TechNorth Korea boosts Russia's artillery might, fueling Ukraine conflict

North Korea boosts Russia's artillery might, fueling Ukraine conflict

Howitzer D-20 and 152 mm caliber shells
Howitzer D-20 and 152 mm caliber shells
Images source: © Military
7:41 AM EST, February 28, 2024

According to South Korean Defense Minister, Shin Won-sik, following the summit between Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un in September 2023, approximately 6,700 containers were shipped from North Korea to Russia. These containers could hold up to 3 million 152 mm caliber artillery shells, a volume that surpasses the contributions from EU countries during the same timeframe and is on par with American supplies.

Shin Won-sik further notes that due to shortages in components, North Korean ammunition factories are operating at only 30 percent of their full capacity. In return for the munitions, Russia is expected to compensate North Korea with food, raw materials for ammunition production, and likely aviation and satellite technology.

Quality of DPRK's Ammunition in Russia: Available but Substandard

Although North Korean artillery ammunition has enabled Russian forces to carry out operations, such as the attempt to take Avdiivka, the quality is significantly lacking. The main benefit of this ammunition is its availability, but it falls short in every other aspect.

Russian artillerymen have raised concerns about the ammunition's inconsistencies, noting its range can be as little as half that of Russian or Iranian alternatives. Unpredictable gunpowder charges result in zero repeatability of performance for shells from the same production batch, which, coupled with a high dud rate, makes them highly unreliable.

These shortcomings mean that shells might not explode as intended, leading to misses or failures to detonate upon reaching the vicinity of a target. This is particularly troubling for Russian forces, whose artillery systems have markedly shorter ranges compared to their Western counterparts.

For instance, Russia's favored 122 mm caliber howitzers have a range of about 9 miles, and 152 mm caliber shells achieve about 11 miles using basic projectiles. By contrast, NATO's 155 mm caliber systems, even those with a shorter 39 caliber barrel like the FH-70 or TRF1, can reach up to 15 miles using standard ammunition.

In addition, Russia has deployed 122 mm caliber rockets capable of reaching up to 12 miles for BM-21 Grad launchers, which are prone to premature explosions, and 120 mm mortar shells and short-range ballistic missiles from North Korea. The latter has proven to be the most effective, causing significant challenges for Ukrainian forces.

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