The North Korean military is developing unmanned "suicide" attack aircraft to target South Korean troops on the northwesternmost islands, a South Korean Army source claimed Sunday. The South Korean military in turn plans to procure all-weather unmanned tactical dirigibles capable of carrying out reconnaissance missions even in bad weather to deploy on the islands.
The source claimed the North is developing unmanned attack aircraft "using high-speed U.S. target drones imported from a Middle Eastern country." This is presumed to be Syria.
A high-speed target drone is used as a target for testing surface-to-air missiles. The target drones the North imported are believed to be MQM-107D Streakers.
A Streaker target drone believed to be used by North Korea to develop an unmanned attack aircraft (left), and a dirigible South Korea plans to procure.
The jet-powered Streakers can fly at up to 925 km/h with a fuselage 5.5 m long and a wingspan of 3 m. They are used by Egypt, Iran and Jordan, as well as Sweden, Turkey, Australia, and Taiwan. South Korea has also used them to test anti-aircraft missiles and conduct missile target training.
The drones the North is trying to develop would be equipped with a small bomb that can carry out a suicide attack on a target up to 250 km away. Intelligence agencies speculated the development is not complete.
They "are less sophisticated than up-to-date unmanned attack aircraft that the U.S. used in the Afghan and Iraq War," a military expert said. "But our military could suffer damage if development succeeds and the North launches kamikaze-style attacks."
The North is also suspected of remodeling the Pchela-1T, a propeller-powered drone it imported from Russia, into an unmanned attack aircraft and having deployed reconnaissance drones built based on the Chinese D-4 aircraft.
The kamikaze drones are likely to be deployed at the 4th Army Corps in Hwanghae Province, which shelled Yeonpyeong Island in 2010.
South Korea's unmanned dirigibles will have no attack function but will mainly monitor North Korean military movements.
The source said the dirigibles "will transmit radar and video data as they are connected with their ground control center via cables. They are capable of monitoring the North Korean military movements around the clock regardless of weather conditions."
A set of four dirigibles costs W7-8 billion (US$1=W1,118) and their operating expenses are not as high as those of unmanned reconnaissance aircraft.
Each tactical dirigible is 39 m long and will monitor North Korea at an altitude of 1,500 m. A military officer said, "The distance between Yeonpyeong or Baeknyeong Island and the North is 11-18 km, which I believe the dirigibles can cover."