North Korea Holds Large Scale Artillery Drills

March 8, 2024 4:52 PM
North Korean artillery drills. KCNA Photos

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversaw large-scale firing drills on Thursday and called on his forces to further prepare for combat mobilization, reported North Korean state media on Friday.
“The drill started with the power demonstration firing of the long-range artillery sub-units near the border who have put the enemy’s capital in their striking range and are fulfilling important military missions for war deterrence,” reads a report in KCNA.

According to the report, Kim was satisfied that all the artillery units involved were fully ready for constant mobilization.

“He said that it is necessary to push forward more vigorously the work for making preparations for regular combat mobilization so that all the artillery sub-units can take the initiative with merciless and rapid strikes at the moment of their entry into an actual war,” reads the report.

No details were given as to the number of artillery systems involved or the actual location save for that took place near the North Korean border with South Korea. Images released of the drills showed them occurring in a coastal area, with more than 60 self-propelled howitzers (SPHs) and multiple launch rocket launchers (MRLs) conducting the drills. South Korean news service Yonhap reported the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said the live firing involved dozens of SPHs and MRLs aimed toward the Yellow Sea and occurred in an area around the western port city of Nampho from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Earlier on Wednesday, Kim visited a major operational training base in the western region of North Korea, where he toured the facilities and guided maneuvers there, according to a KCNA report. The North Korean leader called for “intensifying the practical actual-war drills ensuring the victory in a war,” stated the report

North Korea’s drills took place during the same time the United States and South Korea together with United Nations partners are in the midst of conducting the Freedom Shield 24 exercise, which began on Monday and ends on Mar. 14. Freedome Sheild is an annual exercise that “aims to build understanding between the Tri-Command and ROK Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), ensuring their ability to fortify the combined defense posture and enhance Alliance response capabilities against a spectrum of security threats,” according to a U.S. Forces Korea release

North Korea’s Ministry of National Defence on Monday had denounced the exercise in a statement to KCNA, for “for getting more undisguised in their military threat to a sovereign state.”

“The armed forces of the DPRK will continue to watch the adventurist acts of the enemies and conduct responsible military activities to strongly control the unstable security environment on the Korean peninsula,” read the statement, which concluded with warning that the U.S. and South Korea would pay a dear price for the drills.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) issued a release stating approval had been given for a possible foreign military sale of subsonic sea-skimming aerial targets to South Korea for its KDX-III Batch-II Aegis-class destroyers and related logistics and program support. The estimated cost is $170.6 million. The release also stated South Korea had requested to buy five BQM-177A Subsonic Sea-Skimming Aerial Targets (SSAT) for its KDX-III destroyers, and included in the package were GQM-163 target drones, classified books and other publications (technical and nontechnical), test support, technical documentation, personnel training, U.S. government and contractor engineering, technical, and logistics support services and other logistics and program support elements.

“The proposed sale will improve the Republic of Korea’s capability to meet current and future threats by performing Combat System Ship Qualification Trials (CSSQT) for its new KDX-III Batch-II AEGIS Class Destroyers. The KDX-III Batch-II CSSQT efforts will demonstrate the ship’s ability to safely and effectively launch and control weapons, demonstrate proper integrated hardware operation, demonstrate system performance based on key requirements, and provide realistic training for the shipboard anti-air warfare firing teams,” read the release. The proposed sale will support the foreign policy goals and national security objectives of the United States by improving the security of a major ally that is a force for political stability and economic progress in the Indo-Pacific region, according to the release, and that the sale will not alter the basic military balance in the region.

The principal contractor for the BQM-177A SSAT will be Kratos Defense, Sacramento, Calif., and Fort Walton Beach, Fla., while the principal contractor for the GQM-163A target drones will be Northrop Grumman, Chandler, Ariz., according to the release.

The KDX-III Batch-II destroyer class consists of three ships, with lead ship ROKS Jeongjo the Great (DDG-995) undergoing sea trials and expected to be handed over at the end of this year, while the second ship is under construction for delivery in 2026. The last ship is scheduled to be delivered in 2028.

Dzirhan Mahadzir

Dzirhan Mahadzir

Dzirhan Mahadzir is a freelance defense journalist and analyst based in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. Among the publications he has written for and currently writes for since 1998 includes Defence Review Asia, Jane’s Defence Weekly, Navy International, International Defence Review, Asian Defence Journal, Defence Helicopter, Asian Military Review and the Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter.

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