible about 100 today. Unexpected was the amount of hovercrafts and landing crafts in North Korean Navy: more than 100 LCVP  /LCPA  and 135 LCV. Hovercrafts are an expensive mean and are mechanic speaking, complex to operate. But they are very usefull, specially in Korean peninsula full of islands, some near the coast line but others at distance from the main land. With a fast LCVP/LCV one force could conquer one of South Korea island in minutes or hours, if near the famous 38 th parallel. ( )
And we cannot forget that area have disputed territory in the sea, with only in this century four major incidents betwen the two Koreas ( ).

Fig. 8 - A Yono class midget submarine. 

Analyzing more deep the fleet, mine warfare vessels and auxiliary ships are only 30 of each. Probably some of them are civil (no photos of military vessel's of this types were seen  and for example the list of civilian ships are not so big if we think that the country is isoleded from the rest of the world This means that the North Korean Navy have a very limited capacity to support long actions, in time and space, away from their bases and that poor logistics affect major naval movements. No big amphibious platforms or replenishment ships means that oil, equipment, munitions, etc, are a concern up the military in missions and that the troops movement and the heavy equipment with the air support are dependents from Air Force and Army logistic. Probably civil ships were call in major actions. Again, the Navy have difficulties in several actions, away from coast line and far from their waters. And not forget that are two fleets: west and east, with no comunication between them by sea.

Fig. 9 - P6 class ( )

But North Korean Navy have two probable "aces": First, infiltrations boats; Second: Submarines. A small craft or ship is dificult do detect by a radar or infra-red sensor, but a stealth boat is two times hard to see in a sensor or in visual contact (i'm not talking about stealth figth ships like 30 m PCF or the 23 m PCF , but real stealth infiltrations ships  like Type D improved SILC that in North Korea is seen with no guns  or torpedos tubes in the hull I belive that there's no stealth paint or materials, with the shape making them hard to see an detected, especially at night (pure stealth tecnology was only seen in the light corvette of the Nongo Class ). 

Fig. 10 - A Komar class missile boat launch a SS-N-2 Styx 

Other like P. Nongo VSV ( ) or the "Ghost Ship" ( and, looks more photoshop or speculation than reality. Neverthless The Thelegraph understand the main reason behind the VSV: Not combat but infiltration of saboteurs or agents in South Korea main land (  ). And Type A, B, C (Sp10), I - Silc, I - Silc (Viet), Taendong B and C, are real. Seems inspired by the Cartels Cocaine Submarines ( ), or the Ghost military watercraf (the first super cavitating ship ), this infiltrations boats are easy to produced and complicated to detect. Several were sink or catch but how many escaped?

Fig. 11 - Kim Jun Ill visit a Sohung (Komar class made in China) missile boat. See the containers for SS-N-2 Styx are behind the ex. North Korea leader.

Armament in this ships are small arms. But Taedong B and C exported to Iran have torpedos and probably mines are also on board. If the low project and the difficulties to see at open eye are an assurance, with some stealth tecnology (North Korea is still in childhood of this technique), the problems to the South and USA wil be mutch more.  And the use of a civil mother ship to infiltration or as a base to other crafts is a high possibility ( ). Not only  for infiltration ships but also to drive operations with midget submarines like the one captured in 1979, and Sbs-2 Swimmer Delivery Vehicles. But if this underwater objects are a problem, other submarines in the North Korean arsenal are a real headache. And the nations have at least 70 of diferent types, from little Yugo Class ( ) to a much dangerous class  ( ). ROK take this infiltration treath for real and have an strategy to solve the problem ( ).  And real results are at sight in South  Korea ( ).

Fig. 12 - Some sailors pass by a 85 mm gun from a Sariwon/Tral corvette or a Chongin Pb class ( ) in a propaganda movie. Above two P6 torpedo  or patrol boat ).

USA about North Korean Missiles submarines are to "confortable" with them. No danger for Usa but what about south Korea? ( ). After all, the North Korean submarines are old and the ones made in the nation to small, but there's images of a submarine that looks like an experiênce of missile launch by a submerged vehicle ( ). A second photo from a video was seen when Kim Jung Un visited a new submarine (  ). Third, the launch  of what it seems a fake missile launch ( ), but that caught attention from South Korea and Japan. Why? Becouse they now how easy is to make a convencional submarine with 3 or 4 tubes in the sail like convencional diesel-electric Golf / Hotel Soviet submarines era (  ). It seams that NK have at least one Simpo Class with one/two launch Tubes ( ). But nuclear missiles in North Korea are large an heavy, so is very dificuld to place one in a submarine ( ).

Fig. 13 - Type 033 (Romeu Class) of North Korea seen on top of photo near Ming class Submarines, in a Chinese parade. This submarines were send to North Korea by kit and assemble in the country 

More. The North Korean SLBN looks like an R27 Zib (and the program is advance from the old KN 11 ). Fortunately the warheads are weak and the missiles very experimental with South Korea and Japan recovered some of them from the sea ( ). No news about the suposed missile launch by a submarine. Some tv an news support the idea that one or two launch fail from the Simpo class but there's no certain about that. No evidence of MIRV or multi-warhead on North Korean missiles. Even so, with a Space Program ( ), and some sucessful lauch were made with the Kwangmyongsong 3 united- 3 and  Kwangmyongsong 4 (observations satellite ?) in 2012 and 2016, the prospects other purposes like orientation of nuclear missiles or get targets for cruise missiles are hypotheses.
"Were is smoke there's fire", like we say in Portugal and North Korea has made some progress about nuclear balistic missiles from submarines and satellites in space tho give them orientation and targets. Probably a lauch in future from a submarine will be in surface becouse it is much easy, but we don't know what technology North Korea have in this area. One assurance: This nation have great difficulties to build large submarines, and it's needed a modern and big submarine to be a threat to USA or Japan so far away. The problem is South Korea even by the side (South Korea and USA have large ASW and anti-missile systems, but a submarine and a nuclear missile always have some danger, even being old and outdated).

Fig. 14 - A Romeo class ssk. The Nort Korean "Slbn" seams influendes by Yugoslavia submarines than Russiam or Chinese
But let's talk about convencional submarines: North Korea have between 51 and 72 (or 77 if  some of the Yugo classe are still in service ).  Only 22 of the Romeu Class and the Simpo Class (one in construction ?) are true submarines.  The rest are coastal  or midget submarines (around 50), and this seems the current strategy of North Korean Navy, since Romeu Class are being phase out in favour of Sange -o- class of coastal submarines. Only exeption is Simpo Class with some sources saying that is a diesel experimental SSBN ( Although the type seems to have potential to be also a class of conventional  diesel-electric submarines it is unclear by the known photos if there's sail tubes for one or two missiles or only torpedo tubes ( Analyzing  the size and form of the submarine  it seems highly influenced by Heroj and Sava yugoslav submarines (Golf class with missiles tubes in the sail are much higher ( ).

Fig. 15- Submarines of North Korean Navy in Nampo. Sang o and Yeonyeo class are midget submarines, used for atack and infiltrations missions.

The small submarines doesn´t have a great range, are limited in weapons and mission time but near the coast their detection is very difficult. Teams of saboteurs and spies can be dropped easily in South Korea and the prove is that some of them were captured by ROAK forces. Ideal for a brown water navy and that operates within 50 km from exclusion zone, with 46 000 men and 711 ships.  True that a vessel from the west fleet could'n visit the east one, but the danger of ROAKS Cheonang be sinking by a midget submarine from Yono or Sang O class puts pression in south navy were the fail in detection could lead to a desaster (there's a possibility of have been 2 submarines and a support ship, in a sea were Us Navy and South Korean Navy were in ASW exercices, to sink Cheonang corvette ). 
Size also means that in some rivers, bays and gulfs, these little submarines  could ambush bigger enemies units, with torpedos, mines or saboteus with explosive charges. Probably the substitution of the Romeo Class by Sang -O- it's a matter of tactics, were ocean submarines are deprecated by coastal models, because are more easy to build and better to use in a brown water navy system by North Korea.
Fig. 16 - Torpedo boat and missile craft. About 234 of 9 torpedo boats and missile types.
The Korean People's Navy is the branch of the People Army, Armed Forces of North Korea, and probably the most limited of the North Korean forces, with a defensive role especially of their surface fleet. Ofensive role is a task for submarines and clandestine missions are one of their main task, with Type C infiltration boats or wooden fishing vessels  (specially caught in Japan ), or midget submarines like the Song O class.  
It is made to support the Army or make fast operations at maximum range o 50 km from the cost line, with the roof of land SAM, airforce, coastal artillery, EW and Jamming  systems    
Nambo is clearly the main base North Korean Fleet, taking into account the number of exercices, fleet ships and facilites ( ).  East sea fleet have more 170 ships than west, and the main confrontations are all in the East, with only the Battle of Amami-Oshima taking place in the west ( and between North Korea and Japan ).

Fig.17 - With a Navy of close Range, North Korea operates in range of land based SAM,  SSM and Coastal Artillary.
Even the infiltraded missions are made with midget submarines and special infiltration crafts in the yellow sea but with Japan are North Korea only send "ghost ships", normally fishing boats with saboteurs or a spy crue. Large missiles are often fired against Japan from land but all of them fall in the sea and collected by Japanese Navy ( ).
East or the yellow sea is much better for a "brown water navy". With lots of islands and a coast full of good places for wide a little torpedo, missile boat or submarine, who can wait by the enemy and fire with some sucess. West is more ocean and it needs a type of more large ship, that North Korea doesn't have and can't produce with a very limitied industrie and with many problems in energy production and fuel resources  (NKPN have about 10 large frigates, corvettes and patrol boats. Only tree are not from the 60s and made mostrly in the nation).
Main operations arena are east and against South Korea, with several battles with variable result, and an acurate search give us the  assurance: South Korea navy is a lot more powerfull than the North Korean on. Why? Will see above. 

Fig.18 - Comparison between some Asian fleet. China and North Korea have mutch more ships but the other naval nations have much more modern ships.

The losses of a Chamsury Class 357 patrol boat ( ) and RoK Cheonan  772 corvette, in about eight clashes between North and South Korea ( ), were exeptions. NKPN lost 2 submarines, 2 infiltration boats and  1 torpedo boat, with much more dead and wondead sailors that South Korean navy. With equal firepower, sensors and much more modern guns, even in a close support confrontation, they make the south win. In a BVR confrontation, a modern tracking and aquisition  radar, fire - control, datalink  and optical  sensores, will make devastating fire over enemy ships. For example, an SSM attack with the Harpoon (NKPN have for example C802 but there's no modern radar for detection an guidance), at 100 km by a South ship will had the acquisition and tracking by a airborne radar and a final way  correction by a sensor from an helicopter all with the help of datalink. North  doesn't now what is that becouse they have a navy to a close range from the coast, were by North Korea tactics small torpedo and missile boats, cant operate without range umbrella from SAM, electronic war and aircraft roof. Small and low are dificult to detect but not impossible, by modern sensors and satellites (the North only have two of observation in more than five launch attemps), that North Korea doesn't have. Asw is another problem, basically becouse depth charges and rockets are a close range weapons when a UAM Harpoon have a 120km range (sonars are old and fixed). That lives the submarine was the only NKPN ofensive weapon (and yet...).
Fig.19 - Rok Cheonan corvette sinking, probably by a mine or torpedo from a North Korean submarine (
A force of midget submarines make sense in Persian Golf, Baltic or Caspian Sea. In the Pacific they have limited use, like the japonese proved in WWII ( Small, limited range, hard to guide in the ocean, they need  a base ship (North Korea probably use civil ships becouse there's no military ones) and they are no hard to sink. The problem is that the Nort Korean alone only can produce in series submarines above 370 tons (Romeu were assembly nin country with pieces from China and Simpo is just one). They use for infiltration saboteurs and  military personal, to atack near the cost of main land or an island (Roak Cheonan was sunk near Baengnyeong island by a suppose Sango submarine), or drop mines. But in the Ocean, are not effective  and in the Pacific only a much bigger submarine is effective. Whiskey are no longer in use (of four maybe there's one). Romeo are outdated and the only real modern submarine is the Simpo class, made from inspiration of yugoslavian contemporary). Simpo seams a really good class, with torpedos and two missile tubes in the sail (the only balistic missile test from a submarine was made from this class ? ).
It will be the industrial capacity of North Korea of build powerfull nuclear warheads, Simpo submarines and a effective missile for a submarine, that will dictade if North Korean nuclear program is a treath to korean peninsula and neighbors like Japan.  If so, is a danger for peace and to a nuclear Asian Southeast. If it fails, and nuclear missiles continue in earth and mobil ramps, only with multi-warheads, better sensors, data link and orientation systems, will make North Korea a threat to many nations beyond South Korea. And for now this last scenario is far away. US, China, Japan, etc, can reast (and pray for Simpo class fail or North Korean fail in a mass production of the type).
Fig.20 -The ofensive power of NKPN are the submarines. Type 33 are old and were only assemble in the country. Simpo class are the only ocean submarine under development (1 at least), and probably have two tubes for missiles in the sail. The industrial capacity of North Korea produce this type, will in future will dictate if the submarine force will be a Brown Water Navy one or a much more powerfull ocenic navy.

Fig.21 -  A North Korean PT fires is main 85mm gun against South Korean Patrol boats in The second Battle of Yeonpyeong. One PKM and 6 sailors were lost but North Korea had 13 crewmenbers dead and 25 wounded.      ( )

Fig. 22 - First Battle of Yeonpyeong. Pt 381 is bumped by South Korean fast craft. At the fire of 25 mm from North Korean Guns the South Koreans retalied with 20mm, 40 mm and 76 mm weapons ( ).

Fig.23 - A torpedo boat from Shershen Class. North Korea have only 3 of this fine crafts in service. 

Fig. 24- Naval exercices at Nambo Base (in this image a satellite image of 2015 exercices and ).

Fig. 26 - Kim Jon Un on board of a Nango class light corvette. A 30 mm and a 57 mm gantling guns are seen at top of image ( )

 Fig . 25 - A Osa I missile boat. Eight of twelve are still in service

Fig. 27 - A rare photo of Chaho class Rocket Boats.This type of units have a very limited use in a modern war.

Fig. 28 - A Photoshop Image (at least for The Guardian newspaper)? Eight Kongbang class assault ACV  reach the beach in an amphibious exercice. (

Fig.29 - Romeu class submarine goes by a Najin class Frigate and a Sariwon class corvette. The  Sang - O (34m) and Sang - O II (39 m) submarines are replacing the old Romeu submergibles.

Fig. 30 - Battle of Yeosu ( A I - SILC is recovered from the ocean after sunk probably with the "warning shots" from South Korean Navy ships. The North denied the incident.

Fig. 31 - I SILC infiltration craft capture by South Korean Navy. It is frequent that midget submarines and infiltration boats beached or abandoned in the Korean coast. Sometimes all on board are dead. 

Fig. 32- A Hainan class conventional patrol boat. The 57 mm (near the depth charges) and the 25 mm chinese guns are wll seen. This class function is a Submarine Chaser, with asw rockets and rack for mines.

Fig.33 - Troops from North Korean Army disembarking from a hovercraft from Kongbang I class. Navy is a branch  from the army so doesn't have marines. 

Fig. 34- A Kongbang II/III Hovercraft. They are capable of transporting 40 trops, plus the third version is equiped with 57/30mm guns and anti-ship missiles. There are 120 in service in North Korean People's Navy.
Fig. 35 - A 57 mm (twin) gun from a Najin Frigate in a real fire exercice. One of the main missions of the Navy in North Korea is give firepower to support the Army 

Fig.36 - A Sang -O - I submarine captured by South Korean Navy stranded near the coast line. All the crue was dead in a colective suicide. 

Fig. 37 - A NKPN Patrol Boat guards the waters off Mount Kumgang, an tourist zone in North Korea. The guns are 25 mm Type 61 chinese guns. The type seems a Shantou class gunboat made in China

Fig. 38 - The only Krivak frigate that North Korea have. Current status of ship his unknown and satellite images only show an helicopter deck and hangar.

Fig.  39 - A Krivak II class frigate. For years that is like this in North Korea.

Fig. 40 - Perhaps one of the more interesting satellite picture. It seems a Golf II/ Foxtrot (not a wiskey with cruse missiles like in image above). Is this the danger of a nuclear treath by North Korea in submarines. If so,  the North Korean Navy gives a big step in brach of the armed forces in NK nation.

Fig.41 - Light Patrol boat in North Korea coast. The gun seams a 25 mm twin.

Fig. 42 -  Another light and unarmed patrol boat in the Yaku river between China and North Korea. To a fleet of more than 700 ships is to be added hundreds of small ships and crafts over the Korean territory

Fig.43 - A Type B SILC/RACOON captured by South Korea. Impressd with this infiltration craft the Navy made several for own use. The Racoon also influenced Us forces to use submersible boats.

Fig. 44 - DRPK KA35 in action? Seems the Chinese Navy. Russian Foruns...

Fig. 45 - A original Tral Class Corvette. Probably in reserve due to old age the North Korea build a similar class named Sariwon class of four ships.

Fig. 46 - Another attempt to a North Korea's Ballistic Missile Submarine? Is this the Simpo Class with to Nk11 Missiles

Fig.47- The Foxtrot "clone"  that is a SLBN test platform for North Korea? The source is Russian, but they have a fine and clear photos of everything above parallel 38.

Fig. 48 - Large Helicopter Frigate build in North Korea. Is the Namp'o class. 

Fig. 49 - North Korea  Cargo Ship "Chong Chon Gang" at Air Navy Base Almirante Cristobal in Panama. The ship was released after Panama justice detained in 13 July 2013, with undeclared weapons cargo.

Fig. 50-  Another photo of the Namb'o Class ASW frigates. It seams that has an Hangar and a Helo Pad. Some sources say that have also AA  Missiles.

Fig.51 - Also security forces use patrol boats in rivers and near the coast. Most of them are simple wood boats with light guns and with no sensors. Best ships are used by military

Fig. 52 - Another photo of Nambo Naval Base with 3Chaho class Rocket Boats, near a small patrol boat.

Fig.53 - Profile of North Korean People Navy. Nanjim Frigates,  Tral/Sariwon Corvettes, Soho ASW frigate, Shershen torpedo boat Komar  and Osa  missile boat.

Fig. 54 - The capture in 1968 of the Spy american Ship USS Pueblo was one of the high moments of NKPN.  Today is sized at Taedong River in the capital city in Pyonyang

Fig. 55 - To "Poder Naval" NKPN, is  today  more addvanced in SLBN than i think. It checks the testing submarine but theres more two submersible test stand barge. But like we see in this link Kn 11 is still in test.