The North Korean Air Force by Google Earth

[You can see imagery of North Korea’s nuclear sites here, imagery of North Korea’s prison camps here, and more Google Earth imagery of North Korea here.]

North Korea’s airfields are some of the most interesting  places to spy on, and often, some of the easiest to spot.  Generally, you can see a large airfield from about 10 miles up, with or without high resolution coverage.

Here’s an overview of the North Korean military airfields that can be seen on Google Earth. There is almost no civil aviation at all, and nearly all of that is at one place–Pyongyang-Sunan Airport, which is a dual-use field.  (Click the images to expand them to full size.)

Airfields Overview

MiG-17s and 19s are two of the three most common fighter aircraft on North Korean airfields.  The 17s have the stubby wings with the rounded ends; the 19s are more sharply swept and angular.

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The other common type is the MiG-21, with its distinctive delta-shaped wing.  Kim Jong Il purchased 40 of these from Kazakhstan at the height of the Great Famine, when people were wandering in from the countryside and dying in heaps in front of train stations.  Some of the  MiG-21s pictured here may be Chinese-made F-7s, which have slight extensions on their  wingtips.

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Frequently, the MiG-21s you see don’t appear to be in working order.  Some are clearly stripped of parts, decaying, or even sitting in ponds of standing water.  Many appear to be mere decoys.

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The planes on the left are MiG-17s. Those on the right are MiG-21s.

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These swing-wing fighters at Kaechon Air Base are probably MiG-23s.  Global Security doesn’t list North Korea as having the only other aircraft this could be, the MiG-27, which is based on the same airframe, and which is indistinguishable from the MiG-23 with this resolution.  The 23 is a fighter; the 27 is a ground-attack aircraft, and more advanced.

af-mig-23-2.jpg

There are thirty of these blurry things, and if you can identify them, you know something I don’t.  The don’t look like any of the older MiG or Sukhoi models.  The image quality isn’t good enough to even make a firm guess.

af-8-possible-mig-29s.jpg

Global Security identifies this location as the Headquarters of the 1st Air Combat Command,  Kaechon AB.

You can see many more MiG 17s, 19s, and 21s here, at Wonsan AB, right next to what I believe is one of Kim Jong Il’s palaces.

I found large bombers in one location, at Uiju airfield, near Sinuiju.  These ancient leviathans are Il-28 “Beagles,”  first flown by the Soviets in 1948.  The Chinese built their own version of the Beagle under license as the H-5.  You can still see a number of these on Chinese airfields.

Global Security claims that North Korea has 80 Il-28s.  You can see more than 40 on this airfield.  The others could be underground, or there could be another airfield, such as the Taetan airfield to which Global Security refers in its summary.

Note that half of the airfield was imaged during summer and half during the winter (thus, we could be counting some planes twice, and some not at all).  In  the second image, you can see a camouflage net at the end of the taxiway,  covering the entrance to what may be an underground hangar.

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In this winter image, the Beagles’ Klimov VK-1 turbojet engines have blown and melted the snow right off the ground.

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For a nearly roadless country that faces the potential for rural unrest, North Korea has surprisingly few helicopters.  This is a group of about a dozen Mil-8 utility helicopters and a few Mil-4 observation helicopters.

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NK Econ Watch points out this helipad in the middle of Pyongyang, 2 miles East by Southeast of the May Day Stadium, on the North bank of the Taedong River.  There are six Mil-8 Hips sitting on the tarmac.

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These four very large craft that appear to be Mil-26s.  The Mil-26 is the largest and most powerful helicopter in the world, according to the Federation of American Scientists.

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Interestingly, when this post was published, Global Security did not list North Korea as having any of these — or any other large helicopter — in its inventory.

The North Korean regime concentrates its most loyal subjects in Pyongyang and generally disfavors its rural citizens.  For transportation, North Korea relies heavily on its railroads, most of which are electrified and thus dependent on a supply of electricity that cannot meet current demands.  If a rural insurgency to break out in North Korea, the government will face severe logistical challenges with its poor road network, the vulnerability of its railways and electricity grid, and a small force of helicopters.  North Korea’s large but heavily mechanized army would have difficulty reaching insurgents based in remote areas.

Here are some of the An-2 “Colt” biplanes that North Korea uses for both civilian and military purposes.  Reportedly, some of these biplanes were built in North Korea under license.  Don’t underestimate them because they’re biplanes.  Though old and slow, they have an amazing amount of lift and can take off and land on very small unimproved runways.  With their wood and fabric structure, they’re also very difficult to detect on radar.  In the event of war, North Korea would use them to deploy special forces and paratroopers for deep penetration missions.  These are at a small airstrip and could be for civilian use.

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These An-2s appear to be for military use, judging by the revetments in which they’re parked.

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This aircraft will look familiar to World War II vets, airplane enthusiasts, and drug smugglers everywhere.  Clearly, this is a DC-3, a/k/a C-47, right?

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Close.  On further research, I learned that the Soviets built a copy of the DC-3 under license as the Lisunov Li-2.  That appears to be what we have here.

The North Koreans are second to none at tunneling.  At some of North Korea’s front-line airfields, you can’t see any aircraft, but you can see the entrances to underground shelters where aircraft can be stored.

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The North Koreans have gone to even greater expense than this to conceal and protect their air force. In a scene that seems to have been lifted from a James Bond film, North Korea has just almost completed an underground runway, built right through a mountain:

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More recent imagery of this location, known as Kang Da Ri Air Base, here.  That imagery suggests that the underground runway is probably a secondary runway and shelter entrance.  The main runway is to the north of the mountain.

North Korea keeps its most modern aircraft at Sunchon Air Base.

Screen Shot 2013-03-03 at 9.17.25 PM

One of these is the Su-25 ground attack aircraft, which was first used in combat by the Soviet Air Force in Afghanistan.  North Korea has about 30 of them, according to Global Security.  If so, this appears to be most of them.

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Sunchon is also the home base of North Korea’s compliment of MiG-29s. On October 14, 2010, the North Korean ground crews rolled their wares out of their underground hangars.  It was a bright, clear day, giving us an excellent view when a passing satellite snapped these pictures of the aircraft lined up just outside the shelter entrances, like snakes sunning themselves on a rock.

MiG-29 base @ 1400' 14oct2010

MiG-29 base @ 3000'

These two examples, parked on the edge of the runway, give us a better look.

MiG-29s @ 600' 14oct2010

If the Soviets first deployed the Su-25 in the mid-1980s, you would think that the North Koreans wouldn’t have gotten them until the mid-1990s.  That happens to correspond to the beginning of North Korea’s Great Famine, which killed approximately 2 million people, most of them between 1994 and 1998.  North Korea’s agricultural production and food supply have never recovered, and it remains dependent on the aid of the same neighbors it threatens.  It  has received approximately $200 million in international food aid from the U.N. World Food Program  alone each year ever since (until it kicked out most of the World Food Program staff at the end of 2005).  Assuming a unit cost of $12 million per aircraft and accessories, you’re looking at approximately $216 million worth of  Russian airplanes.  That’s enough to feed all of the 6.5 million North Koreans included in a typical year’s World Food Program appeal for a year, with enough left over to throw in some extra sugar rations.

In addition, this source estimates that an export version of a MiG-29 costs $35 million up front, and about $5 million a year to maintain.  North Korea purchased its first 12 MiG-29s from Belarus in 1995, as the worst part of the Great Famine began.  At approximately $420 million, that’s enough to have fed every hungry North Korean man, woman, and child for two years.  The following year, Kim Jong Il purchased another 18 MiG-29SEs from Belarus and three new MiG-29s from Russia.  It’s doubtful that any aircraft in human history has killed more people, and these planes have probably never seen combat.

~   ~   ~

Update: According to this source, North Korea purchased its MiG-29s in the late 1980s.

79 Comments

  1. The picture of the possible MiG-29s looks more like MiG-23s to me. Look at the aircraft all the way over on the left, its wings are in the half-swept position. The blur is probably due to the sun shining on a bare-metal finish.

    I know they have 29s. Remember when they intercepted a US ELINT aircraft? My guess is that the MiG-29s are kept out of sight.

    You’ve got some very interestng pictures on this site. I too have spent *hours* looking at google imagry of the DPRK and have found many of the same things. I also wondered what that pyramid North of Pyonyang was! I was not successful at finding Dear Leader’s palace compound to the North though.

    If you haven’t already, there is a naval base with submarines (Romeos and Sang-o types) near Sinpo on the East coast. They are located on an island. This is North of Wonson but South of Kimchaek and is located in Hamgyong Namdo province. Many of the subs are rusting brown with some in drydock. Some appear to be in service. You can even see the fore and aft escape hatches painted white. Sang-O is the same type of sub that washed up in the South back in 1996.

    Nice site.

  2. Looking at the Chik Tong DPRK Airfield (N3842.55, E12640.38), there is an aircraft on there that I can not identify.

    It appears to have an F-104 Starfighter-type body, with VERY short and stubby wings. In the current (May 07) imagery, there are two in position for takeoff, sort of a poor-man’s alert parking facility, and two more just holding short.

    I remember reading somewhere about an indigenously produced DPRK fighter aircraft, that the West has barely ever seen, and I am wondering if this might be it…

  3. Joshua, try going to Google maps online. I believe they recently updated their imagery. I was looking at Pyongyang today and it looks like some is new (greenery).

    When you type in the coordinates the base is just North of Google’s green arrow. There isn’t much of a runway.

    F-104 is exactly what it looks like. It’s about the right length (54ft) and it’s low aspect ratio wing is set relatively far back from the nose.

    There doesn’t appear to be any jet-blast marks behind them. It is possible they could be mockups, for what I don’t know.

    It is also possible they may be real F-104s obtained from a third party (nation). The US did export them.

  4. I surfed some airfields, and noted absence of skidmarks at runways. Are they actually flying their jets at all?

  5. There are two more undergroung hangars (for aircraft? for missiles?) at the location: 39°41’0.81″N, 125° 6’30.45″E.

  6. Who knows what are some strange structures to the south-east of Pyongyang, looking like circularly placed cells?

    Since I come from the former Soviet Union, I know for sure that in paranoiac communities (like Russia, etc.) such kind of bizarre constructions can equally well be missile launch sites, graves of ancient heroes, temples to worship Marx or Lenin, places of regular mass execution of ‘social enemies’, standard villas for privileged citizens (of the classless society), labour camps, etc., etc. Who can tell?
    I found 43 of them. Here are their coordinates:

    38°56’27.47″N 125°39’51.08″E
    38°56’28.95″N 125°46’44.11″E
    38°56’29.28″N 125°40’30.01″E
    38°56’29.44″N 125°52’33.34″E
    38°56’34.26″N 125°45’48.36″E
    38°56’39.27″N 125°39’38.86″E
    38°56’58.68″N 125°51’22.88″E
    38°57’25.42″N 125°45’40.31″E
    38°57’26.55″N 125°51’58.84″E
    38°57’29.30″N 125°52’09.69″E
    38°57’32.36″N 125°47’04.20″E
    38°57’35.68″N 125°40’49.32″E
    38°57’41.47″N 125°51’49.82″E
    38°57’51.78″N 125°52’44.59″E
    38°57’53.05″N 125°52’35.24″E
    38°58’03.97″N 125°53’13.30″E
    38°58’05.71″N 125°49’01.15″E
    38°58’05.71″N 125°49’01.15″E
    38°58’32.86″N 125°53’13.94″E
    38°58’33.05″N 125°41’24.68″E
    38°58’49.48″N 125°54’36.20″E
    38°58’51.43″N 125°53’22.15″E
    38°58’54.85″N 125°51’31.62″E
    38°59’00.74″N 125°54’15.47″E
    38°59’02.99″N 125°53’37.86″E
    38°59’07.10″N 125°54’16.86″E
    38°59’16.68″N 125°53’10.37″E
    38°59’29.38″N 125°54’28.79″E
    38°59’29.78″N 125°49’22.94″E
    38°59’31.59″N 125°53’22.36″E
    39°00’00.81″N 125°54’12.57″E
    39°00’19.47″N 125°54’56.71″E
    39°00’19.65″N 125°53’40.03″E
    39°00’32.36″N 125°50’44.02″E
    39°00’45.08″N 125°55’13.11″E
    39°00’49.30″N 125°51’22.49″E
    39°01’02.56″N 125°55’13.94″E
    39°01’11.28″N 125°52’55.96″E
    39°01’16.32″N 125°55’02.54″E
    39°01’19.03″N 125°54’10.49″E
    39°01’19.33″N 125°54’03.37″E
    39°01’22.51″N 125°51’25.77″E
    39°01’40.69″N 125°54’28.76″E

    Frankly, I do not think those structures to be something special, otherwise Global Security would have pointed at them already. Still they make me curious.

  7. Looks very much like artillery and anti-aircraft weapons shrapnel shelters. Whole country is littered with them. They obviously plan to occupy those pits at wartime and fight till the bitter end.

    As for privileged people’s villas I would expect something like this

    39.5935655, 124.6175266
    39.0321669, 125.8079875
    39.0791976, 125.9444791
    40.1943724, 128.6583186

    Sunchon airfield seems to have skidmarks, sign of activity, and Pukchang airfield nearby also
    39.4056447, 125.8962545

    Societies are ridiculously dense.

    Scrap metal business at port cities and slave-like labour camps near chinese border, is that what they trade to keep their army fueled?

  8. The apparent identification of the visually unique F-104 Starfighter at Kim family regime airfields is interesting, for what it might indicate about Dear Leader’s dealings with parties abroad. His cooperation with A.Q. Khan and other senior-level people in pakistan is well-known, and the Pakistan Air Force did operate a few F-104s for some years. As per Warbirds of India http://www.warbirds.in/ovpak02.html, each airframe seems accounted for. Some years ago, there was an arrangement for the Republic of China govt on Taiwan to ship nuclear waste for disposal in Dear Leader’s realm. They operated far more F-104s than ever did Pakistan, and at about the time of the nuclear waste deal they were replacing the F-104s in operational service with F-16s. Who knows what ancillary matters peculiar to the fantasies of one man get handled in the last stages of a business negotiation?

  9. 4: There are thirty of these blurry things, and if you can identify them, you know something I don’t. The don’t look like any of the older MiG or Sukhoi models. Could these be North Korea’s MiG-29’s? Or could they be something else entirely? The image quality isn’t good enough to even make a firm guess.

    af-8-possible-mig-29s.jpg

    Global Security identifies this location as the Headquarters of the 1st Air Combat Command, Kaechon AB.

    WHOEVER POSTED THIS POST , IT IS FOR HIM.

    THESE AIRCRAFT TO BE SURE :

    MIG 29 UNTIL CHINA HAS GIVEN J -11 (SU 27) WHICH IS DOUBTFUL BUT NOT IMPOSSIBLE AS CHINA GAVE PAK.
    J – 10 DESPITE PAK. AIRCRAFT FAR BEHIND J 10
    ( F 16 C/D) BY TECHNOLOGY . REMEMBER DPRK KIM VISIT TO CHINA (SECRET ONE – BY TRAIN ETC.) ( THIS IS JUST AN EXAMPLE TO GIVE EMPHASIS TO MY POINT )

    THESE AIRCRAFT YOU SHOWN ARE (MOSTLY ) MIG 29 BECAUSE THEY APPER TWIN ENGINE TWIN TAIL LIKE MIG 29 , THEY LOOK BIGGER THAN MIG 23 & 21 ALSO , SHORTER.

    THE SECRET AIRFIELDS ETC. MIGHT BE USED ONLY DURING WAR TIME FOR TACTICAL DEPLOYMENT & MAY ONLY CONTAIN FEW MIG 29 (ADVANCED VERSION AFTER WEAPEAN PROLIFICATION 1992 ONWARD & MAY ALSO HAVE TWIN SEATED MIG 29 KUB ETC. )

    THERE IS A POSSIBLY OF THESE BEING DUMMY MIGS TO GIVE ILLUSION OF NO SECRET AIRCRAFTS WHICH WILL COME OUT IN WAR TIME.

    AS FAR AS CHINA CONCERNED , NO GUARANTEE IT MAY HAVE SECRETLY PASSED AIRCRAFTS TO CHINA WHICH MAY BE THERE.

  10. Sorry Joshua,

    my previous directions were taking you to somewhere else…
    39 55′ 16.70″N, 124 49′ 59.00″E
    Those should take you to the choppers (note the air field with choppers as well). Has some one already check them out already and know the function or name of the field? Was this location well known for all of you?

  11. I believe found helicopters could be Mi-2s (I count 28 and at least one of them has fueling truck at side).

  12. The North Korean Air Force operates Mig-29’s and Mig-23″s for the primary defense of the capital area and Mig-21’s for coastal areas.
    Additional Mig-19/F-6 and F-5’s are available for fighter/attack roles.

  13. Hey guys, I went to the coords for the “f-104’s”, this is a dummy airfiled with fake aircraft set up near Koksan airfield. These are all over NK and set up to try to fake out the US/ROK planes into wasting bombs on decoys. Those f-104 are most likely plywood! A little farther to the north along that fake airfield in the “revetments” are a couple of items that kinda look like US f-4’s….. Oh well they sure try don’t they!!!

  14. That sounds like the most likely explanation to me. I doubt the NK’s ever got F-4’s or F-104’s, although they did acquire some OH-6 / Hughes 500 helicopters from the West Germans a few years ago.

  15. look at what i found,

    about that f-104 like fighter you’re curious, there maybe an easter egg there.

    find the aforementioned coordinates at Chik Tong Runway in google maps:

    33 42’55.00″N, 126 40’38.00″E

    if typed correctly, the arrow will land SMACK AT THE CENTER of the two fighters in position for take-off. i was reading a comment about the base being north of the green arrow, and when i came back to the image, i was shocked to see that the coordinates lead directly to the unknown planes.

    as for the planes, i still wonder what the heck are they, though i doubt it for some reasons. first, if they’re really f-104s, then how come the DPRK got them? as for now, the answer for that is beyond me. second, if those are fighters, then how are they able to take off from a barren field like that. and third, is the base even real. the base has no real runway, has no skid marks, and has only embankments for the aircraft, though the sight of what seem to be mig-21s on the other side of the field maybe convincing.

    that all i can give to this issue, and i would like to thank the person who sent the coordinates for Chik Tong field.

  16. to the author,

    i have located a large, empty base in the southwestern part of North Korea. you recent update about an empty base in the southwestern coast somewhat accurately fits the description of the base i found.

    According to wikipedia, on its article about the Korean People’s Air Force (North Korean Air Force), which lists the airfields and their coordinates, the said airbase is Taetan. the short wikipedia description is as follows:

    “Taetan- Air Regiment (3 ACC) (F-5/FT-5/H-5)*. In October 1995 due to rising military tension, more than 20 Il-28 bombers were moved to Taetan which shortened their arrival to Seoul from 30 minutes to 10 minutes”

    *- Since North Korea has no F-5 Freedom Fighters, the F-5 might translate to J-5 or the chinese version of the Mig-17, the F being for Fighter, the second plane might be trainer version of the aforementioned aircraft (thus FT, fighter-trainer) and the H-5 is an accurate transliteration for the Il-28s (H-5 and Il-28 are the same, H-5 being the chinese version).

    this base is strangely designed. there is an extremely long taxiway. in fact it is so long, it is longer than the runway itself. the taxiway runs east-west almost directly (09/27). at the eastern end of the taxiway lies the runway, which runs west from the eastern end. however, the runway is somewhat off parallel of the taxiway. going west, the taxiway turns south west, then another one branches off from the former. both eventually lead up to an underground hangar, which the taxiways meet up underground, forming a teardrop-shaped road network.

    as for activity, the base is quiet. My recent view of that base shows 14 fighter planes that blend into the surrounding land located in the taxiway near the runway, only visible at the lowest possible zoom. A reason for this is that the fighter maybe just sitting there and rotting. As for the Il-28s, they’re obviously hidden in the shelter, for obvious reasons. Apart from that there is no visible activity on the runway. you can’t tell it from the skidmarks, because its built on tiles. The North Koreans might replace some of the tiles, while some are still darkened due to age.

    the mi-26 helicopters shocked me, because before, i didn’t know the North Koreans even had them. This reminded me of the video game “Mercenaries” which took place in Korea. the game had mi-26s as a vehicle, though it was operated by the Russian Mafia, not the North Koreans.

    The pictures, all in all, were great. i hope you put in other pictures as well.

  17. Toscha, ref my Dec 27 post; this is a “fake” or dummy airfield. These are either plywood or inflatable aircraft. The “airfield” is all sod or dirt. There are a number of such fake airfields all over N. Korea.
    As a photo anaylst for 20 years I worked in Korea for 7 years and looked at these often.

  18. The “fake” airfield is most likely a target training complex and those are mockups of ROKAF F-5E and F-4 fighters. There appear to be filled in bomb craters on the runway. This facility is most likely used for training either aircrews in attaking ROK airfields or for special forces training for attacking airfields.

  19. Having served a commie airforce, I can tell you my preliminary observations:
    1. Each base houses an AF regiment (30-60 airplanes, depending on the type); it’s curious that every sngle base has only one RWY, which makes them pretty vulnerable to attacks.
    2. If you see 2 planes apart from the rest of the lot, they are probably the quick reaction alert “pair”; now, judging from the size of the NK territory, it would be logical that they would normally maintain 4-5 QRA pairs.
    3. The Il-28s are based at the Uiju airfield
    4. The MiG-23s are based in Pukchang AB, and they also have two MiG-23s on aler, which makes sense, since it’s one of th most modern planes in their inventory. From the photo, there certainly are tunnels that serve as shelters for the aircraft in case of an attack. If you want to see how it might look like, just go to Youtube, and type “Zeljava” in the search bar, and this is how it might look like inside; however, former Yugoslavia was way more affluent and technologically advanced than NK, therefore, it would’t be a surprise if these bases are more spartan than the Yugoslav one.
    5. They don’t fly much
    6. The infrastructure in and around bases seems (i.e. housing, hangars, maintenance facilities, recreational facilities, etc) abysmal.
    7. Elite regiments that operate MiG-23s, MiG-29s and Su-25s are probably branded as “Guard” or “Sniper”.

    This is an excellent topic, congratulations! 🙂

  20. Having served a commie airforce, I can tell you my preliminary observations:
    1. Each base houses an AF regiment (30-60 airplanes, depending on the type); it’s curious that every sngle base has only one RWY, which makes them pretty vulnerable to attacks.
    2. If you see 2 planes apart from the rest of the lot, they are probably the quick reaction alert “pair”; now, judging from the size of the NK territory, it would be logical that they would normally maintain 4-5 QRA pairs.
    3. The Il-28s are based at the Uiju airfield
    4. The MiG-23s are based in Pukchang AB, and they also have two MiG-23s on aler, which makes sense, since it’s one of th most modern planes in their inventory. From the photo, there certainly are tunnels that serve as shelters for the aircraft in case of an attack. If you want to see how it might look like, just go to Youtube, and type “Zeljava” in the search bar, and this is how it might look like inside; however, former Yugoslavia was way more affluent and technologically advanced than NK, therefore, it would’t be a surprise if these bases are more spartan than the Yugoslav one.
    5. They don’t fly much
    6. The infrastructure in and around bases seems (i.e. housing, hangars, maintenance facilities, recreational facilities, etc) abysmal.
    7. Elite regiments that operate MiG-23s, MiG-29s and Su-25s are probably branded as “Guard” or “Sniper”.

    This is an excellent topic, congratulations! 🙂

  21. Having served a commie airforce, I can tell you my preliminary observations:
    1. Each base houses an AF regiment (30-60 airplanes, depending on the type); it’s curious that every sngle base has only one RWY, which makes them pretty vulnerable to attacks.
    2. If you see 2 planes apart from the rest of the lot, they are probably the quick reaction alert “pair”; now, judging from the size of the NK territory, it would be logical that they would normally maintain 4-5 QRA pairs.
    3. The Il-28s are based at the Uiju airfield
    4. The MiG-23s are based in Pukchang AB, and they also have two MiG-23s on aler, which makes sense, since it’s one of th most modern planes in their inventory. From the photo, there certainly are tunnels that serve as shelters for the aircraft in case of an attack. If you want to see how it might look like, just go to Youtube, and type “Zeljava” in the search bar, and this is how it might look like inside; however, former Yugoslavia was way more affluent and technologically advanced than NK, therefore, it would’t be a surprise if these bases are more spartan than the Yugoslav one.
    5. They don’t fly much
    6. The infrastructure in and around bases seems (i.e. housing, hangars, maintenance facilities, recreational facilities, etc) abysmal.
    7. Elite regiments that operate MiG-23s, MiG-29s and Su-25s are probably branded as “Guard” or “Sniper”.

    This is an excellent topic, congratulations! 🙂

  22. Huyovsk, Very interesting comment. I take it you served in the former Yugoslav Air Force. Can you tell us more about your background?

  23. Superinteresting work. Interesting comments also. Just to address one small point in your post (unless someone else has already pointed this out) – the lack of helicopter power would not be too much of a disadvantage in a counter-insurgent/revolutionary/terrorist/what-have-you role for NK if they did indeed have a good lot of those AN-2 biplanes (or old Polikarpovs, or more modern light attack propcraft, etc) – you can do pretty terrifyingly effective crowd control with planes like that.

    I bet they don’t have too too much trouble with revolutionaries. Anyone who leads them is going to have to be paranoid and militant anyway – otherwise they would quickly have no country and be making clothes cheap for the Chinese under American/South Korean management. And they would still be hungry, too.

    Again, thanks for the great post.

    P.S. I bet they don’t fly much. I expect testing their engines and blowing the cobwebs out is expensive enough. That said, I bet they have a good solid battle reserve of kerosene packed away in lightless caverns somewhere. I would if I was them, and I’d leak its existence, too.

    P.P.S. How paranoid would you be if your train ride to China resulted in a blast that levelled acres? Lucky Kim taking Decoy Train #7 instead of #3 or whatever.

    Wasting time on the web when I should be out weeding,
    Lord Reptor.

  24. @ Lord reptor
    Yes, in every base they have testbeds for engine trials, like everywhere else. How did I conclude that they don’t fly much? Well, it’s easy:
    1. Check out any other base, anywhere in the world, and one can see a large number of vehicles (i.e. mobile power generators, kerosene trucks, service vehicles, buses, towing tractors, etc.). Here, there are none whatsoever.
    2. Supporting infrastucture is practically non-existent
    3. Where on earth do they live? Around bases, there’s nothing but huts, shacks and small buildings…
    4. The age of the bulk of their air force implies that they have to keep their flying hours low, in order to preserve their airframes.

    Maybe this is how it looks like, Albania has built a similar base in Kucove, near the city of Berat.
    http://www.baes.org.uk/reports/albain06.htm

  25. 39°01’03.69″N 125°50’43.55″E
    This look like the old airfield? Can anybody tell me about this?

    39°24’43.18″N 125°53’26.34″E
    Decoy military plane (pant on runway)

    40°28’55.49″N 125°49’33.26″E
    Dam (no Hydro power)

    40°04’26.99″N 124°32’52.90″E
    Oil Tanks

    42°41’23.50″N 130°12’17.14″E
    Steel Mill ?

  26. From what I know, the Aircraft on this “airfield”: 38 42′55.00″N, 126 40′38.00″E, are not real but mock-ups, and very poor ones at that, they are suppost to be F-104s and what Appear to be F-16 Falcons or A-4 Skyhawks, but not F-4 Phantom II’s. That should confirm what several others have said. As to the others posted here that people are asking about, I couldn’t say.

  27. What you think are MiG-29’s and Mil-26’s are classic examples of poorly built and placed decoys. Why would you park that many of a highly prized airframe in North Korea so close and unprotected? I can assure you that North Korean leaders are not entirely stupid. Any newer equipment is more than likely stored in protected underground facilities, away from the elements and peering eyes of the good guys.

  28. What specific characteristics in the images (or other specific reasons) cause you to conclude that they’re decoys? Also, I did not find any MiG-29’s.

  29. I think they have most of valuable aicraft in underground bases. But they must have some airplanes on ground – for sattelites eyes. If they can buy md-500 on black market – they probably may have also some newest experimental stealth china airplanes(but in single numbers) in mountain bases. Don’t matter about trucks or homes for pilots – they probably life (like in survival) caves, and are happy that have some food for eat. They lack in energy, fuel – so probably they are transporting fuel using some underground tunnels(they have the deepest metro in the world so they known technology ) -not too often, but they don’t need it. Probably the pilots are very bad trained (there was only 4 documented escapes by North Korean pilots) and they flight some times using old equipment – some of them we see(check wikipedia – the most training aircrafts are not jets- lack of fuel). I think they have stored every tank, vehicle, and rifle from korean war – maybe the next war in korea (when USA locate and find way how to fast destroy missiles, and nuclear plants deep in mountains) will be the last war of large numbers of t34 driven by fanatic koreans – that believe that this will destroy usa “trash tanks” (maybe propaganda use the photo from 30s when USarmy have trucks with “tank” sign written on white sheet;-) . Transport in North Korea are probably very based on trains (maybe they have large number of armoured trains from Soviets?) and…foots, bicycles. I think they don’t have good hackers – lack of computers/mobile (and blackouts) phones and no money to hire large good staff like China. Maybe it’s look like joke – but I think they more want peace than China or South Korea. Generals, the highest only probably known the truth about they army – the nuclear test are like desperate attemps to show that they can protect they territory. They can’t count on China now – okay they are doing business with them, but China are investing in whole world, and whole world now buy some China products. If they will be conventional war probably there will die 5-10 millions of Koreans in first weeks, after last fanatic run – and after that (and escape of all highest rank officials) they will go on fields wandering for food, water. Maybe some fanatic generals will hide in mountain caves and they will find them after 20-40 years…
    -sorry for my english-i’m sleeping now, and not native speaker

  30. I think they have most of valuable aicraft in underground bases. But they must have some airplanes on ground – for sattelites eyes. If they can buy md-500 on black market – they probably may have also some newest experimental stealth china airplanes(but in single numbers) in mountain bases. Don’t matter about trucks or homes for pilots – they probably life (like in survival) caves, and are happy that have some food for eat. They lack in energy, fuel – so probably they are transporting fuel using some underground tunnels(they have the deepest metro in the world so they known technology ) -not too often, but they don’t need it. Probably the pilots are very bad trained (there was only 4 documented escapes by North Korean pilots) and they flight some times using old equipment – some of them we see(check wikipedia – the most training aircrafts are not jets- lack of fuel). I think they have stored every tank, vehicle, and rifle from korean war – maybe the next war in korea (when USA locate and find way how to fast destroy missiles, and nuclear plants deep in mountains) will be the last war of large numbers of t34 driven by fanatic koreans – that believe that this will destroy usa “trash tanks” (maybe propaganda use the photo from 30s when USarmy have trucks with “tank” sign written on white sheet;-) . Transport in North Korea are probably very based on trains (maybe they have large number of armoured trains from Soviets?) and…foots, bicycles. I think they don’t have good hackers – lack of computers/mobile (and blackouts) phones and not money to hire large good staff like China. Maybe it’s look like joke – but I think they more want peace than China or South Korea. Generals, the highest only probably known the truth about they army – the nuclear test are like desperate attemps to show that they can protect they territory. They can’t count on China now – okay they are doing business with them, but China are investing in whole world, and whole world now buy some China products. If they will be conventional war probably there will die 5-10 millions of Koreans in first weeks, after last fanatic run – and after that (and escape of all highest rank officials) they will go on fields wandering for food, water. Maybe some fanatic generals will hide in mountain caves and they will find them after 20-40 years…
    -sorry for my english-i’m sleeping now, and not native speaker

  31. more helicopters can be found at 39 11 30.08 N 125 40 13.55 E (south west end of Sunan International Airport)

  32. Everyone has been looking for the Mig 29s – check out what is between the trees at – 39°24’43.59″N 125°53’58.34″E (GE images 2009 and 2010).

    Great initial post.

    Cheers Jimbo

  33. I think the only logical places to place the Mig 29s are
    1.Inside one of their underground bunkers
    2.Spread within the bases near the dmz
    3.Spread within bases not as near the dmz which is unlikely to become to opening victim to a first strike

  34. During a search in the extreme North West I found 14 IL-28 bombers, in a line at one of the airfields, hard to tell if they are decoys, or operational. I agree that the swept wing ac are Mig-23s, also some of the Helo’s at an airfield N of Pyongyang appear to be Huges 500’s. As to the location of the Mig 29’s I would bet North or Pyongyang and Wonson in bunkers. Numerous of the NK airfields appear to have bunkers on the edge of hills. These are hard to read from Google.

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