North Korea is turning hundreds of Soviet-origin MiG fighter jets into kamikaze drones as part of a military modernization project.
The repurposing involves arming them with precision-guided munitions, The Korea Times revealed, citing a former South Korean intelligence official.
The suicide drones are intended for strikes against South Korean industrial and infrastructure targets, the outlet added.
Over 400 MiGs Available
North Korea has a total of 465 fighter jets, including 431 MiGs, according to defense analyst, founder, and president of the Korea Military Network Shin In-kyun.
These include 107 MiG-17s, 100 MiG-19s, 150 MiG-21s, 56 MiG-23s, and 18 MiG-29s.
Terming the revelation plausible, a senior research analyst at the Korea Institute of Military Affairs, retired South Korean Air Force Col. Hong Sung-Pyo told The Korea Times that “the South Korean military has been preparing for this kind of military threat for a long time.”
Remote Autopilot System
Sung-pyo said that Pyongyang operated a similar remote autopilot system (RAS) in the 1980s and is probably capable of producing, operating, and maintaining the suicide drones.
Much larger than most current UAVs, the RAS was used as an aerial target to test air-to-air missiles.
“Fighter jets take them into the air and let them fly. They are used as targets and the fighter jets shoot them down to test their missiles,” Sung-Pyo added.
North Korea’s US Drone Lookalikes
He also cautioned against dismissing the capabilities of the recently unveiled North Korean UAVs, which resemble US-made MQ-9 Reaper and RQ-4 Global Hawk drones.
“We saw North Korea’s Global Hawk copycat drone which was unveiled at the July 27 military parade,” the retired air force officer said.
“Some say the unmanned drone looks like a Global Hawk, but its capabilities are questionable. But I think North Korea’s drone is more advanced than it is depicted in the media.”
North Korea’s Drone Incursion
Pyongyang demonstrated its unmanned aerial capability late last year when several North Korean military drones penetrated South Korea’s airspace around the capital Seoul.
The incursion caused chaos in the capital, including the suspension of flights at Gimpo and Incheon international airports for an hour, prompting the South to fire warning shots and deploy fighter jets.
President Urges Preparedness
Meanwhile, the South Korean president urged the military leadership to prepare for a possible attack against the country’s infrastructure in the event of war.
“In the event of war, North Korea will try to destroy South Korea’s infrastructure and major facilities to paralyze its system,” The Korea Times quoted President Yoon Suk-Yeol as saying at a recent cabinet meeting.
“In case these facilities are destroyed, South Korea’s wartime military capabilities will be severely weakened, which will consequently cause harm to our citizens,” he said.
“Therefore, we need to dramatically upgrade the system to protect our major national facilities from various types of North Korean attacks.”