Demonstration shooting dedicated to the 85th anniversary of the Korean People's Army, April 26, 2017. 300 SPGs and MLRSs of various types were concentrated in one area. Photos of TsTAK
The Korean People's Army has a large and powerful rocket and artillery force. In the ranks there are many thousands of artillery pieces, mortars and multiple launch rocket systems of various types with differing characteristics. The KPA artillery is capable of solving all basic tasks and poses a particular danger to a potential enemy.
The first artillery units as part of the KPA appeared in the second half of the forties. The training of personnel was then carried out with the help of Soviet military specialists and Chinese volunteers. Foreign allies also helped with the material part. This state of affairs persisted for some time and provided an initial increase in quantitative and qualitative indicators.
Subsequently, the DPRK, using foreign aid, built its own defense industry, which made it possible to solve the main problems with materiel. Licensed production was mastered, own samples were created and produced. Over time, not only barrel, but also jet systems were mastered. To date, the development of technology has led to the most interesting results. For example, an unusual 600 mm MLRS has been developed and put into service.
Now in North Korea there is a production of artillery systems of all main classes. This allows you to cover most of the needs of the KPA for guns and MLRS. In addition, it became possible to establish export. At the same time, the army shows frugality and keeps in service a certain number of imported guns and installations of various types.
The self-propelled gun M1989 "Koksan" is the most powerful model of the KPA. Photo Wikimedia Commons
According to The Military Balance 2021, the KPA ground forces currently have 1 artillery division, 21 artillery brigades and 9 rocket artillery brigades. In addition, mortar and other units are included in tank and infantry formations. The coastal troops also have their own artillery units.
In service there are at least 21,6 thousand artillery systems of all classes. The most numerous are guns and howitzers of various types in towed and self-propelled versions - in total, no less than 8600 units. In second place in terms of the number of mortars - approx. 7500 dmg. The number of MLRS is estimated at 5500 units.
Artillery units are distributed almost throughout the country. At the same time, the main attention is paid to covering the border with South Korea and protecting the coastline. It is known about the existence of multiple prepared positions, incl. protected from shelling.
Modern self-propelled guns M2018 at the 2020 parade. Frame from the broadcast of the DPRK Central Television
Samples in service
There are towed systems in calibers 122, 130 and 152 mm. These are mainly Soviet-made products or their Chinese and Korean copies. The 122 mm caliber features the A-19, D-30 and D-74 guns. The 130 mm M-46 cannon remains in service. The most powerful among the towed ones are the 152-mm howitzers ML-20, M-30 and D-1. It should be noted that in foreign literature, Soviet guns in the KPA most often appear under unofficial names indicating the year of release. So, A-19 is designated as M1931 / 37, and D-1 - as M1943.
There are more than a dozen types of self-propelled artillery units in operation with a gun of caliber from 122 to 170 mm. Basically, this is a technique of its own North Korean development. In most cases, we are talking about installing a ready-made and / or modernized weapon, incl. imported, on an available chassis. However, there are examples of a modern look, such as the M2018 self-propelled guns.
Of greatest interest in the field of self-propelled guns are combat vehicles known under the foreign name "Koksan". They are made on the basis of a copy of the T-55 tank and are equipped with a local-developed 170-mm howitzer cannon. This technique is used in the KPA and has been supplied to several foreign countries.
The simplest self-propelled MLRS: the Type 63 launcher on an accessible chassis. Photo Wikimedia Commons
The army has a significant number of basic caliber mortars. Products of caliber 82, 120 and 160 mm are used at different levels. These are mainly transportable or towed weapons. There are reports of the existence of self-propelled mortars based on serial chassis.
KPA rocket artillery is armed with a wide range of systems with different capabilities. The 107-mm Type 63 launchers of the Chinese design, as well as their modified versions, are in operation. At one time, the Soviet MLRS BM-21 "Grad" were received, then they were developed. It is known about the existence of complexes for missiles of 200, 240, 300 and even 600 mm caliber.
Unfortunately, there is no reliable and accurate information about the KPA artillery control systems. It can be assumed that the troops have spotter observers using optical devices and radio communications. Whether there are specialized armored vehicles for artillery reconnaissance with optical or radar equipment is unclear. Also, the troops need stationary or mobile command posts.
300-mm multiple launch rocket systems M1991 on parade. Frame from the broadcast of the DPRK Central Television
Apparently, the intelligence and command systems are built on the model of the Soviet ones that took place in the distant past. Due to this, you can get the required combat performance, but you have to put up with the restrictions. At the same time, their modernization cannot be ruled out with the help of friendly China, which has modern technologies. In this case, even outdated equipment and weapons will be able to show their best side.
The KPA missile forces and artillery have a number of important features that provide an advantage over a potential enemy. First of all, this is the number of weapons and equipment. So, the main enemy of the DPRK, South Korea, has no more than 12-12,5 thousand units. rocket and artillery weapons. The South Korean army bypasses the KPA only in the number of mortars - approx. 6 thousand units, while in other directions it is noticeably lagging behind it. However, it has modern mass-produced vehicles with a higher level of characteristics, such as the K9 (A1) Thunder self-propelled guns.
The KPA has artillery of all main classes, which allows it to flexibly solve a wide range of missions. Mortars of all types, cannons and howitzers with the required characteristics can be used on the battlefield. Large-caliber howitzer artillery and MLRS of all available types will be used to deliver strikes to great depths. Any guns and missiles can cover the coast from the landing forces.
With the help of field artillery, the KPA can attack targets at distances of kilometers. The most powerful 170mm artillery systems send shells 50-60 km. MLRS are capable of operating in an even wider range of ranges. 107-mm shells of the "Type 63" system fly at 8-8,5 km, and a promising 600-mm system, according to known data, shoots at 230-250 km.
It should be noted that North Korean artillery systems, in terms of their combat qualities, do not have any particular advantages over modern or older designs of other countries. However, even with the existing level of characteristics, guns and launchers are capable of solving the entire range of assigned tasks. Moreover, in some situations, 152- and 170-mm KPA guns are real strategic weapons.
The fact is that the South Korean capital Seoul is located just 40 km from the border. The city has an area of over 600 square kilometers and is distinguished by a high population density. More than 10 million people live in Seoul itself, the population of the agglomeration is approx. 23,5 million. The largest city in the country finds itself in the engagement zone of a number of enemy missile and artillery systems. Moreover, any blow, regardless of its power and accuracy, will lead to disastrous consequences.
The threat of a strike on the capital of South Korea is a powerful deterrent that has a positive effect on the situation on the peninsula. And the leading role in such a "peace process" is played by rocket forces and artillery. In this respect, they turn out to be more important than even nuclear weapons.
A key component of defense
Despite the known objective limitations, the DPRK was able to build a large and, it is believed, effective armed forces. In the recent past, it even received nuclear weapons, but the main tasks of deterring and countering the enemy so far fall on conventional weapons. One of the main roles in such a defense system is played by the "god of war" - artillery of all types and classes.
Using existing (known and classified), and then promising towed and self-propelled guns, missiles, etc., the Korean People's Army is able to cover all dangerous areas and protect itself from the enemy breakthrough, amphibious assault and other threats. At the same time, in a number of cases, guns and rockets can be used with high efficiency against objects in the rear of a potential enemy.
It is obvious that rocket forces and artillery are one of the foundations of the KPA's combat capability. In addition, they have become the most important instrument of non-nuclear deterrence and make a significant contribution to maintaining peace on the Korean Peninsula. Pyongyang must understand this, and therefore should expect the continuation of the development of artillery and other troops. And these measures will help preserve the fragile peace between the warring Koreas.