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North Korea Converts Cargo Aircraft Into AWACS, AEW

The analyst concluded, based on satellite imagery, that the object situated on the fuselage of the cargo aircraft is a Rotodome (Rotating Radar Dome), indicating it is part of an effort to modify the aircraft into an Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) or Airborne Early Warning (AEW) aircraft.

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(DEFENCE SECURITY ASIA) – The North Korean military is reported to have modified one of its large Russian-made cargo aircraft into an Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) or Airborne Early Warning (AEW) aircraft, as part of efforts to enhance its air defense network capabilities.

Decker Eveleth, an analyst at the James Martin Center for Non-Proliferation Studies, has revealed that North Korea has converted a large Russian-made Ilyushin IL-76 cargo plane into an AirborneAWACS) or Airborne Early Warning (AEW).

His information was based on satellite image analysis.

“Satellite images have shown an Ilyushin IL-76 cargo plane at the maintenance facility at Pyongyang International Airport with a large object mounted on its fuselage,” she stated.

 Eveleth concluded that the object on the fuselage is likely a Rotodome (Rotating Radar Dome), indicating efforts to transform the aircraft into an AWACS or AEW plane.

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Satellite image


“The capability of Airborne Early Warning (AEW) aircraft to track guided cruise missiles is something North Korea has expressed interest in acquiring,” she added.

Eveleth also suggested the possibility that North Korea intends to use the aircraft to track its own guided missiles during tests, similar to Russia’s use of the A-50 AWACS during the testing of the “Burevestnik” guided missile.

Recently, Eveleth noted, the Russian military has retired several telemetry aircraft thus raising the possibility that unused equipment could be provided to North Korea.

However, this speculation lacks supporting evidence thus far.

Military ties and cooperation between Pyongyang and Moscow have been strengthening in recent times.

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 In October, North Korea reportedly sent 1,000 containers containing ammunition and various weapon systems to Russia, believed to assist Moscow in its conflict with Ukraine.

The United States believes that North Korea’s weapon and ammunition shipments to Russia are part of an “exchange” for Moscow’s assistance in developing its nuclear weapons and other military programs.

North Korea seeks access to Russian nuclear weapon technology to enhance the development of more dangerous and effective nuclear-guided missiles, according to John Kirby, the White House National Security Council spokesperson.

Currently, North Korea is believed to possess three Il-76 cargo planes with the Air Koryo (North Korea’s official airline) emblem, but only one is potentially being modified into an AWACS or AEW aircraft.

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North Korea’s Il-76

Another analyst stated that if North Korea is indeed modifying cargo planes into AWACS or AEW aircraft, it indicates efforts to enhance its air force capabilities.

 “Possession of AEW aircraft by North Korea would improve the air defense network capabilities of the country, which consists of outdated radar locations,” the analyst added.

If satellite images presented by analysts confirm the modification of the Il-76 into an AWACS or AEW aircraft, it would be evidence of North Korea modernizing its air force. — DSA


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