Thursday, March 21, 2013

N Korean MiG-21s display readiness; but also tells another story

North Korea's propaganda machine has been stepping it up a notch or two over the past weeks, as the isolated Stalinist regime has come under further international sanctions following another nuclear test. There has been a noticeable upsurge in photos of the North's military in action during its winter drills released by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) over the past few weeks, including rare photos of the KPAF's MiG-21s operating from highways. These are two that we came across the past couple of weeks:

The above photo, released March 11 by KCNA, shows pilots in front of Korean People's Air Force (KPAF) MiG-21F-13/J-7s at an undisclosed base inside North Korea.

A KPAF MiG-21 (possibly a MiG-21PFM) takes off from a highway somewhere in North Korea as part of recent military preparedness drills watched over by North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (standing on the knoll in the background).

The photos also tell another story, and it's one that the North Korean regime wouldn't quite like to hear. The backbone of the KPAF fleet consists of MiG-21s, which in it's latest guise (excluding upgraded versions), is already an obsolete design harking back from the mid-1970s. Unfortunately for the North Koreans, these "3rd-generation" MiG-21s only comprise of a small part of its fleet, with the majority being the "2nd generation" MiG-21PFM or in the case of the first photo, the initial MiG-21F-13 variant or its Chinese copy, the J-7.

Stop for a moment and consider the fact that during the fierce air battles over North Vietnam in 1972, the MiG-21F-13 had already virtually disappeared from the North Vietnamese inventory while the MiG-21PFM, although numerically the most important type, was already beginning to be superseded by the more advanced MiG-21MF in the hands of North Vietnamese pilots. Also, pause to remember that this was more than 40(!) years ago and consider how far fighter technology has advanced since then.

This KCNA video segment below, showing the more MiG-21PFMs and the even older MiG-19/J-6, also illustrates the point. Bravado and martial music aside, it cannot be denied that the KPAF, aside from a handful of MiG-23s, MiG-29s and Su-25s, is woefully outmatched by its South Korean counterpart in terms of modern equipment.

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