What Tanks Does North Korea Have

Tanks Developed by North Korea

North Korea’s tank forces are considered a cornerstone of its military strength and one of the regime’s most effective tools for deterrence. North Korea currently fields dozens of different types of tanks, many of which are locally developed variants of Soviet-built tanks. The most famous is the Chonma Ho Tanks, a version of the Russian T-62M with a larger caliber gun, infrared night sights, and a slightly different engine. North Korea also has domestically-developed tanks such as the P’okp’ung-ho, which combines North Korean design elements and Chinese engines and components. Other North Korean tanks include the SM-2 and the K-228.

North Korea’s Use of Tanks

North Korea has traditionally employed its tanks primarily as a means of deterrence and to back up infantry on the battlefield. As such, the country has used its tanks in a number of engagements, including the Korean War and the Battle of Chosin Reservoir in Korea and the Battle of Naktong Bulge in Vietnam. North Korea’s tanks have also been used in internal conflicts, such as the 1979 Gasan Rebellion and the 1980 Kwangju Uprising.

North Korean Tanks in Syria

North Korean tanks were reportedly spotted in Syria as early as 2012, after the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War. While much of the equipment used by the Syrian government in the conflict has been supplied by Russia, it has become apparent that North Korean tanks have been used by the Syrian government forces. A number of tank models, including T-62 variants, have been identified by analysts as having been supplied to Syrian forces by North Korea.

North Korea’s Tank Industry – Licensed Production

In addition to developing its own designs, North Korea has established a tank industry capable of producing tanks under license from foreign entities. Since the early 1990s, North Korea has engaged in armored vehicle production agreements with numerous countries, including Russia, China and Iran. In 2002, North Korea established a joint venture with China to produce a “copy of the Chinese-made Type 69 Main Battle Tank”, known as the Chonma-ho. The Chonma-ho variant is still in production today and has been adopted by the North Korean military.

North Korea’s Domestic Tank Production

North Korea has also developed an extensive domestic tank production capacity. The country has produced a variety of variants of existing tank designs, such as the Chonma-ho, SM-2 and K-228 as well as an indigenous Main Battle Tank (MBT), the P’okp’ung-ho. The P’okp’ung-ho combines North Korean design elements, such as the hull and turret shape and chassis, with Chinese components and engines. According to some reports, North Korea may also be developing a new tank along with a Laser Guided Missile and Autonomous Targeting System.

The Role of Tanks in North Korea’s Military Strategy

Tanks are a cornerstone of North Korea’s military strategy and serve as a key enforcement tool of the regime. North Korea has traditionally used its tank forces as deterrence, as a tool to back up infantry, and in conflict with external enemies as well as within its own borders. The country has established a tank industry capable of producing tanks under license from foreign entities and developing indigenous tank designs. Despite growing economic pressure, the country appears to be actively investing in its tank forces and has reportedly exported tank technology to countries such as Syria and Iran.

North Korea’s Growing Tank Production Capacity

North Korea has invested heavily in the expansion of its tank production capacity. In 2018, North Korea unveiled a 50 tonne tank, nicknamed the “Gorae-class”, in Pyongyang. In the same year, North Korea showcased a 300-series main battle tank (MBT) with a 105mm gun, classified as a medium- or lightweight tank. In addition to these tanks, the country is reportedly developing a new tank along with an advanced laser-guided missile and autonomous targeting system.

North Korea’s Role in the International Tank Market

North Korea’s advances in tank production and capacity has led to speculation that the country is actively engaging in providing tank parts and components to other countries, including Syria and Iran. In addition, it has been suggested that North Korea may be willing to share its tank technology and knowledge with other nations, in exchange for economic and political benefits. Further, there are reports that North Korea has already engaged in tank technology sales to Iraq, contrary to United Nations Security Council sanctions.

Tank Forces in North Korea’s Military Strength

Despite its limited resources, North Korea has invested heavily in its tank forces, establishing a production capacity capable of developing and producing its own indigenous tanks as well as producing foreign designs under license. Furthermore, the country appears to be actively looking to export its tank-related production capacity, if reports of sales to Iraq are to be believed. As a cornerstone of its military strength, North Korea’s tanks are undoubtedly capable of maintaining the country’s capacity as a military power in the region.

Cassie Grissom is an American journalist and author living in Seoul, South Korea. She has been studying the Korean peninsula since 2011, and her work focuses on understanding human rights issues in North Korea. In addition to her work as an author, Cassie is an active advocate for human rights in North Korea. She regularly shares stories about life in North Korea with international audiences to raise awareness of the plight of its citizens.

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