Last week, Kim and several other top North Korean officials “inspected a pursuit assault airwing group,” according to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
The planes were identified as MiG-29 fighter jets, and the location was noted by experts to be Sunchon Air Base.
Kim also inspected the air force’s Su-25 ground attack aircraft, which, like the MiG-29s, were built in the former Soviet Union. The country had 18 MiG-29s and 34 Su-25s at last count.
According to KCNA, the pilots put on an air show, engaging in simulated dogfights and even shooting down targets for the dignitaries. The outlet released some rare photos from the event that were re-shared on social media by Western observers.
International Institute for Strategic Studies analyst Joseph Dempsey noted that photos of Kim inspecting the aircraft on the tarmac gave the first confirmed evidence that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is arming its aircraft with Soviet-made Kh-29 air-to-surface missiles.
The Kh-29, referred to by NATO as the AS-14 “Kedge,” is very flexible in its use, capable of striking surface targets on land or sea up to 16 nautical miles away and guided by a variety of tracking devices.
From the foundation of the DPRK in 1948 until the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, the USSR was one of North Korea’s closest allies, supplying the fledgling socialist country with military equipment as well as industrial expertise.
Much of the DPRK’s more advanced military equipment dates to that era, when advanced jets like the MiG-29, designed to compete with the United States’ F-15 Eagle interceptors, were passed to Pyongyang for use.
The estimated size of North Korea’s air force is more than 110,000 personnel with a notional inventory of more than 400 fighter aircraft, 80 light bombers and more than 200 transport aircraft, according to the Military Balance+.
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK’s) ballistic-missile activities and its associated nuclear-weapons program remain a priority for the regime and those who closely watch the insular nation. Recently, however, the Korean People’s Air and Air-Defense Force (KPAF) has become a greater focus for the country’s leader Kim Jong-un.
Sputnik / ABC Flash Point News 2020.