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​North Korea shows its SOF hand

19th April 2017 - 13:41 by Andrew White in London

​North Korea shows its SOF hand

The international special operations community has reacted to North Korea's very public 'show of force' of its Unit 525 special operations forces (SOF) during an exercise and military parade throughout April.

The displays by North Korea's Korean People's Army (KPA) came in the face of military exercises conducted by Republic of Korea (RoK) SOF elements with US counterparts during March which included Exercise Foal Eagle.

Reinforcing KPA threats to counter so-called 'pre-emptive special operations' from the US and RoK, the battalion-sized Unit 525 is understood to have provided personnel for the military parade conducted on 14 April.

Operators were equipped with folding-stock AK-series assault rifles, all of which featured high capacity helical-feed magazines as well as combat helmets, night vision binoculars and eye protection.

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) Anniversary Parade, which was conducted in Pyongyang, coincided with reports of a failed missile test by the country as it seeks to fuse its nuclear technology with ballistic missile technology.

Defence sources suggested to Shephard Media that it was the first-time Unit 525 had been so publicly highlighted to an international audience.

KPA officials declared: 'We proclaim our military's position that it will ruthlessly crush all such machinations with our own method of preemptive special operations and our own method of preemptive strike warfare.'

On 11 December 2016, video footage emerged of Unit 525 conducting a combined ground assault force (GAF), helicopter assault force (HAF) and parachute assault force (PAF) on simulated RoK government infrastructure including Seoul's Blue House.

The assault, involved operators inserting via ram-air parachutes, helicopters and tactical ground vehicles as well as on foot.

Specifically, it illustrated the unit's capacity to insert specialist personnel into an area of operation using tandem parachute technology; as well as fast-rope insertion onto targets from transport helicopters.

Nevertheless, observers from across the international special operations community remain unconvinced by the unit's ability to conduct the full spectrum of unconventional warfare.

Speaking to Shephard Media, defence sources associated with the NATO Special Operations Headquarters (NSHQ) suggested that the exercise – although impressive in size and sheer weight of numbers – failed to highlight mature enough tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) associated with more mature SOF components in the global environment.

State-run media organisations filmed the event which, according to sources, included poor levels of marksmanship, fire and manoeuvre and tactical situation awareness, the basics of which comprise a pre-requisite to any successful assault force operation.

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