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North Korea Has A New Tank Killing APC

November 5, 2020
Via North Korean state media.

The lavish military parade held in Pyongyang on October 10 defied expectations for its pomp and dramatic flare. As an advertisement for the Korean People’s Army (KPA) the nighttime event introduced a bewildering range of weapons such as an experimental main battle tank and missiles galore. But other far less controversial additions deserve at least some scrutiny.

In circumstances still unexplained, North Korea’s ground force have a new generation of wheeled APCs that resemble the General Dynamics Land Systems Stryker and its primary job seems to be for killing tanks.

The new wheeled fighting vehicle appeared in two variants, a missile-carrier and an “assault gun” that looked like a 122mm howitzer rather than a tank cannon. The KPA does possess the Russian-made BTR-82/82A and locally made BTR’s in both 8×8 and 6×6 configurations. The latter have small turrets armed with twin 14.5mm heavy machine guns. But the APCs that drove past North Korea’s leadership on October 10 didn’t have any designations although their intended roles are very apparent.

Of the two, the missile-armed variants appear the more lethal. Its five missiles are loaded on a retractable launcher housed in a fully enclosed turret. Each turret had smoke grenades as protective countermeasures and two passive sensors for detecting projectiles. The missile-armed APCs at the parade had their launchers in full display and their missile tubes resembled the Russian-made Kornet or AT-14 Spriggan. The Kornet-EM system offered by Rosoboronexport features two separate launchers, with four missiles each, fitted into a single vehicle. When armed with HE or high explosive missiles these can strike targets as far as eight kilometers away. The HEAT or high explosive anti-tank missiles are able to strike targets 10 km away. Rosoboronexport guarantees the laser guidance of the Kornet-EM is jamming-resistant and functional at day or night.

A complete record of Soviet and later Russian technology transfers to North Korea will remain elusive but North Korea’s military industries have an established track record mass-producing anti-tank weapons. Locally made copies of the Malyutka or AT-3 Sagger and the Konkurs or AT-5 Spandrel are well-documented. Whoever assisted North Korean engineers in developing Kornet ATGMs and their launchers may never be known. Another suspected anti-tank missile is a non-line-of-sight or NLOS model designed for a launcher on a different 6×6 wheeled armored vehicle.

The vehicle used for this 8×8 anti-armor/anti-tank system is just as interesting. Many have observed its resemblance to the GDLS Stryker/LAV III but the comparison only applies to the front and its actual layout might be patterned after the Russian BTR-90, a short-lived wheeled fighting vehicle whose production was cancelled decades ago. Unlike the Stryker/LAV III this North Korean APC has two hatches at the front for the commander, in a circular cupola, and the driver, whose hatch is rectangular. There’s also a secondary armament–an automatic grenade launcher–mounted behind the commander’s hatch. The exact placement of the engine is unclear and having a missile launcher occupies whatever space is needed for carrying troops.

A crucial difference between the military parade on October 10 and the last similar event, which took place in 2018, is nearly all the equipment and vehicles shown were never in service with the KPA. The event featured at least five types of nuclear-capable intermediate and intercontinental ballistic missiles in an obvious signal “denuclearization” is an empty promise.

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