|Korean People's Army Air and Anti-Air Force|
조선인민군 항공 및 반항공군
940-1,300 aircraft of which over 800 combat aircraft, 300 helicopters and 300 transport aircraft.
|Part of||Korean People's Army|
|Garrison/HQ||Pyongyang, North Korea|
|Nickname(s)||"Korean People's Air Force", "KPAF", "KPAAF", "NKAF", "North Korean air force" "DPRKAF"|
|Commander-in-chief||General Ri Pyong-chol|
VMAR Cho Myong-rok|
Col. Gen. Oh Gum-chol
|Attack||Su-7, Q-5, Su-25, Yak-18|
|Fighter||Chengdu F-7B, Shenyang F-5, Shenyang F-6, MiG-21, MiG-23, MiG-29|
|Helicopter||MD Helicopters MD 500, Mil Mi-2, Mil Mi-8 Mil Mi-14, Mil Mi-24|
|Trainer||L-39, Shenyang FT-2|
|Transport||IL-76, An-24, An-2|
The Korean People's Army Air and Anti-Air Force (KPAAF or KPAF; Chosŏn'gŭl: 조선인민군 항공 및 반항공군; Chosŏn inmin'gun hangkong mit banhangkonggun ; Hanja: 朝鮮人民軍 航空 및 反航空軍) is the unified military aviation force of North Korea. It is the second largest branch of the Korean People's Army comprising an estimated 110,000 members. It possesses 940 aircraft of different types; mostly of old Soviet and Chinese origin. Its primary task is to defend North Korean airspace.
The Korean People's Army Air and Anti-Air Force began as the "Korean Aviation Society" in 1945. It was organized along the lines of flying clubs in the Soviet Union. In 1946, the society became a military organization and became an aviation division of the Korean People's Army (KPA). It became a branch of the army in its own right in November 1948. The KPAF incorporates much of the original Soviet air tactics, as well as North Korean experience from the UN bombings during the Korean War.
The KPAF has on occasion deployed abroad. It deployed a fighter squadron to North Vietnam during the Vietnam war. Kim Il-sung reportedly told the North Korean pilots "to fight in the war as if the Vietnamese sky were their own."
In 1990-91, North Korea activated four forward air bases near the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).
The KPAF operates a wide range of fighter and attack aircraft. North Korea is one of the few nations still operating the obsolete MiG-17, MiG-19, MiG-21 and MiG-23 fighters, yet it operates more modern and fairly capable MiG-29 fighters. The KPAF's most numerous fighter is the MiG-21, which is somewhat obsolete but still a worthy foe in air-to-air combat, if maintained properly and crewed by experienced pilots. An assessment by US analysts GlobalSecurity.org reported that the air force "has a marginal capability for defending North Korean airspace and a limited ability to conduct air operations against South Korea."
North Korea operates a wide variety of air defence equipment, from short-range MANPADS and ZPU-4 machine guns, to long-range SA-5 Gammon SAM systems and large-calibre AA artillery guns. North Korea has one of the densest air defence networks in the world. Ilyushin Il-28 Beagle bombers provide a medium-range attack platform, despite being generally obsolete. A large part of the ground attack aircraft are kept in heavily fortified hangars, some of which are capable of withstanding a nearby nuclear blast. Stealth capacity is known in the KPAF through researching in radar-absorbing paint and inventory deception.
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From 1978 to 1995, General Jo Myong-rok was the commander of the air force. In October 1995, he was promoted to vice-marshal and appointed Chief of the KPA General Political Bureau and a member of the Korean Workers' Party Central Military Committee. His place as commander of the Air Force was taken by Colonel General Oh Gum-chol.
The number of annual flying hours (AFH) per pilot is, like almost every other aspect of the KPAF, very hard to estimate. Most sources on the subject abstain from giving hard numbers, but all of them estimate the average annual flying hours per pilot as being 'low' to 'very low'. The number of annual flying hours is of course very important in estimating the individual skill and experience of the pilots of an air force: more annual flying hours suggests better trained pilots. Most estimates present a rather grim picture: AFH per pilot for the KPAF are said to be only 15 or 25 hours per pilot each year - comparable to the flying hours of air forces in ex-Soviet countries in the early 1990s. In comparison, most NATO fighter pilots fly at least 150 hours a year. Ground training, both in classrooms, on instructional airframes or in a flight simulator can only substitute for 'the real thing' to a certain degree, and the low number of modern jet trainers in the KPAF arsenal points to a very modest amount of flying time for the formation of new pilots.
There are a number of possible explanations for the low AFH: concern over the aging of equipment, scarcity of spare parts - especially for the older aircraft - difficulties with worn airframes, fear of defection and the scarcity of fuel are all contributing factors. It is very likely however that some 'elite' pilots and regiments receive considerably more flying hours. Especially those equipped with modern aircraft and tasked with homeland defence - like the 57th regiment flying MiG-29s and the 60th regiment flying MiG-23s - are receiving multiple times the average AFH per pilot; however, aging equipment, the scarcity of fuel and the general economic crisis in North Korea will affect these regiments as well, and keep their AFH low compared to NATO AFH.
Agence France-Presse reported on January 23, 2012 that the KPAF had conducted more flight training than average in 2011.
|Uiju Airfield||Uiju County||24th Bomber Regiment||Il-28 (Harbin B-5s)|
|Panghyon Naamsi||49th Fighter Regiment||F-5A(MiG-17F)|
|Taechon Airfield||5th Air Transport Wing|
|Kaech'on Airfield||HQ, 1st Air Combat Command
35th Fighter Regiment
Fighter base with 2500 m runway.
|Pukch'ang Airport||60th Air Fighter Wing (1 ACC)
Air Transport Wing (5 TD)
This base was where most new Soviet fighter
aircraft were delivered during the 1960s.
|Samjangkol||Air Transport Wing (6 TD)||Mi-2|
|Sunchon Airport||South Pyongan Province||55th Air Fighter Wing (1 ACC)||Su-25K/Su-25UBK/Su-7BMK|
|Kanch'on||Air Transport Wing (6 TD)||Mi-4/Z-5/Mi-8/Mi-17/Mi-2|
Pyongyang is also the location of HQ, KPAAF
|Sukhoi Su-7||Soviet Union||fighter-bomber||18|
|Ilyushin Il-28||Soviet Union||medium bomber||H-5||80||Chinese-built variant designated the H-5|
|Shenyang F-5||People's Republic of China||fighter||106||derivative of the MiG-17|
|Shenyang J-6||People's Republic of China||fighter||F-6||97||license built MiG-19|
|Chengdu J-7||People's Republic of China||fighter||F-7||120||license built MiG-21|
|MD 500||United States||light utility||84||aircraft were illegally obtained by circumventing U.S. export controls |
|Mil Mi-8||Soviet Union||utility||40|
|Mil Mi-14||Soviet Union||ASW / SAR||8|
|Shenyang F-5||People's Republic of China||jet trainer||FT-5||135|
|Shenyang FT-2||People's Republic of China||jet trainer||30||Chinese production of the MiG-15UTI|
|AA-10||Russia||air-to-air missile||60 medium range missiles|
|AA-8||Soviet Union||air-to-air missile||190 missiles|
|AA-2||Soviet Union||air-to-air missile||1050 missiles|
|AA-7||Soviet Union||air-to-air missile||250 missiles|
|S-200||Soviet Union||SAM system||~75 missiles|
|S-125 Neva/Pechora||Russia||SAM system||~300 missiles|
|S-75 Dvina||Soviet Union||SAM system||~1950 missiles|
|Air Defence Artillery|
|ZSU-57-2||Soviet Union||self-propelled||~250||tracked self-propelled anti-aircraft system|
|ZSU-23-4||Soviet Union||self-propelled||~250||tracked self-propelled anti-aircraft system|
The Korean People's Air Force has five categories of ranks; general officers, senior officers, junior officers, Non-commissioned Officers, and airmen.
| North Korea
|Sergeant Major||Master Sergeant||Sergeant First Class||Staff Sergeant||Sergeant||Corporal||Airman First Class||Airman|
|OF-10||OF-9||OF-8||OF-7||OF-6||OF-5||OF-4||OF-3||OF-2||OF-1||OF(D) and student officer|
| North Korea
|General of the Air Force
Occasionally KPA Air Force officers promoted above General of the Air Force. In that case, they wear army-style uniform, since ranks from Vice-Marshal and above are not divided into army, navy and air force.
|Ranks in Korean||Tae wonsu
|Ranks||Generalissimo||Marshal of the DPRK||Marshal of the KPA||Vice Marshal|
Generally as a separate service in the KPA, the service wears the same KPA uniforms but with air force blue peaked caps (especially for officers) or kepi-styled caps for men and berets for women, worn with their full dress uniforms. Pilots wear helmets and flight suits when on parade and when in flight duty while air defense personnel wear the same duty dress uniforms as their ground forces counterparts but with air force blue borders on the caps.
Due to the political condition of North Korea, several North Korean pilots from the KPAF defected with their jets. These incidents include:
North Korea has stepped up the number of training flights since last month to as many as 650 sorties a day. The North Korean air force is conducting training flights even on weekends [...]
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