Data released today shows that more than 700 airborne sorties were conducted by the North Korean armed forces on March 11th, the first day of the joint ROK-U.S. military exercise ‘Key Resolve.’
According to a South Korean government source, the number includes sorties by fighter jets, reconnaissance aircraft, training aircraft and helicopters.
This is adjudged to be approximately six to seven times the average of 100 daily sorties conducted by North Korean military aircraft last year. Even during the country’s annual winter drills period, North Korean aircraft normally fly just 300-400 sorties.
South Korea believes that the cause of the current rise is that the North Korean military is trying to make up for the limited range of its radar detection systems through the use of reconnaissance sorties.
The South Korean military is actively working to obtain data on the actions of the North Korean aircraft, as well as its submarines, mindful of the danger of some form of provocation and keen to keep watch on the scale and nature of military exercises being conducted.
The North Korean fleet is believed to consist of approximately 820 fighter jets of varying antiquity, 30 reconnaissance aircraft and 300 training jets. In addition, it is believed that the country has a military stockpile of around 1.5 million tons of jet fuel.
Conversely, the much better equipped South Korean (ROK) Air Force flies an average of 700-800 sorties a day, sometimes rising to approximately 1000.