With tensions between North Korea and the U.S., South Korea, and its allies at an all time high, and as the U.S. and South Korea execute combat drills, Pyongyang ordered its own military show of force. North Korea’s recent exercises included a massive artillery barrage and an amphibious assault near the maritime border between the two long time foes. Images released by state media shows North Korea’s modernized commando units going through their paces, but one picture was of especially unique interest.
The guys from The Drive have fully investigated possibilities of An-2 biplanes and their possible usage in Korean peninsula conflict, and it seems that the North Koreans are far more dangerous than they actually look alike. The post referring to the An-2 planes is written by Tyler Rogoway, and it is mostly included in this article.
The photo in question shows a gaggle of An-2 biplanes dropping North Korean commandos at low altitude. At first glance, it just looks like another canned and somewhat laughable military display by the North Koreas, but it’s actually relevant practice for what North Korea has planned for the opening hours of an all-out conflict on the peninsula.
During the dark of night, as part of the opening throws of a battle royale between South Korea, the U.S., and North Korea, hundreds of these old radial engine biplanes will fly low over the ground at slow speed, penetrating deep into South Korean airspace. For the vast majority of their crews, it will be a one-way mission—to deliver Kim Jong Un’s hardest shock troops deep behind enemy lines. This is done via low altitude air drop, as seen above, or by landing in short stretches of fields or roadways.
The missions of these North Korean suicide assault teams are many fold, but generally, they pertain to creating total havoc deep inside the South Korean territory. This includes attacking key infrastructure and military installations and generally sowing massive terror among the already frightened South Korean populace. This deep insertion tactic alone is one of the main reasons why installations like air bases in South Korea must be prepared for instant war, even on the foot soldier level.
The fact that North Korea is now a nuclear nation and seems to have at least a workable miniaturized warhead design means these biplanes pose an even greater risk than ever before—they could also become a non-traditional nuclear delivery system. It is just the unorthodox play that Pyongyang could use to take out major military installations or critical capabilities without using a ballistic missile.
It may seem downright laughable at first glance that North Korea would throw up antiquated agricultural/utility aircraft which were designed the better part of a century ago against the might of the USAF and ROKAF, but first glances can be very deceiving. The An-2 Colt is a fabric covered flying machine that is at home muscling through the sky at very low altitudes and slow airspeed. This translates into a small radar cross-section for its size, one that is hard to spot by fighters using their radars in look-down-shoot-down mode. Flying at low altitude means traditional surface-to-air missile systems will have a very hard time of detecting and engaging these aircraft as they plot along the south, hugging the terrain.
Once again, the mainstream media has been quick to disregard North Korea’s dated arsenal. This is the same reason why so many underestimated the country’s ability to field a nuclear weapon and long-range delivery system by the end of the decade.
The cold, hard truth is that the North Koreans aren’t stupid and their outlandish rhetoric and propaganda hide the existence of a much more logical and creative military apparatus than most would care to admit. Their seemingly innocuous fleet of AN-2 biplanes is just another reminder of this reality.