Special Report

The 25 Different Ships and Submarines in North Korea's Navy

Kim Jong-un assumed office as the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces of North Korea in 2011. With this title comes the full responsibility of running a country and its military. Though heavily criticized worldwide, the repressive regime has not been toppled yet. And to deter outside meddling, North Korea has also strengthened its military over the years.

While it does not measure anywhere close to the developed militaries of the United States or China, North Korea’s conventional military force is one of the largest in the world. As it continues to build its nuclear arsenal, North Korea has also been modernizing its conventional forces — including its navy. (This is the world’s largest navy.)

The North Korean navy is mainly considered a brown-water navy, meaning that it primarily operates in rivers and coastal areas. The main force operates within the 50 kilometer exclusion zone. One drawback for the North Korean navy of operating around the Korean Peninsula is that the fleet consists of east and west coast squadrons, which would not be capable of supporting each other in the event of war.

North Korea’s naval force is not as evenly balanced as other, more developed navies. For instance, roughly 85% of the fleet is offshore patrol vehicles, and then another 10% is submarines. Basically, there is very little variability within the fleet, but the purpose it serves is mainly policing and protecting its borders as opposed to expanding them.

To identify the 25 classes of vessels that make up the ships and submarines of North Korea’s Navy, 24/7 Wall St. referenced military data site World Directory of Modern Military Warships’ directory of all active ships in North Korea. The ship and submarine classes are ranked in order of the number of vessels currently in active use by the navy, according to WDMMW. Any ships on order were excluded.

The People’s Army Naval Force currently has 186 total units in its active naval inventory. This total includes frontline commissioned vessels but excludes smaller patrol vessels, auxiliary-survey ships, replenishment, and historical ceremonial types. (To compare, these are the U.S. Navy’s newest ships and submarines.)

Here’s a look at North Korea’s navy.

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