The Advancement of North Korea’s Drone Technology
Exclusive Coverage by Defense Reporter Kim Tae-hoon
In the recent military parade in North Korea, one particular highlight stood out: a large, high-tech drone. This showcased the significant progress made in drone development. While our own advanced drones are nearing completion, we have yet to deploy them in actual combat.
The defense reporter Kim Tae-hoon was given exclusive access to cover this event.
A Glimpse of North Korea’s High Altitude Drone
SBS has obtained exclusive footage of a domestically designed high altitude drone. This drone is renowned for its performance capabilities, comparable to the US state-of-the-art Reaper drone. It can fly for extended periods at altitudes exceeding 10 km, executing reconnaissance and attack missions.
The Defense Development Agency commenced this project in 2012, but its deployment is still pending after more than a decade.
Challenges in Developing Next-generation Drones
A similar situation arises with the development of the next corps-class drone, modeled after the cutting-edge Gray Eagle unmanned reconnaissance attack aircraft in the United States. However, the subsequent stages have been delayed due to an audit conducted by the Audit and Inspection Board in May of last year, when the development of these two drones was almost concluded.
After nearly a year of inspection, the Audit and Inspection Board highlighted several flaws, including issues with wind direction, landing stability during sudden changes in wind speed, and abnormal icing control at higher altitudes. As a result, five investigators involved in the project faced disciplinary actions.
The Defense Development Agency has lodged an immediate objection, and a reassessment is currently underway.
Military Official’s Perspective
A senior military official, speaking to SBS, stated, “The concerns raised by the Audit and Inspection Board do not pertain to the performance of military operational requirements, and we cannot accept disciplinary measures when solutions are available.”
Given that the development costs were funded by the national budget, such drone inspections have been conducted multiple times before. Last year, eight key researchers in UAV development left the Defense Science Research Institute.
Impact of Audit and Inspection
When approached for comment, the Audit and Inspection Board withheld information, citing the confidential nature of unmanned aerial vehicle development. Therefore, they could neither confirm the audit details nor express their stance.
(Video editing: Jeong Seong-hoon)
The most impressive thing in the recent military parade in North Korea was a large, high-tech drone. We looked at how far our drone development has come. We have also almost completed the development of advanced drones, but we have not yet been able to ‘use them in real combat’.
Kim Tae-hoon, a defense reporter, was covering what was happening exclusively.
This is video of a domestically used high altitude drone obtained exclusively by SBS.
It is known for its performance comparable to that of the US state-of-the-art Reaper drone, which flies for dozens of hours at an altitude of more than 10 km and carries out reconnaissance and attack missions.
The Defense Development Agency began developing it in 2012, but it has not been used for more than 10 years yet.
The development of the next corps-class drone modeled after the Gray Eagle, the latest unmanned reconnaissance attack aircraft in the United States, is in a similar situation.
The subsequent process was delayed when the Audit and Inspection Board started an audit in May last year, when the development of the two drones was almost finished.
After about a year of inspection, the Inspection and Inspection Board pointed out defects such as wind direction and landing instability when the wind speed changed suddenly, and abnormal icing control due to ascent altitude, and decided to discipline five investigators.
The Defense Development Agency raised an immediate objection, and a re-examination is currently underway.
A high-ranking military official told SBS, “The issue identified by the Audit and Inspection Board is not related to the performance of military operational requirements, and we cannot accept disciplinary requirements because there is a solution.”
Since the development was funded by the national budget, drone inspections have been carried out in this way several times before, and last year, eight key researchers in UAV development left the Defense Science Research Institute.
[송방원/우리방산연구회 회장 : 개발이란 시행착오와 실패를 반복해야만 성공하는 것인데, 감사원이 시행착오와 실패에서 감사 실적을 쌓으면 연구원들 사기 저하와 연구개발 중단, 전력 공백의 악순환이 나타납니다.]
In response to SBS’s enquiry, the Audit and Inspection Board said that the development of unmanned aerial vehicles is a confidential business, so it could not confirm the facts relating to the audit or express its position.
(Video editing: Jeong Seong-hoon)
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