N.Korean Artillery Fire 'Was Time-on-Target Drill'

      January 29, 2010 09:12

      In firing artillery shells on Wednesday and Thursday from coastal batteries into waters near the Northern Limit Line, the de facto maritime border, North Korea was apparently testing its capability to hit selected targets simultaneously using a variety of artillery pieces.

      The South Korean military believes North Korea conducted the test for the first time on Wednesday using coastal artillery pieces, multiple rocket launchers and self-propelled howitzers. The exact types of weapons used to fire rounds on Thursday near Yeonpyeong Island have yet to be identified but again a variety of arms were used.

      The North deployed 130 mm cannons (27-34 km range) positioned along its western coast and islands, as well as 240 mm MLRS (approximately 60 km range) and 170 mm self-propelled howitzers (54 km range). The type of maneuver is referred to as "Time on Target," involving simultaneous volleys of rounds landing on a single target. The shells must hit a target at the same time, so different weapons must be fired at different times, with guns further away from the target firing first. In TOT maneuvers, rounds fall on or near a target at the same time, making the attack more devastating than shells falling at different intervals and reducing the chances of escape.

      North Korea is said to have succeeded in hitting its intended targets fairly accurately this time, with the aim being to inflict serious damage on South Korean gunboats in a crisis despite the inability of coastal artillery to deliver precision blows. After suffering significant damage from South Korean naval vessels during three deadly clashes on the West Sea since 1999, North Korea replaced its aging patrol boats with the TOT technique to take on the South in coastal seas.

      South Korean intelligence officials believe the latest firing was orchestrated by Gen. Ri Yong-ho, chief of the North Korean Army's General Staff. An expert in artillery maneuvers, Ri is believed to have been responsible for replacing the coastal batteries with heavy caliber artillery. Ri appeared at a joint Army, Navy and Air Force exercise in the West Sea near Pyongyang on Jan. 15, which involved 240 mm MLRS and fighter jets.

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