Koampo, the location of the new hovercraft base, in relation to South Korea points of interest

Koampo, the location of the new hovercraft base, in relation to South Korea points of interest (Adapted from Daniel Sekulich's Modern Day Pirate Tales)

According to a Chosun Ilbo report, North Korea have begun construction on a  combat hovercraft base in the Koampo area of Hwanghae, Province.just 50-60 km from South Korea’s Baeknyeong Island in the Yellow Sea.

The base can apparently accommodate up to 70 of North Korea’s hovercraft. Each of the vessels can carry a platoon and travel up to 90 km/h across water and mud flats. Once it is completed, North Korean troops would be able to land on South Korea’s five West Sea islands, including Baeknyeong, in 30 to 40 minutes.

Assuming a low-end estimate of 35 soldiers per carrier, that would be a possible amphibious wave of 2450 troops. The base would be able to house almost half of the current estimated total of hovercrafts at North Korea’s disposal. It should be a severely worrying prospect for the South, and particularly for the West Sea islanders.

Kongbang ACV

Kongbang ACV (Unknown variant) (See comments)

North Korea is thought to maintain around 130 hovercraft, which would presumably be used to ferry troops onto offshore islands. The most well-known of these is the Kongbang-class air cushion vehicle (ACV), which comes in three variants that can carry between 35-55 marines, depending on who you ask:

Kongbang-I Kongbang-II Kongbang-III
Length: 23m (75.5 ft) 21m (68.9 ft) 18.5m (60.7 ft)
Beam: 9m (29.5 ft) 8m (26.2 ft) 7m (23 ft)
Max speed: 52 km/h
(28 knots)
52 km/h
(28 knots)
50 km/h
(27 knots)
Adapted from Global Security: http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/dprk/acv.htm

North Korea have been holding exercises to practice seizing the five South Korean ‘West Sea’ islands, the very islands put at risk by this new hovercraft base, according to some reports. In their report, JoongAng Daily wrote:

North Korea’s plan is to shell the islands with coastal artillery on a moonless night, render South Korean soldiers at military bases on the islands helpless, then take over the territory with soldiers landing on hovercrafts, the source said.

Kongbang ACV

Kongbang ACV (Unknown variant) (See comments)

There are only two pictures of these hovercraft available online, but keen-eyed Google Earth users have found them parked on several occasions, such as the shot below:

In 2007, the Chosun Ilbo reported that North Korea had developed a new hovercraft to target South Korean high-speed patrol boats. At 38 m long and 12 m wide, they would be much bigger than the Kongbang-class, but with top speed of 90 km/h (45 knots), they would be far faster. They reportedly have 56 mm and 30 mm machine guns at the head and the stern.

In August last year, Arirang TV reported that this new hovercraft had been “caught in a satellite photo off the North’s Daedong River, near the southwestern Nampo City in South Pyeongan Province.”

Shin In-kyun, President of the Korea Defence Network, notes:

“It could likely transport medium to large-sized armed forces and tanks. And carrying a 30-milimeter cannon at speeds of at least 45 nautical miles per hour it would be able to raid regardless of the geographical features.”

There are currently no publicly-available images of, or further information on this new design; but its development, the construction of the base at Koanpo and the December exercises all demonstrate the Korean People’s Army’s clear move towards expanding its strategic options along the Yellow Sea. With the Yeonpyeong artillery attack so fresh in Seoul’s mind, it should be unsettled by this development and extra effort should be made to develop counter-incursion strategies to defend against the threat this increasing capability poses.

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A former contributor to World Intelligence (Japan Military Review), James Simpson joined Japan Security Watch in 2011, migrating with his blog Defending Japan. He has a Masters in Security Studies from Aberystwyth University and is currently living in Kawasaki, Japan. His primary interests include the so-called 'normalization' of Japanese security (i.e. militarization), and the political impact of the abduction issue with North Korea.
James Simpson has 254 post(s) on Japan Security Watch