North Korea develops its AWACS


Detailed analysis of North Korea’s potential development of an AWACS aircraft, a significant advance for its radar technology.

North Korea appears to be converting an Il-76 into an AWACS system, a major step forward for its radar capabilities. The use of one of its rare Il-76s for this conversion underlines the strategic importance of this project for Pyongyang.

Analysis of recent satellite imagery by Decker Eveleth of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies suggests that North Korea may be transforming an Il-76 aircraft into an Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AWACS).

Analysis of Il-76 Modifications

The Il-76, a North Korean transport aircraft, is seen at Pyongyang International Airport undergoing modifications. These changes suggest a conversion to AWACS or Airborne Early Warning (AEW) aircraft.

Eveleth points out that the Il-76 is already used by Russia as its main platform for AWACS and AEW functions. Russia also uses this platform for telemetry during missile tests, demonstrating its versatile utility.


Technological implications

If confirmed, this development would mark a significant leap forward in North Korea’s radar capabilities. At present, there is no direct evidence that Russia has transferred this sophisticated technology to North Korea.

North Korea dedicating one of its few Il-76s to this potential transformation underlines the importance and priority of this project. The Il-76 plays a crucial role in North Korea’s limited transport fleet.

Although the assessment remains preliminary, the possible transformation of an Il-76 into an AWACS by North Korea represents a significant strategic development. This advance could significantly increase the country’s surveillance and defense capabilities, thus altering the balance of power in the region. However, without further evidence, the exact nature of the modifications and North Korea’s intentions remain speculative.

War Wings Daily is an independant magazine.