North Korea to deliver Pokpung-ho main battle tanks to Russia

North Korean Pokpung-ho tanks, a local copy of the T-72, with the Igla MANPADS launchers.

Russia has a great need for tanks, guns, ammunition, artillery shells and armored vehicles – the DPRK is Russia’s old ally which can help Russia to stock its depleted military machine. Russia is using a phenomenal number of artillery pieces on the front lines with Ukraine, and Russia fired an estimated 800,000 to 1.2 million shells last year towards Ukraine.

Russia’s production capability is about 150,000 shells per year, and it’s estimated they fired over 10 million shells last year and have severely depleted their inventory.

North Korea’s ‘hermit-in-chief’ Kim Jong Un has arrived in Russia today — no doubt having travelled there in his armored mystery train. Kim travelled to Moscow to discuss “trade and economic issues.”

But unlike Kim and Putin’s meeting four years ago, which was mostly for diplomatic show, there is a real need for both leaders to secure a new era of cooperation: Kim needs grain, and Putin needs weapons and ammo.

On that front, North Korea has one of the world’s largest arsenal of weapon systems and ammunition. So far, Iran has been the only country to donate sizable military aid to Russia for their Ukrainian folly.

In exchange for North Korean weapons, Kim would like Russia to provide advanced technology for satellites and submarines, as well as grain.

Russia is estimated to use 10,000 to 15,000 artillery shells per month in Ukraine. Persistent ammo shortages have led Russia to change their artillery doctrine — actually making them more lethal — by forcing them to pick out targets carefully. Welcome to the 21st Century comrades.

These shortages not only affect artillery ammo but small arms as well. The rerouting of small arms ammunition widened the rift between Wagner and the regular Russian military around Bakhmut.

Russian armored vehicles are also quickly becoming sparse as Ukraine has proven highly adept at killing Russian tanks and amored vehicles.

A South Korean military source said Wednesday, the North Korean Army has deployed about 900 new tanks equipped with improved armament in the last seven years to modernize its ageing vehicles.

The new tanks, known as the “Chonma-ho 5” (sky horse) and the “Songun-ho” (military first), are equipped with an advanced fire control system and turret guns, an upgrade compared to the Pokpung-ho (storm) tank, which was first revealed in October 2010 during a military parade.

The Chonma-ho 5 is the latest variant of North Korea`s main battle tank, the Chonma, which was built based on the Soviet T-62 tank.

“The North Korean military has deployed 900 new tanks from 2005 until last year,” the source said, asking for anonymity as the information is classified. “The number is more than double the number of South Korean tanks deployed during the same period.”

The Songun is believed to have been named after the military-first policy heralded by former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il as a guideline for ruling the impoverished, communist country. The vision has been upheld by his young son, Jong-un, who is pursuing missile and nuclear weapons programs despite international warnings.

About 100 Songun tanks were spotted recently and South Korea`s Joint Chiefs of Staff acknowledged that North Korean ground forces have garrisoned the new tanks, the source said.

The new tanks are expected to become a considerable threat to South Korean armored units as they have a longer range and a maximum speed of 70 km/h on paved roads.

Beginning in the late 1970s, Pyongyang started to produce a modified version of the 115mm-gunned T-62 tank, and since then, it is believed to have made considerable modifications to the basic Soviet and Chinese designs.

According to South Korea`s 2012 defense white paper, North Korea has stockpiled about 4,200 tanks.

Pokpung-ho tanks

The North Korean army also has tanks with another index, Pokpung-ho, Chonma-215 and Chonma-216. These are local copies of the Soviet T-72; their production took place (probably) with the support of engineers from China.

In addition to possible visual nuances, there may also be differences in the set of weapons: for example, sometimes the North Korean military puts AGS-17 or AGS-30 on their tanks or launchers for their local copies of the Fagot or Konkurs ATGMs.

A meticulous reader may object that, in reality, the DPRK will provide Russia with tanks, and all of the above will be a realistic opportunity for Russia to get tanks from North Korea.

 The name Pokpung-ho is also known as Ch’ŏnma-216, according to visitors of the North Korean military museum.

 The “-ho” suffix is added to denote that it is an object; according to the author of the KPA Journal, it should not be used when translating North Korean to a Western language.

The “twin MGs” are grenade launchers based on the Soviet 30 x 29 mm calibre. ATGMs on the left side, MANPADs on the right and a dual grenade machine gun mount.

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