The naval inventory varies widely (see table 10, Appendix). North Korean surface combatants have dual missions of coastal defense and limited offensive missions under a "small navy" doctrine. Aside from special craft and submarines, most other North Korean naval vessels are small combatants; they include torpedo boats, patrol boats and ships, and fast attack craft.
North Korea has a variety of special craft. There are a number of steel-hulled high speed, semi-submersible infiltration craft, several of which have been engaged by South Korean naval forces during the 1970s and 1980s; one has been recovered. A class of air cushioned vehicles (ACVs) derived from technology most probably acquired from Britain also is believed dedicated to amphibious operations. These craft will be well suited to use on the mud flats, seasonal frozen coastal waters, and areas of great tidal variance prevalent along Korea's west coast. Hovercraft are credited with being able to carry about a platoon each. The extent and pace of the hovercraft production program is unknown but more than 100 vessels had been built by mid-1993. Reflecting Soviet influence, most surface craft and submarines are capable of laying mines, and some vessels probably are dedicated to mine detection and sweeping. Approximately twenty-three ships are dedicated to mine warfare.
In addition to conventional submarines, North Korea has between thirty and sixty minisubmarines in service. Details of the minisubmarine fleet are sketchy. North Korea apparently has acquired minisubmarine technology from both Yugoslavia and the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany). In the early 1970s, China helped North Korea start its own Romeo construction program, which produced new units into the early 1990s. The Romeo and Whiskey classes of conventional diesel-electric attack submarines employ technology, weapons, and sonar dating from the 1950s and 1960s. Their relatively high noise levels make them, by modern submarine standards, relatively easy to detect. This liability is mitigated to some degree by the South Korean navy's use of similar era systems for detection and attack.
Data as of June 1993
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