Defense Ministry Speculates About N.Korean Drones

Frantic speculation about North Korea's military drones has replaced years of silence from defense authorities since three unmanned surveillance aircraft crashed here recently.

On Tuesday, a Defense Ministry official claimed North Korea has about 300 reconnaissance drones and about 10 Russian-made Shmel unmanned aerial vehicles warfare-ready.

The Banghyon I and II drones are remodeled Chinese-made D-4 (ASN-104) UAVs. Their fuselage is believed to be 3.6 m long, with a wingspan of 4.8 m, the official said. They can fly at the maximum speed of 160 km/h and have an estimated a radius of operation of 40 to 60 km.

The Shmel is a short-range UAV the North is believed to have procured in the 1990s. With a range of 60 km, it can fly at the maximum speed of 150 km/h. It can operate for about three hours and 30 minutes at a time and can be equipped with a TV camera.

He said the North also operates a dozen "suicide" unmanned attack aircraft with an estimated range of 600-800 km, which would mean they could strike anywhere in South Korea.

The ministry believes the North is developing a multi-purpose UAV that can conduct both reconnaissance and strike missions.

"After analysis, we conclude that the three small North Korean UAVs discovered recently were sent by North Korean military units 15 to 20 km from the military demarcation line," the official added.

englishnews@chosun.com / Apr. 09, 2014 09:25 KST