Monday, June 28, 2010

Scheduling info and more SAMs

After I posted the SAM Site Overview update, it occurred to me to look at a calendar. I then, of course, realized that I have something of a problem. My schedule is based on a four-week cycle. Since July starts this week and I'd already processed through all of June's stuff, I counted this as week 1 for the July schedule. Hence the SAM Site Overview update. Anyway, July still has a full four weeks to go. So what I'll be doing in these instances is posting something random during the fifth week whenever something like this occurs. Could be a Site Analysis, could be a SAM Network Overview of a smaller nation, could be something else entirely, who knows. I'll pick something when I get to that point this month, and then every subsequent month will have it listed in the posted schedule if necessary.

Also, the next SAM Site Overview update will incorporate all of the old Nike, BOMARC, and HAWK sites in the US that I can find. I know this is already technically in Google Earth, but I've got a few good books on continental US air defense during the Cold War and figured trying to find them all myself would be a good exercise in imagery analysis. Never hurts to keep the chops fresh. Besides, they should be in the database anyway in the Historical Sites section.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

July Schedule

Here's what's coming in July:

Week 1: SAM Site Overview
Week 2: South Korea's SAM Network
Week 3: Underground Airfields, Part 1
Week 4: update to China's SAM Network

The Underground Airfields bit will be a three part piece. Part 1 covers the DPRK, part 2 covers Taiwan and various nations in Europe, and part 3 covers China. These probably won't appear in consecutive months, as some of them (particularly China) will involve a ton of work.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Executive Protection Webinar

A little short notice because I am behind in my e-mails, but this one will be hosted tomorrow.

On Thursday, June 24, Henley-Putnam Professor of Terrorism and Counterterrorism Studies Branch Walton will lead the university’s next free career webinar, “Insider’s Guide to Careers in Executive Protection.”

During the webinar, Professor Walton will discuss:
- Career opportunities in the Protection Management field
- Typical hiring requirements and how to better prepare for the job
- Work environment and what to expect
- Performance suggestions/professional standards
- The future of Protection Management

“Insider’s Guide to Careers Executive Protection” will take place Thursday, June 24, from 1:00 - 2:00 PM PDT.

If you're interested, go here to sign up: click me.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Site Analysis: The Ulan-Ude SAM Garrison


The SAM garrison at Ulan-Ude is a significant military facility located in Russia's Siberian Military Zone. It represents one of the largest SAM garrisons inside of Russia, containing enough equipment to thoroughly modernize any lesser nation's air defense network.


The Ulan-Ude SAM garrison, sited roughly 28 kilometers ENE of Ulan-Ude, is an expansive facility composed of three main areas. Apart from the actual garrison and storage facility, there is an administrative and support area and a weapons storage area (WSA).

The general layout of the facility can be seen in the image below:

Various items of infrastructure can be identified at the Ulan-Ude SAM garrison. Power to the facility comes from external sources fed into the facility's substation by overland power lines. From the substation, power to the garrison itself is provided by a partially buried conduit. A POL storage facility is located south of the administrative and support complex, providing fuel for the garrison's vehicles as well as maintenance, security, and transportation vehicles serving the entire facility. While a network of minor paved and unpaved roads connect the complex with the outside world, the primary means of access is by rail. A rail transfer point for onloading and offloading equipment located adjacent to the garrison complex. A maneuver area is also located adjacent to the garrison complex, where wheeled and tracked vehicles can be put through their paces before dispersal to active units to pre-emptively identify any maintenance concerns.

The local infrastructure of the Ulan-Ude SAM garrison can be seen in the image below:
Regionally, there are numerous facilities which may serve to support the complex. 5 kilometers to the northwest, a power substation has been identified near the town of Onokhoy. This substation serves as the regional substation serving the SAM garrison. The garrison's power substation uses overland lines which lead directly to the Onokhoy substation. 6.5 kilometers to the west is a major rail transfer point. Equipment and cargo moved to and from the garrison complex travels down a dedicated rail spur which merges with the main line 2 kilometers east of the rail transfer point. Equipment being dispersed would travel down the rail spur, reach the rail transfer point, and likely either 1) continue along the main line, 2) be held for transfer to a different line, or 3) be offloaded and moved by road to an airfield in Ulan-Ude for airlift. Further to the southwest, at a distance of 9.5 kilometers from the main garrison complex, is a large POL storage facility. This facility could serve as the main holding area for POL in the region, with fuel being transferred by rail to the garrison when required to refill the complex's relatively minor capacity.

The regional infrastructure servicing the Ulan-Ude SAM garrison can be seen in the image below:

The Ulan-Ude SAM garrison itself is a 530,000 square meter complex with numerous facilities designed to service, maintain, and disperse SAM equipment to operational units. The primary systems held at the facility are members of the S-300P series.

Apart from the holding areas and sheds, major identified locations include an equipment checkout pad, for verifying the operational status of equipment held at the facility before dispersal or during periodic maintenance, and a probable radar storage facility. The radar storage facility is the likely holding point for 64N6 (BIG BIRD) EW radar systems, as these systems have not been identified in open storage. The high-bay garage has an entrance at the northwest end of the building which has enough exterior clearance for a large vehicle such as the 64N6 transporter to maneuver out of the building and into the complex. No other buildings appear to have the necessary exterior clearance, suggesting that 64N6 components must be held in this facility.

Enough equipment for roughly fifteen S-300P series batteries can be seen in open storage at the facility. There are 68 5P85-1 TELs and 2 5N63 (FLAP LID A) radars associated with the S-300PT (SA-10A GRUMBLE), and 56 5P85S/D TELs and 9 5N63S (FLAP LID B) radars associated with the S-300PS (SA-10B GRUMBLE). Additionally, one 64N6 radar set and 9 40V6 mast assemblies can also be identified. SAM equipment is typically organized by battery, with the components for a complete battery being held in the same area. Apart from the S-300P series components, components for at least 4 S-125 (SA-3 GOA) batteries are also held at the facility, as well as numerous tactical SAM components.

The quantity of components held at the garrison is indicative of Russia's peacetime air defense posture. There are numerous inactive SAM sites in the nation, leading many casual observers to note that the network appears to be a shell of its former Cold War era self. This is not entirely accurate; the Russians have simply garrisoned a significant number of units, holding them in reserve until required. The equipment held at the Ulan-Ude garrison alone would be enough to significantly increase the effectiveness of any regional network. By holding these units in garrison, operating expenses can be saved while retaining the capability for future exploitation when required.

Identified areas and SAM components at the garrison complex can be seen in the image below. For the SAM components, which are identified by colored dots, the following color scheme has been used: S-300PT TELs are purple, S-300PS TELs are red, 5N63 radars are orange, 5N63S radars are yellow, 64N6 radars are blue, and 40V6 masts are green.
The garrison complex has numerous identifiable security measures to protect its holdings. The facility is entered using a primary entry control point which leads directly to the rail transfer point servicing the complex. A secondary entry control point likely serves as the entry for personnel and service vehicles. The complex is surrounded by a double fenceline, with an 18 meter dirt strip having been cleared between the fencelines. The exterior fenceline has lightposts placed every 32 to 35 meters, and four guard towers are situated at the corners of the fenceline in the dirt strip.

Security measures at the Ulan-Ude SAM garrison complex can be seen in the image below:
Located south of the main garrison is the weapons storage area for the complex. This facility serves as the primary holding area for the actual missiles to be employed by SAM systems held at the complex. Holding the weapons in a separate secure facility negates the possibility of a catastrophic explosion or fire damaging the SAM components. The WSA is accessed by a single road leading to an entry control point. Security is similar to that of the actual garrison complex, with a double fenceline separated by a defoliated dirt strip, various guard towers and lighposts surrounding the compound. The interior of the compound possesses numerous revetted holding areas, some of which contain storage buildings, others serving as open air holding pens.

Details of the Ulan-Ude WSA can be seen in the image below:
The following image depicts the likely steps for equipment to be dispersed from the garrison. First, equipment would be removed from holding areas and sent to the checkout pad. There, the equipment is spun up to determine its operational status. At this point minor maintenance would likely be conducted if required, and if enough discrepancies are noted it is likely that a different set of components would be removed from storage. Lastly, the components would be sent to the rail transfer point for transport.

The critical nodes for the Ulan-Ude SAM garrison are the main garrison complex and the rail transfer point. Eliminating the garrison complex itself removes the potential threat psoed by the garrisoned components, while eliminating the rail transfer point would make dispersal a far more time-consuming and tedious process. The WSA is not necessarily a critical node as there are sufficient holdings of missile rounds throughout the region and the nation to make up for any loss. Similarly, the power substation is not a critical node as its destruction would not cause any appreciable loss of ability to disperse equipment. The portable generators possessed by each individual battery could be used to power components for checkout.


The following intelligence gaps exist in the analysis of the Ulan-Ude SAM garrison complex:

1. The power station servicing the complex through the Onokhoy substation has not been identified.

2. Communications systems and facilities serving the complex have not been identified.

3. The source of potable water for the facility has not been identified.


-Satellite imagery provided courtesy of Google Earth

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Site Analysis: New Stuff Coming Soon

Some of you might have noticed that this week's feature is scheduled to be on the Ulan-ude SAM garrison. Now, I know what you might be thinking: "Sean, what the hell, that's called an Image of the Week." Not so! This is going to be the first of a new type of feature I intend to do on a relatively regular basis called a Site Analysis. It'll be similar to the SAM Site Analysis pieces, or the look at the Iranian missile silos in Tabriz. Basically I'll be analyzing a military facility, describing the layout, the major features, any identifiable equipment, etc. Why did I pick Ulan-ude to start with? OK, you got me there: I'm cheating, it's a big SAM garrison with a lot of stuff that's easy for me to ID. It makes a relatively benign way to begin a new "series" of articles, letting me tinker around with the layout and the overall format without having to expend too much brainpower on the actual analysis. What this also means is that Site Analysis topics are now fair game for you to suggest as future topics for inclusion into the monthly schedule. So, that's what that is all about. Look for the first Site Analysis on the Ulan-ude SAM garrison later this week!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Saudi to Israel: Clear for takeoff?

One of the big stories that seems to have gone relatively quietly into the abyss this week is the fact that Saudi Arabia has apparently given Israel overflight clearance to strike Iranian targets believed to be involved in the development of nuclear weapons. Reports state that Saudi Arabia has even exercised the standing down of air defense units along its northern border to ensure that Israeli aircraft are able to pass through the region unmolested. Of course, Saudi Arabia has been quick to deny the reports, but their denials weren't all that convincing.

OK, since Israel seems hell-bent on blowing up whatever facilities they think are involved, even though the Western world has never actually proven that Iran is developing nuclear weapons (after all, such weapons are clearly meant to only be possessed by non-Muslim people in the Middle East, or at least that's the way they're being treated), I thought it might be interesting to analyze some of the potential factors related to such a strike.

Point 1: Iran will have to rely heavily on its fighter force to defend itself. Apart from the Tor-M1E (SA-15 GAUNTLET) TELARs sighted near Natanz, Iran lacks any credible SAM defenses capable of deterring a modern fighting force. That puts the onus on the Iranian Air Force to prove that it can defeat what Israel throws at it. Saudi Arabia may have already given Iran an unintentional (or intentional? That'd be amusing to consider...) signal as to when to expect such a strike: all they have to do is monitor the status of Saudi Arabia's air defense network. Bottom line: if you know its coming and you still can't stop it, you may need to reconsider a few things. Like, I don't know, buying Su-30s or J-10s instead of acting like the world's aeronautical laughingstock sticking twin tails on an F-5.

Point 2: One of the purported targets for Israeli fighters is the Bushehr reactor complex. Now, I'm not entirely sure of what they'd hit it with, or how much material is inside, but it seems to me like bombing a nuclear reactor sitting right on the Persian Gulf is a relatively stupid idea. There is a risk for contamination if it isn't done exactly right. That could make gas prices shoot into the stratosphere quicker than a SPRINT ABM (which is pretty damn fast for those of you wondering what the hell that thing is).

Point 3: Speaking of gas prices, if I'm Iran, I've got teams ready to mine the Strait of Hormuz the minute the first bomb hits. The point here is that anyone who thinks Iran is going to sit idly buy and get bombed is delusional. Yes, their air defense network doesn't really scare anyone, but you can bet they'll lash out in all kinds of interesting ways, most of which will probably have a negative impact on the price of gas. Israel gets away with a lot of stuff on the international stage, like pretending to be a US ally while shipping arms to China, but if they are perceived as the reason why people are getting hammered at the pump they might find themselves with fewer friends for a while. There's also the missile force to consider: a possible Iranian response would be to salvo a ton of ballistic missiles at Israel.

Point 4: This has the potential to backfire in epic fashion. I can think of two obvious ways in which this could explode in Israel's face. First off, let's say they aren't completely successful. Jets are shot down. Pilots are captured. Talk about a propaganda boon aircraft fragments bearing the Star of David paraded through Tehran would be for the extremist elements in Iran and the rest of the Middle East. Secondly, some of the potential targets might be hardened, but they aren't necessarily isolated hundreds of miles from civilization. When Iran and Israel bombed Iraq's reactor complex in 1980-81 (pretty ironic, huh), the site wasn't active. Iran's facilities are all believed to be active. This could possibly result in the spread of radioactive material after an attack. So, say Israel blows up all of the sites it wants to blow up, but then a lot of material gets spread around as a result. Does Israel really want to have to deal with the political fallout from that scenario?

Point 5: This could also explode in Iran's face in just as epic a fashion. Ahmadinejad talks a big game, but what happens to the way Iran, particularly its military capability, is perceived if Israel just flys in there and blows stuff up? "We will defeat any aggressors...we are ready to defend..."...yeah, but what if the Israelis prove that you can't, and you weren't? Then what?

Nobody really knows what's going on in Iran. Nobody really knows if Saudi Arabia will actually let the Israelis fly over to blow stuff up, although it certainly seems that way regardless of any political "denials". What we can state is that any military action is going to have some significant effects on that part of the world. Iran may have no choice militarily but to pretty much sit there and take it, but they won't sit there sulking after the bombs stop dropping.

Now, somebody who knows more about such things than I do chime in and tell me if blowing up all of these nuclear-related sites could actually spread nasty things around in Iran and into the Persian Gulf. Because at the end of the day, it would seem to me that mining the Persian Gulf or playing terrorist could turn out to be the least of the region's problems after this type of airstrike.

And why the hell doesn't Iran just leave the NPT and the UN and give everyone the finger anyway? Then they legally can do whatever they want with nuclear weapons, and it makes military action a lot tougher to justify.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Strat SAM Network Menu

I've modified the Strategic SAM Network menu on the right of the page. You'll now see both the country name and the current as of date. For example, I just posted the North Korea feature, so you'll see North Korea (June 2010) in the menu. That will tell you if the feature has been published or updated recently. If you're looking for a more accurate picture and the feature hasn't been updated in a while, as is the case with China, Russia, and Taiwan, you should rely on what's in the SAM Site Overview .kml file. That will always remain relatively current as it is updated the first week of every month.

The North Korean SAM Network


The Democratic People's Republic of Korea fields one of the most capable third-world strategic SAM networks on paper. However, despite the high concentration of strategic SAM batteries and EW sites, there are significant issues in the network which need to be addressed in the near future. If these issues are ignored, the DPRK will be placing itself at risk.


The DPRK's strategic SAM assets are subordinate to the Air Force. The Air Force operates a variety of Soviet-era equipment. The following strategic SAM systems are currently in service: S-75 (SA-2 GUIDELINE), S-125 (SA-3 GOA), and S-200 (SA-5 GAMMON).

EW Coverage

Thirty three active and one inactive EW sites provide the DPRK with early warning radar coverage, used for SAM system target acquisition and track handoff, and GCI control of fighter units. These EW sites are primarily consolidated in the southern half of the nation, providing substantial coverage of the capital and the DMZ. Identified EW radars operating in the DPRK are predominately Soviet-era systems, although the presence of a JY-8 (WALL RUST) radar indicates that Chinese hardware is also in use. How well the Chinese system integrates with the rest of the FSU-era equipment is not known, but it is potentially not a problem given that China operates a number of Soviet and Russian systems. The following systems have been identified in available imagery:

P-12/18 (SPOON REST)
P-35/37 (BAR LOCK)

The US DoD reports that the following radars are also in service, but they have not been identified in available imagery at this time:


The following image depicts the locations of identified EW radar sites in the DPRK:
The following image depicts a notional DPRK EW site. Most EW sites appear to be host to a single example of one radar type, in this case a P-14. Other radars, especially smaller units such as those of the P-12/18 series, may be present but not visible in available imagery. Alternatively, they may be held in reserve to expand the network when required, or may simply not be discovered yet. AAA sites, such as the battery seen here, are common at both EW and SAM sites to provide additional defense.
Interestingly, the only strategic SAM system which appears to possess an organic EW system is the S-200, with each battery containing a P-14 radar. The S-75 and S-125 batteries do not appear to field any organic EW elements, in which case they must rely on either the external network or the limited functionality of their engagement radars to provide target acquisition and track generation. It is possible that these SAM batteries do contain EW elements, but that they have not been located or are not visible in available imagery.

A further EW system available to the DPRK is the Ramona passive detection system. The advantage to the Ramona is that it does not radiate, allowing it to be relocated to complicate targeting with considerably more ease than a strategic SAM battery. The Ramona system has not been located in available imagery, but is believed to be a leftover Soviet system, emplaced and operated by the USSR.

SAM Coverage

There are currently fifty eight active strategic SAM sites located in the DPRK. The following image depicts the locations of these sites. S-75 sites are red, S-125 sites are light blue, and S-200 sites are purple. As can be seen, the overwhelming majority of the deployed strategic SAM assets are located along the DMZ and the coasts.
The following image depicts the overall SAM coverage provided by the identified DPRK strategic SAM sites. Using the same color scheme applied previously, SA-2 zones are red, S-125 zones are light blue, and S-200 zones are purple.
The S-75

There are currently forty six active S-75 sites inside of the DPRK, constituting the bulk of the strategic SAM force. According to SIPRI, a total of 45 S-75 Dvina systems were delivered to the DPRK from the USSR. 15 batteries were supplied between 1962 and 1964, with the remaining 30 batteries being supplied between 1966 and 1971. A total of 1950 missiles were reportedly supplied to arm the batteries. S-75 batteries are deployed to provide barrier air defense of the DPRK's coastlines and the DMZ, as well as coverage of the bulk of the DPRK's interior.

The following image depicts the coverage provided by the DPRK's active S-75 batteries:
The S-125

There are currently ten active S-125 sites inside of the DPRK. Seven batteries are positioned to defend the capital of Pyongyang, with the other three situated to defend the nuclear research center at Yongbyon. The DPRK operates the S-125M Neva-M variant, with SIPRI reporting that eight batteries were supplied between 1985 and 1986.

The following image depicts the coverage provided by the DPRK's active S-125 batteries:
Seven of the deployed S-125 batteries, six around Pyongyang and one near Yongbyon, are situated at sophisticated hardened facilities. These hardened sites contain three launch revetments for 5P73 4-rail launchers and a radar position for the RSN-125 (LOW BLOW) engagement radar. The launchers can be retracted into bunkers when not in use. Similarly, the engagement radar can be lowered into a bunker and protected by a retractable cover, which splits in half and slides open when the radar is exposed.

A hardened S-125 site near Pyongyang can be seen in the image below:
The S-200

There are currently two active S-200 sites inside of the DPRK. These sites are placed near the east and west coasts in the southern portion of the nation, allowing them to range far offshore and deep into the ROK. The S-200 represents the longest-range strategic SAM system in the DPRK's arsenal. Four S-200 batteries were supplied to the DPRK between 1987 and 1988, and two batteries are likely co-located at each location.

The following image depicts the coverage provided by the DPRK's active S-200 batteries:
As with the S-125, the DPRK employs hardened facilities for the S-200. Elevators are provided for the two 5N62 (SQUARE PAIR) engagement radars at each location allowing them to be stowed undergroudn when not in use, and hardened bunkers are provided for the 5P72 launch rails.

Inactive Sites

There are currently twenty nine identified inactive strategic SAM sites located in the DPRK. There are twenty seven S-75 sites and two S-125 sites. The bulk of these sites are located in the vicinity of Pyongyang. As such, they may represent facilities available for bolstering capital area air defenses during a time of conflict. They may also be employed as relocation facilities, complicating targeting of active batteries. Some inactive locations, notably those near the northwest border with China and near Kuum-ni on the northeastern coast, are situated in coverage gaps in the SAM network, suggesting that they may have been labeled as inactive when last imaged due to their assets being relocated for training or maintenance purposes.

The following image depicts the locations of inactive strategic SAM sites located in the DPRK:
Support Facilities

Interestingly, there are no identified support facilities related to the strategic SAM force in the DPRK. Given that the DPRK employs a great deal of hardened and underground facilities, this is not necessarily suprising. Many of these facilities are identified in other nations due to the identifiable presence of SAM components in imagery. If these facilities are kept hidden in the DPRK, then their identification would be extremely difficult. However, it should be assumed that such facilities do exist, even if they have not yet been located or conclusively identified. These facilities would provide maintenance functions, store missile reloads, and garrison surplus equipment for future deployment.


The DPRK appears to possess an intelligently designed, layered air defense network at first glance. S-75 sites are positioned to provide barrier air defense of the coastal and southern border regions, with the remaining S-75 and S-125 batteries bolstering inland defenses and protecting critical locations.

S-200 Coverage

Long-range air defense is provided by the DPRK's S-200 batteries. The S-200 is a significant threat to ISR and support aircraft operating in the theater, such as the USAF's U-2R based out of Osan AB in the ROK. The location and range of the S-200 would hold any such cooperative target at risk shortly following takeoff from most of the airfields in the ROK. Ergo, while the S-200 is not a serious threat to any non-cooperative, maneuverable targets such as fighter aircraft, it represents a significant problem for any potential aggressor.

Border Coverage

Many of the DPRK's S-75 batteries are positioned along the coastline and along the DMZ. These systems are placed to provide barrier air defense to deter any foreign intrusion into the DPRK's airspace. The majority of these systems are positioned to provide overlapping fields of fire to strengthen air defenses in these areas. The northern border with China and the northeastern border with Russia are left undefended, likely due to the DPRK not anticipating that either nation would be a party to hostilities against it.

Inland Coverage

The wide-ranging deployment of military facilities in the central part of the nation has precipitated the siting of S-75 and S-125 batteries to protect much of the DPRK's interior. S-125 batteries are specifically sited to protect two areas, Pyongyang and Yongbyon.

Air defense facilities and coverage zones near the capital of Pyongyang can be seen in the image below:
Air defense facilities and coverage zones near the Yongbyon nuclear research complex can be seen in the image below:
Interestingly, one location left udnefended is the underground nuclear test facility in the northeast. This may be due to the fact that if air defenses are present, analysts will assume that there is something there worth protecting. Similarly, the DPRK's rocket test sites at Musudan-ri and Changya-dong are also currently unprotected.

Denial and Deception Efforts

It is possible that many of the sites identified as active are not in fact legitimate SAM sites. With a number of camoflaged and underground facilities, the DPRK is clearly aware of the concept of denial and deception. Such practices may be in place in the strategic SAM network.

Consider the figures. It is reported that forty five S-75 batteries have been delivered, but forty six sites have been identified as operational. Many of these sites do not use traditional FSU site layouts, and are partially obscured by trees and other vegetation. The same numerical discrepancy exists in the S-125 force, with ten sites appearing active but only eight batteries reportedly being delivered. In addition, seven of the S-125 batteries have been provided with hardened facilities, begging the question of why the others have not. It is possible that the active S-125 batteries found at non-hardened facilities are in fact decoy sites. However, there is not sufficient evidence to conclusively prove this one way or the other.

The simplest method available to prove if a site is active or a decoy outside of having a personal ELINT system is to examine the imagery for the associated cable connections and other typical equipment found at active batteries. However, due to the aforementioned vegetation, many of these sites cannot be examined in this fashion. As such, if they contain what appears to be active equipment, they are assumed to be active batteries.

One mock S-125 site has been identified conclusively. This site, seen in the image below, contains a radar mockup and three launcher mockups. Note the southernmost launcher mockup. This launcher is clearly a mockup, having only two widely separated launch rails which are not parallel. Were this an actual 5P73 launcher, there would be four perfectly parallel rails. The imagery is of sufficient quality to discern that there are in fact only two rails. The spacing of the rails also indicates that this is not a 5P71 two-rail launcher. Further evidence of this site's true nature is found in the lack of any support equipment. None of the command and control vans are present, which would render this site unuseable even if it were fitted with operational equipment.
Air Defense Issues

The primary issue facing the DPRK's air defense network is one of age. While the equipment may still be serviceable, none of it is a major threat to a modern air arm. The DPRK desperately needs an infusion of modern air defense systems if it is to remain viable in the 21st Century.

The S-75 and S-125 have been faced multiple times by modern air arms since 1990 and have consistently been defeated by current tactics and electronic warfare techniques and systems. Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yugoslavia all possessed these systems and they were all defeated. The main victory claimed by these systems was the downing of an F-117A by a Yugoslavian S-125 battery in 1999, but this was due more to excellent intelligence support (they knew the F-117's route and whatever idiot planner was responsible used the same flight path over and over), outstanding site discipline (the site did not often radiate to give its position away), and the addition of an optical tracking system than the actual effectiveness of the system. In a conceivable conflict the DPRK would be facing American and ROK aircraft, and the USAF has exploited the S-75 and S-125 for decades. The S-200 may be marginally more credible as a threat, but as mentioned before it is only a significant threat to a cooperative (i.e. nonmaneuverable and slow) target. It has also been physically exploited based on the presence of equipment at the Tolicha Peak Electronic Combat Range, but it is not known when this was acquired, meaning that the DPRK may have a more recent iteration of the system with a few tricks up its sleeve that remain undocumented. Given American reliance on ISR and IFR platforms during wartime air operations, it is likely that the S-200 batteries would be struck during the opening salvo of any conflict.

The other major obstacle to the DPRK's strategic SAM force is terrain. Much of the terrain in the DPRK is very varied, including that near the DMZ. Even a height difference of a few hundred feet can produce an exploitable blind zone in a SAM battery's coverage. More critically, many of the S-75 batteries along the DMZ are placed in positions of lower altitude than the surrounding terrain, restricting the fields of view of the SAM batteries. This is a significant error in the placement of these systems, as it denys them the ability to function to their maximum degree of effectiveness. The hardened S-125 and S-200 batteries were placed more logically at higher elevations than surrounding terrain, allowing them greater freedom of operation.

One further issue to address is the overreliance on AAA and MANPADS' in the DPRK. The DPRK possesses some of the highest AAA concentrations in the world. The general cocnept is that combat aircraft will fly at lower altitudes to more easily evade SAM batteries, making them susceptible to AAA or MANPADS'. What the DPRK has overlooked is the fact that its SAM defenses are inadequate in light of current ECM and SEAD systems, allowing combat aircraft to fly at higher altitudes to avoid the bulk of the AAA and the entirety of the MANPADS threat. AAA is comparatively cheap and can be very effective in the right environment, but the DPRK seems to have seriously erred in its judgement.


The DPRK is the new Iraq. During the lead-up to Operation DESERT STORM, the Iraqi air defense network was often described as being one of the world's most capable. This turned out to be an erroneous description, based in part due to Iraq's overreliance on dated technology and weapon systems. The same problems which plagued Iraq's air defense network in 1991 are evident in North Korea's current network, and must be rectified if the DPRK intends to field any sort of credible air defense in the 21st Century.


-The aforementioned data is based on analysis of the available open-source satellite imagery of North Korea and may therefore not represent the entire air defense network.

-Satellite imagery provided courtesy of Google Earth

Ramona in the DPRK

North Korea Country Handbook, US DoD, 1997