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North Korea Part 3: The Air Force

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The North Korean Air Force Flag

The North Korean Air Force Flag

The Korean Peoples Air Force (KPAF) is the second largest branch of the Korean Defence Forces.  They command about 110,000 personnel and their aircraft are predominantly of Chinese or Soviet origins.  The KPAF was founded on 20 August 1947, and celebrates 20 August as Air Force Foundation Day.

The aircraft flown by North Korea are of various types, although most are short range and geared for defense.  For example it possesses many fighters but only one obsolete type of heavy bomber.  The KPAF personnel have a very high  selection standard, and most are recruited with a high level of education.  The main elements the recruiters look for are intelligence, technical proficiency, political reliability, and health.  Ground crew and non-commissioned officers serve a three or four year tour of duty.  Officers serve at least 20 years and rarely leave at all except for health reasons or political unreliability.  All officers are members of the Korean Workers Party.  The pay for other ranks is based on assignment and rank rather than just rank.  Pilots and Officers earn longevity pay, which after nearly twenty years is probably substantial, as well as extra benefits.  The morale of the KPAF compared to the ground troops is much higher.

It takes it’s order from the Air Commander, although nobody knows who he is or if he answers directly to the ‘Dear Leader’ or the Army.  In the case of the former it makes them a rival political faction.  In the latter it makes them a tool of a land-bound general without the training to make best use of their abilities.

Their airbases are strung up and down the country with a large concentration around the De-Militarized Zone.

So what aircraft does North Korea actually have?  Nobody is too sure.  They built a lot of underground hangers over the years and planted dummy aircraft on aerodromes to fool spy satellites.

The Il-28 Bomber

The Il-28 Bomber

Their main bomber is the 1948 vintage Ilyushen IL-28.  This old crate is paraded out every year for airshows but hasn’t been seen in the west since the fifties.  It can carry a payload of 3000 kg of bombs a range of 2180 kilometers.

The MiG-21

The MiG-21

They have the once-formidable MiG-21 Fighters, last seen in action in the Balkan wars.  It is fairly manouverable and can reach a top speed (supersonic) of mach 2.05.  That is, twice the speed of sound.  It is armed with two radar-seeking missiles and machine guns.

The J-7 Interceptor

The J-7 Interceptor

Their Chengdu J-7 interceptors are a throwback to the 1950s when they were first produced by China.  It can be armed with five sidewinder missiles or bombs.  They can reach twice the speed of sound for a short distance and they have a range of 850 km.

The MiG-29 fighter

The MiG-29 fighter

Their best fighters are used to defend the capital.  These would be the MiG-29 Fulcrum from the Soviet Union.  Now these babies saw service in the 1970s.  They carry six air to air missiles and a cannon carrying 100 bullets.

To see the full list of Korean warplanes and their support aircraft check out:

From what I have seen here I can draw one conclusion.  Their Air Force can only be used for self defense or to attack it’s nearest neighbour, South Korea.  This would be the most dangerous thing it could do, as it would bring down the wrath of America and it’s UN allies.

But North Korea has one more branch of it’s Army that puts the lie in it’s claim that it ‘Only seeks to defend it’s territory’.

More on that over the next few days.

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Written by Nick Gilmartin

June 1, 2009 at 8:58 am

Posted in in the news

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One Response

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  1. Iam from Ethiopia I have a keen interest to be the member of yuor air force pleas write me your idea
    NB:Ican not express my idea in english because it is my second language
    write me by the following address


    September 17, 2009 at 6:32 am

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