This piece is courtesy of my colleague Zach Rosenberg–our resident unmanned aircraft reporter.
North Korea has made its first public showing of a flying unmanned air vehicle (UAV), showing a series of pictures on state media that apparently depict a remotely-piloted vehicle during launch and flight.
The grainy pictures appear to show a North Korean copy of the MQM-107 Streaker target drone, evidently modified to contain explosives, making it a steerable cruise missile.
“Super precision drone planes lifted off to the sky,” wrote state media outlet Korean Central News Agency. “After making long-range flight as planned, the planes headed toward ‘enemy positions’ and stormed the targets, destroying them with accuracy.”
North Korean media is known for greatly exaggerating capabilities, if not lying outright.
The MQM-107, built by Beech Aircraft, was initially used as a target drone, simulating enemy aircraft during training and serving as live targets for testing new equipment.
Reports from South Korea in early 2012 suggested that North Korea had purchased several of the drones for reverse engineering, with the aim of building a weaponised version as a sort of maneuverable cruise missile.
North Korea has embarked on a capability upgrade in recent years, including developing both nuclear weaponry and missiles to carry them. Nations thought to be assisting North Korea in weapons development, particularly Iran, have developed an aerospace industry that has produced several new UAVs.
While those aircraft are not thought to be equal to Western variants, it is notable that UAV technology has not made its way to North Korea. Iran, amongst others, has been accused of providing technical expertise to North Korea with its missile and spaceflight programmes.