Monday, March 4, 2013

North Korean Artillery Sites

As I have mentioned before, North Korea is the most militarized country on Earth. They spend 20% of their GDP on their military (more than 5x higher than the US), males are required to spend 10 years in the military and at any given time 5-10% of their population is on active duty with an additional ~30% of the population in reserves or paramilitary units.

The country has successive layers of defensive positions, most notably around Pyongyang. This shows the location of many Anti-aircraft artillery sites (AAA) around Pyongyang and their ranges are shown by the circles.

One of the most common AAA platforms is the ZPU-4, pictured below.[1]

(Image source: Commons, CC 3.0)

This is just an example of the weapon and wasn't taken in the DPRK. It has a range of 8km.

There are currently between 1,500-2,000 AAA and HARTS (Hardened ARTillery Sites) sites in North Korea. Due to their economic difficulties and sanctions it is likely that 20-25% of the sites are non-functional (lack of parts, repair capability etc). Although it is very likely that the sites around the capitol and the DMZ are given priority and are functional.

While it is widely agreed that the technology and weaponry used by the DPRK is outdated and would offer little resistance to a full on assault by a modern military the fact that they retain such a vast number of guns and men under arms means that they represent a very real and credible conventional force.[2] Plus, they have special units trained in asymmetric warfare thus any land invasion would be an arduous and costly undertaking.

This realization and the ever-present reality that Seoul, South Korea lies within range of many of the North's weapon systems is why war cannot be considered as a series action. Should a war break out, within 48 hours it is estimated that South Korea could suffer 1 million casualties.[3]

There are two main layouts of their AAA sites and an asymmetrical layout. The most common is the "daisy" or "flower" design.

Here is a smaller version.

This is an example of a linear site. A number of traditionally "daisy" sites have been converted to linear sites.

An asymmetrical site. These are typically located along the thin ridges of low-lying hills or near populated areas lacking in uniform open spaces.

During the 1970's there were many more sites but over the years they have been removed or consolidated. I can only presume that it is because they lack the funding to keep all of them operational and that over the years many of the guns have broken beyond repair. This is one such site.

HARTS are largely a North Korean style of defense. They can take many forms but typically include AAA guns, SCUD missiles, SAM's, radar sites etc located in bunkers either cut into the side of a hill or in hardened facilities. Then they are rolled out into the open to be deployed. Some are also locations with gun positions cut into a hill or berm and are only covered by simple sheds. Although this might not sound all that secure the gun lines are very thin and are backup against a hill with tree cover. This presents a rather small target and depending on time of year they can be hidden rather well from aerial view.

Most of the artillery HARTS (HARTS can also be used to describe underground naval facilities and others) are located along the DMZ and there are 200-500 of them spread out along its 160 mile border. [4]

This is a typical position for the interior of the country.

And here is one typical of the DMZ. Note the small sheds.

1. ZPU-4, Federation of American Scientists
2. North Korean Military, US Dept. of Defense
3. From Lambs to Lions, by Thomas Preston, pg 127
4. HARTS in North Korea, Nautilus Institute

Additional Reading:
Fortress North Korea, from GE user "Planeman_" at
North Korea's WMD programs, Federation of American Scientists

--Jacob Bogle, 3/4/2013


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. “War” is the wrong word.

    The US military has NK on a grid. The experts know where every ICBM, bomb factory, rocket, machine gun, canon and pistol are in that country. If they have 500 positions aiming at Seoul, the US has each one in a subsection of a grid square. They could all be destroyed in minutes by our missiles.

    US nukes aren’t necessary.

    The US practiced with its biggest ever non-nuclear bomb in Afghanistan recently. The US will be ready to drop plane loads of those bunker busters on each and every hole in the ground or cave NK is using. Since we have at least 50 years of overhead photos, the location of every cave ever dug will be precisely ID on the grid.

    Therefore, NK can be crushed so fast that they won't be able to get even one measly rocket off to Seoul. Nothing will happen to the 30k US troops on the border.

    It seems to me that this is what must be done. If NK can deliver nukes, they'll try to blackmail every civilized country on the planet. Nervous Nellies and Neville Chamberlain-type appeasers can make the world a more UNSAFE place.

    I suspect that Trump is trying to respect diplomatic niceties. But he's ready to let 'er rip sometime after the Olympics. China and Russia will file a complaint at the UN, but they will be as relieved as the rest of the world to be rid of the menace.

    William J. Kelleher, Ph.D.

    {First comment removed to make corrections}

    1. That is entirely incorrect. Whilst locations are known, they are deeply dug in and a Pentagon study in 2003 (before they got nukes) indicated an invasion would take 300 days to succeed and cost 20,000 casualties per day. It is dangerously naive to suggest a war would be over in minutes.

    2. R-S: 1. "deeply dug in" NK has no secrets. 50 years of photos can show every tunnel ever dug there. Trucks have to move around, etc. Each grid has its own 50 year history. 2. 2003 study assumed conventional land invasion -- which would a disaster for sure. But completely unnecessary. "War" is the wrong word. Its simply a US demilitarization of NK.

  3. assumptions can be dangerous things...and are what got us in trouble the last time

  4. Reply to Robert Jervis*
    I hope the US is not considering a “limited” strike on North Korea. That would be disastrous. We must assume they would retaliate with whatever power we left them – nuclear, artillery, or chemical. Instead, we should make every effort possible to destroy all their military power within shooting range of South Korea; again, nuclear, artillery, or chemical.
    Then the US should warn that if any of those capabilities is rebuilt or restored, we will come in and do it again. On the other hand, we could offer them a kind of Marshall Plan to help build up a sound and prosperous economy and assist them in participating in World Trade.
    But this warning and offer should be made after giving their military establishment, not a bloody nose, but a fractured skull. Maybe then whoever is left will listen to reason.
    The rest of the world cannot be trusted with foreknowledge of the attack. Someone would surely go public and give an alert to Kim’s military. It would then hit Seoul. Let diplomacy follow the successful attack.
    “War” would become a relevant word in this situation only if the US left NK with significant military power. I hope Trump is too smart to do that.