Tag Archives: democratic people’s republic of korea

The South Korean Order of Battle

South Korean Marines

This is the second of a two part series on military forces on the Korean Peninsula and supplemental articles on the crisis on the Korean Peninsula. The First, the North Korean Order of Battle https://padresteve.wordpress.com/2010/05/27/the-north-korean-order-of-battle/ compliments this article.  Peace, Padre Steve+

The Republic of Korea has a robust military.  It is well trained and equipped but only about half the size of the military of its rival the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). It is composed of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.  It is equipped with indigenously produced equipment as well as that purchased from the United States and other countries. It has deployed troops to Iraq, Afghanistan as well as Vietnam and the Gulf War.

The biggest component of the South Korean military is the Army which is composed of 522,000 soldiers organized into a Missile Command, Special Forces, aviation, logistics and training branches and a Capitol Defense Command.  The Army is composed of 30 Infantry and 5 Mechanized divisions, 4 Armored Brigades, 7 Special Operations Brigades (Airborne), 2 Special Assault Brigades and 6 Special Assault Regiments as well as a host of artillery, engineer, aviation, air defense, chemical, security and logistics commands of various sizes.

K1A1 Main Battle Tank

The Army has over 2500 tanks, 1500 of which are the K-1 and K-1A main battle tanks which were developed from the U.S. Army XM-1, M1, M1A1 and M1A2.  These are supplemented by 880 M-48 Patton Tanks. The Army also is well equipped with over 500 K-9 Self-Propelled 155mm Howitzer systems and about 1000 K55 155mm Self Propelled Howitzers based on the U.S. M109 series.  The Army uses about 2200 of the indigenously produced K200 Infantry Fighting Vehicles which are being supplemented with the first production batch of 466 K21 Infantry Fighting Vehicles. Its Aviation branch operates 600 helicopters.

K-9 155mm Howitzer

The ROK Marine Corps is a semi-autonomous branch of the Navy and is composed of 2 Marine Divisions and a Marine Brigade with strength of 27,000 Marines.  Like the U.S. Marine Corps the ROK Marine Corps has an amphibious mission and is similarly equipped with Amphibious Assault Vehicles, Tanks, and Artillery and Reconnaissance vehicles.  The 6th Marine Brigade garrisons the Islands in the West, or Yellow Sea and was involved in the most recent clash on Yeonpyeong Island.

The ROK Navy has 9 very modern destroyers including 2 ships equipped with the Aegis Air Defense System and 9 Frigates of the Ulsan Class. It has 12 German designed S209 and S214 class Submarines with 12 more of the later building or planned.  The Navy operates about 130 other ships or craft including  23 Corvettes and 73 patrol craft. The Corvette Cheonan was sunk in March by a North Korean torpedo likely fired by a midget submarine.  It also has a robust amphibious capability recently fielding the LPH Dokdo a 14,000 ton helicopter assault ship.  It operates about 10 ASW Aircraft and 50 helicopters.

Dokdo LPH

As of 2008 the ROK Air force operated more than 180 KF-16, 174 F-5E/F, 130 F-4D/E, 39 F-15K fighter jets or fighter bombers. They are also pending the delivery of 21 additional F-15Ks between 2010 and 2012.  The bulk of the Air Force, 6 fighter wings is under command of the Northern Combat Command.

Supplementing the ROK forces at U.S. Forces Korea which include the ground forces of the 8th Army, now consisting of the 2nd Infantry Division (FWD) composed of 1st Heavy Combat Brigade Team, 201st Fires Brigade and 2nd Combat Aviation Brigade and supporting units.  Reinforcements can be drawn from I Corps at Ft Lewis Washington and units of the 2nd and 25th Infantry Divisions.

The 7th Air Force which has 2 Fighter Wings composed of F-16, F-15 fighters and A-10 ground attack aircraft as well as supporting ground units. .  In theater Air Force assets can be reinforced by wings and squadrons from U.S. Air Force Pacific which include the latest F-22 Raptors and other attack and bombing units.  Additionally units of the Strategic Air Command using B-52 and B-2 bombers can be employed.

The U.S. Navy 7th Fleet based in Japan contributes the USS George Washington (CVN 73) and the embarked Carrier Air Wing Five (CVW-5) Surface Combatant Force Seventh Fleet (or Task Force 75) comprised of Aegis Cruisers USS Shiloh (CG 67), USS Cowpens (CG 63) and the seven assigned ships of Destroyer Squadron Fifteen (CDS-15) complete the surface combatant forces.  Submarine Group 7 based in Guam composed of USS Buffalo (SSN 715), USS City of Corpus Christi (SSN 705) and USS Houston (SSN 713) supported by the Submarine Tender USS Frank Cable (AS 40) reinforced by USS Ohio (SSGN-726) and USS Michigan (SSGN-727) both Home-ported Bangor, Washington provide both ASW capability against DPRK Submarine Forces as well as attack and guided missile attack capabilities using Harpoon and Tomahawk Submarine Launched Guided Missiles. Amphibious forces include the Sasebo based USS Essex (LHD-2), USS Denver (LPD-9), USS Harpers Ferry (LSD-49) and USS Tortuga (LSD-46) which typically embark the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.  Mine Warfare forces include the USS Avenger (MCM-1), USS Defender (MCM-2), USS Guardian (MCM-5) and USS Patriot (MCM-7).  All can be reinforced by elements of the West Coast and Hawaii based 3td Fleet. Marine Forces of the III Marine Expeditionary Force based in Okinawa and Mainland Japan composed of 3rd Marine Division, 1st Marine Air Wing and 3rd Marine Logistics Group provide a potent expeditionary force in readiness to support any contingency on the Korea Peninsula.

While the ROK and US Forces undoubtedly would control the air and the sea North Korean ground forces mostly based on the border could launch a devastating artillery and missile attack on the South Korean Capital, Seoul and their large number of special operations forces could make ground operations more difficult despite the qualitative superiority of ROK and ground US Forces.  North Korea does have the capability to spread the war to Japan which could contribute its air, naval and potentially ground forces to any conflict. United Nations Forces could be added to the allied order of battle.


Filed under Foreign Policy, Military, national security

The North Korean Order of Battle

This article is a follow up to my article about the sinking of the South Korean Navy Corvette Cheonan and the subsequent developments on the peninsula. With North Korea continually raising the rhetoric following its sinking of the Cheonan on March 26th it is important that people in the United States know what this tiny, poor, aggressive, paranoid and mysterious, yet militarily savvy nation has in its arsenal and what its goals in a renewal of hostilities against the South and US Forces in Korea might look like. I will publish articles on basic North Korean plans and war aims, Special Weapons, and ROK/US Forces and plans in the next few days. All are from unclassified sources. Since this was originally posted the situation has continued to deteriorate and I have published an article entitled The South Korean Order of Battle



DPRK Forces are large, well trained in military tactics and political ideology

The according to the Library of Congress and unclassified Central Intelligence Agency estimates the make-up of the military forces of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is listed below:

Total Population: 23,479,088 [2008]
Population Available: 12,414,017 [2008]
Fit for Military Service: 10,280,687 [2008]
Reaching Military Age Annually: 392,016 [2008]
Active Military Personnel: 1,170,000 [2008]
Active Military Reserve: 4,700,000 [2008]
Active Paramilitary Units: 189,000 [2008]

Total Land-Based Weapons: 16,400
Tanks: 3,500 [2006]
Armored Personnel Carriers: 2,500 [2006]
Towed Artillery: 3,500 [2006]
Self-Propelled Guns: 4,400 [2006]
Multiple Rocket Launch Systems: 2,500 [2006]
Mortars: 7,500 [2006]
Anti-Aircraft Weapons: 11,000 [2006]

Total Navy Ships: 708
Merchant Marine Strength: 167 [2008]
Major Ports and Harbors: 12
Aircraft Carriers: 0 [2008]
Destroyers: 0 [2008]
Submarines: 97 [2008]
Frigates: 3 [2006]
Patrol & Coastal Craft: 492 [2006]
Mine Warfare Craft: 23 [2006]
Amphibious Craft: 140 [2006]

Total Aircraft: 1,778 [2006]
Helicopters: 612 [2006]
Serviceable Airports: 77 [2007]

Defense Budget: $5,500,000,000 [2005]
Purchasing Power: $40,000,000,000 [2007]

Oil Production: 141 bbl/day [2005]
Oil Consumption: 10,520 bbl/day [2006]

Labor Force: 20,000,000 [2004]
Roadways: 25,554 km
Railways: 5,235 km

Waterways: 2,250 km
Coastline: 2,495 km
Square Land Area: 120,540 km

The Same sources provide this data for South Korea

Total Population: 48,379,392 [2008]
Population Available: 26,721,668 [2008]
Fit for Military Service: 21,966,367 [2008]
Reaching Military Age Annually: 696,516 [2008]
Active Military Personnel: 687,000 [2008]
Active Military Reserve: 4,500,000 [2008]
Active Paramilitary Units: 22,000 [2008]

Total Land-Based Weapons: 8,325
Tanks: 1,060 [2004]
Armored Personnel Carriers: 2,480 [2004]
Towed Artillery: 4,000 [2004]
Self-Propelled Guns: 500 [2004]
Multiple Rocket Launch Systems: 185 [2004]
Mortars: 6,000 [2004]
Anti-Tank Guided Weapons: 58 [2004]
Anti-Aircraft Weapons: 1,692 [2004]

Total Navy Ships: 85
Merchant Marine Strength: 812 [2008]
Major Ports and Harbors: 4
Aircraft Carriers: 0 [2008]
Destroyers: 6 [2004]
Submarines: 20 [2004]
Frigates: 9 [2004]
Patrol & Coastal Craft: 75 [2004]
Mine Warfare Craft: 15 [2004]
Amphibious Craft: 28 [2004]

Total Aircraft: 538 [2004]
Helicopters: 502 [2004]
Serviceable Airports: 150 [2007]

Defense Budget: $25,500,000,000 [2007]
Foreign Exch. & Gold: $262,200,000,000 [2007]
Purchasing Power: $1,206,000,000,000 [2007]

Oil Production: 17,050 bbl/day [2005]
Oil Consumption: 2,130,000 bbl/day [2006]
Proven Oil Reserves: 0 bbl [2006]

Labor Force: 24,220,000 [2007]
Roadways: 102,062 km
Railways: 3,472 km

Waterways: 1,608 km
Coastline: 2,413 km
Square Land Area: 98,480 km

According to the National Intelligence Service (NIS) of the Republic of Korea (ROK) the balance of forces between the South and the North is listed below.

Ground Forces

North Korea possesses a total of 996,000 ground forces in twenty corps units (12 infantry, 4 mechanized, 2 artillery) plus a light Special Forces command, which oversees special warfare units.

Its heavy equipment consists of 3800 tanks (T-55, T-62, T-72, light tanks), 2270 armored personnel carriers, and 11200 pieces of field artillery, with a major percentage self-propelled for purposes of speedy artillery support. The units are geared for mechanized warfare reminiscent of the Nazi blitzkrieg.

Last but not least, 100,000 Special Forces troopers stand ready to engage in sabotage behind the lines, sowing confusion and turning the whole ROK into a battlefield.


Yono Class Midget Sub

The DPRK Navy is divided into East Sea (10 squadrons) and West Sea fleets (6 squadrons) with a total manpower of 48,000.

North Korea’s fleet consist of approximately 430 combat vessels (Patrol craft, guided missile boats, torpedo boats, fire support craft), 40 submarines (15 midgets), and 340 support craft (landing craft, hovercraft). Like the ground forces 60% of the vessels are stationed near the demarcation line.

North Korea has constructed and is operating up to 130 hovercraft, each one capable of transporting a special forces platoon and operating freely in difficult terrain such as tidal flats, and able to be used for multiple landings by special forces troops at the onset of the war.

Air Force

The air force has a total of six divisions (103,000); 3 for combat (fighter/bomber regiments), 2 for transport and helicopter, and one devoted exclusively for training.

Most of the 1670 aircraft are obsolete, with only sixty modern aircraft (MiG-23, 29). The mainstays consist of 470 old Soviet aircraft (MiG-19, MiG-21, IL-28, SU-7, SU-25) and 320 of ancient type (MiG-15, MiG-17). But it does possess a whopping 820 support aircraft and helicopters.

The aircraft that causes the most concern is the 300 AN-2, flying at 100 mph at low altitudes, that makes detection by radar very difficult, and its transport of Special Forces troopers deep behind the lines is a very definite threat.

The NIS provides the following comparison between the forces of the two Koreas.

ROK (South Korea)       DPRK (North Korea)

Ground forces
Air Force
Combat vessels
Support vessels
Combat aircraft
Support aircraft

North Korea’s regular army consists of 4 corps in the front area, 8 corps in the rear area, one tank corps, 5 armored corps, 2 artillery corps, and 1 corps for the defense of Pyongyang, a total of over 80 divisions and Brigades. Almost all of these forces are based near the DMZ and require little time to be ready for an offensive. In fact because the North Koreans maintains these forces on a continuous state of alert there will likely be little appreciable warning before a commencement of hostilities.

DPRK Special Operations equipment, the SILC Submersible Landing Craft, a Mini-Sub captured in 1996 while attmptign to land commandos in the South and the AN-2 Colt transport aircraft

North Korea has approximately 120,000 troops assigned its Special Forces, the largest Special Forces organization in the world. The Special Forces of the DPRK are grouped into 25 brigades of various types to include light infantry, attack, airborne, and sea-born commando units. They have the support of the Navy and Air Force and use high speed hovercraft and other fast maritime craft, miniature submarines and the AN-2 “Colt” which can transport a squad of soldiers and is virtually undetectable to radar.  These troops will be tasked to open a “2nd Front” by attacking US military installations in Korea, Japan, Okinawa and Guam as well as by disrupting South Korean headquarters, logistics centers, communications facilities, media outlets and government agencies in particular targeting members of the National Command Authority.

The Korean Peninsula is rugged and crisscrossed with numerous streams and rivers.  The climate is difficult hot summers and very cold winters.  The one time that the North has invaded the South it did so in the summer, June 25th 1950.

To be continued….


Filed under Foreign Policy, Military, national security