Operational thinking reflects both Soviet doctrine and the
North Korean experience of heavy bombing during the Korean War.
The result has been in reliance on air defense. Military
industries, aircraft hangars, repair facilities, ammunition, fuel
stores, and even air defense missile systems are placed
underground or in hardened shelters. North Korea has an extensive
interlocking, redundant nationwide air defense system that
includes interceptor aircraft, early warning and groundcontrolled intercept radars, SAMs, a large number of air defense
artillery weapons, and barrage balloons.
At the national level, air defense was once the
responsibility of the Air Defense Command, a separate entity from
the air force, but which probably was collocated with the Air
Force Headquarters in P'yongyang. However, that function probably
was transferred to the air force in the late 1980s.
The air combat commands appear to have primary responsibility
for integrated air defense and are organized with semiautomated
warning and interception systems to control SAMs, interceptor
aircraft, and air defense artillery units. The First Air Combat
Command, in the northwest, probably headquartered at Kaech'n, is
responsible for the west coast to the border with China,
including P'yongyang. The Second Air Combat Command,
headquartered at Toksan, covers the northeast and extends up the
east coast to the Soviet border. The Third Air Combat Command,
headquartered at Hwangju in the south, is responsible for the
border with South Korea and the southernmost areas along the east
and west coasts.
Important military and industrial complexes are defended by
antiaircraft artillery. Point defenses are supplemented by
barrage balloons. North Korea has an exceptionally large number
of antiaircraft sites. The largest concentration is along the DMZ
and around major cities, military installations, and factories.
The bulk of North Korean radars are older Soviet and Chinese
models with vacuum-tube technology, which limits continuous
operations. The overall early warning and ground controlled
intercept system is susceptible to saturation and jamming by a
sophisticated foe with state-of-the-art electronic warfare
capabilities. Nevertheless, the multilayered, coordinated,
mutually supporting air defense structure is a formidable
deterrent to air attack. Overlapping coverage and redundancy make
penetration of North Korean air defenses a challenge.
Data as of June 1993