Weapons and Equipment
The naval inventory varies widely (see
table 10, Appendix).
North Korean surface combatants have dual missions of coastal
defense and limited offensive missions under a "small navy"
doctrine. Aside from special craft and submarines, most other
North Korean naval vessels are small combatants; they include
torpedo boats, patrol boats and ships, and fast attack craft.
North Korea has a variety of special craft. There are a
number of steel-hulled high speed, semi-submersible infiltration
craft, several of which have been engaged by South Korean naval
forces during the 1970s and 1980s; one has been recovered. A
class of air cushioned vehicles (ACVs) derived from technology
most probably acquired from Britain also is believed dedicated to
amphibious operations. These craft will be well suited to use on
the mud flats, seasonal frozen coastal waters, and areas of great
tidal variance prevalent along Korea's west coast. Hovercraft are
credited with being able to carry about a platoon each. The
extent and pace of the hovercraft production program is unknown
but more than 100 vessels had been built by mid-1993. Reflecting
Soviet influence, most surface craft and submarines are capable
of laying mines, and some vessels probably are dedicated to mine
detection and sweeping. Approximately twenty-three ships are
dedicated to mine warfare.
In addition to conventional submarines, North Korea has
between thirty and sixty minisubmarines in service. Details of
the minisubmarine fleet are sketchy. North Korea apparently has
acquired minisubmarine technology from both Yugoslavia and the
Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany). In the early 1970s,
China helped North Korea start its own Romeo construction
program, which produced new units into the early 1990s. The Romeo
and Whiskey classes of conventional diesel-electric attack
submarines employ technology, weapons, and sonar dating from the
1950s and 1960s. Their relatively high noise levels make them, by
modern submarine standards, relatively easy to detect. This
liability is mitigated to some degree by the South Korean navy's
use of similar era systems for detection and attack.
Data as of June 1993