Which Country Has The Weakest Air Force?

Which Country Has The Weakest Air Force?

Modern Military

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un poses with a North Korean People’s Air Force MiG-29 in 2012.
KCNA

The North Korean air force, also known as the Korean People’s Air Force (KPAF), became officially established on February 8, 1948. This was just a few months after the creation of the Korean People’s Army (KPA). However, the roots of the KPAF trace back to the early 1920s. When the Korean independence movement began to gain momentum.

During the 1920s and 1930s, a number of Korean pilots received aviation training in Russia and other Soviet-allied countries. These pilots formed the nucleus of the KPAF when officially established in 1948.

In the early years of its existence, the KPAF became equipped with a mixture of Soviet-made aircraft, including Yak-9 and Yak-18 trainers, Li-2 transport planes, and Pe-2 bombers.

Li-2
Reproduction Yak-9 on takeoff at a World War II air show in Reading, Pennsylvania
Yak-18A

In the 1950s, the KPAF began to receive more advanced aircraft from the Soviet Union, including MiG-15 fighters and Il-28 bombers.

No Kum-sok’s MiG-15 on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force.

These aircraft played a key role in the Korean War (1950-1953), during which the KPAF engaged in a series of air battles with the U.S. Air Force and its allies. Despite operating at just a fraction of the U.S. air power and its allies, the KPAF was able to hold its own and inflict significant losses on the Allied forces.

Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 fighters curving in to attack U.S. Air Force Boeing B-29 Superfortress bombers over Korea, c. 1951
A photo-reconnaissance B-29 that crash-landed at Iruma Air Base, Japan after being severely damaged by MiG-15 fighters over the Yalu River; the B-29’s tail gunner shot down one of the attackers (9 November 1950)
MiG-15 delivered by the defecting North Korean pilot No Kum-Sok to the US Air Force
A formation of five Il-28 bombers
Il-28U trainer of the Egyptian Air Force in 1981.
Il-28 bomb bay
Roundel of the Korean People’s Army Air Force (KPAF).

After the Korean War, the KPAF continued to receive new aircraft from the Soviet Union, including MiG-17 and MiG-19 fighters and Tu-16 bombers.

An F-105D shoots down a MiG-17 during the Vietnam War, 1967.
Two 64th Fighter Weapons Squadron F-5s with a 4477th TEF MiG-17 (leading) and MiG-21 (trailing) in 1979. Note the Tactical Air Command badge applied to the vertical fin of the MiG-21 on the right.
MiG-19 in Tiraspol
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the KPAF also received a small number of MiG-21 fighters, which remain in service to this day.
MiG-21 Bison of the Indian Air Force
MiG-21F-13 in Vietnam People’s Air Force markings
VPAF MiG-21

In the 1980s and 1990s, the KPAF received a number of new aircraft from the Soviet Union and other Communist countries, including Su-25 ground attack aircraft, MiG-23 and MiG-29 fighters, and An-24 transport planes.

Mikoyan MiG-29 fighter jets at a North Korean air show in Wonsan | Image: KCTV
MiG-23
MiG-23M “Flogger-B”
MiG-29SMT at the 2011 MAKS
Russian Su-25TM

However, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of Communist rule in Eastern Europe significantly impacted the KPAF’s ability to acquire new aircraft and maintain its existing fleet.

30 years since KPAF took delivery of a new aircraft!

In the 21st century, the KPAF has struggled to modernize and maintain its aging fleet of aircraft due to economic sanctions, a lack of spare parts, and a lack of access to advanced technology. Despite these challenges, the KPAF remains a significant military force in North Korea and continues to play an important role in the country’s defense.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un poses with a North Korean People’s Air Force MiG-29 in 2012.KCNA
Which Country Has The Weakest Air Force?
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