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Meet North Korea’s Latest Drone

by John Reed on February 6, 2012

As Iran and China and who knows who else scrambles to unlock the secrets of the U.S. Air Force’s stealthy RQ-170 Sentinel drone, North Korea is moving to reverse engineer some 1970s-vintage target drones.

Yup, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency is reporting that the North has bought up old MQM-107D Streaker target drones from Syria with the intent of developing high speed attack drones based on the tech. The hilariously named Streaker (its replacement, the BQM-167 Skeeter has a similarly amusing name if you’ve listened to hip hop anytime in the last decade) was developed in the 1970s for the U.S. Army to tow gun and missile targets. IN the late 1980s, Beechcraft proposed making a version of the Streaker that could carry electronic countermeasers and serve as a flying decoy over combat zones.

North Korea is developing unmanned attack aircraft using U.S. target drones purchased from the Middle East, a military source in Seoul said Sunday, indicating the aircraft will likely target the South.

“North Korea recently bought several U.S. MQM-107D Streakers from a Middle Eastern nation that appears to be Syria, and is developing unmanned attack aircraft based on them,” the source said on condition of anonymity.

The MQM-107D Streaker is a high-speed target drone used by the U.S. and South Korean militaries for testing guided missiles.

North Korea has conducted numerous tests on high-speed target drones mounted with high explosives, but has yet to master the technology, the source said, citing South Korean intelligence sources.

If it succeeds in developing the attack aircraft, the North appears likely to deploy them near the inter-Korean border to target South Korean troops stationed on border islands in the Yellow Sea.

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Commetor123 February 6, 2012 at 12:03 pm

Can it carry anti-ship missiles? I'm wondering about these in a swarming attack on a carrier or landing force.

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John Moore February 6, 2012 at 12:31 pm

I think it would be far more painful psychologically to get hit with your own tech that fell into enemy hands.

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Jeff February 6, 2012 at 12:39 pm

Well this really makes it easy practicing to shoot them down.

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Winston February 6, 2012 at 1:03 pm

…wait…Do they have plans to terrorize London?

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Damn Commies February 6, 2012 at 12:16 pm

I thought the same thing. Its pretty bad that North Korea is having to look back to what is basically WWII-era technology.

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mhmm... February 6, 2012 at 1:38 pm

Damn beat me to it
V1 FTW

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queen April 30, 2013 at 2:06 pm

potato

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Rodrigo February 6, 2012 at 1:21 pm

they gotta start somewhere, a target drone is a good choice to cover the basics with cheaper training i guess. There is no point in simply trying to have bleeding edge tech all the time, you can still kill people throwing rocks, i bet you can reverse engineer a bunch of old stuff and updated it to make it suitable for tons of operations.

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blight February 6, 2012 at 1:46 pm

Working on figuring out when the Syrians procured these drones. No clues so far.

Wikipedia's list is:

Australia (N28 Kalkara AKA MQM-107E)
Egypt (999H, 999L)
Iran (MQM-107A)
Jordan (MQM-107A)
Republic of Korea (999D)
Democratic People's Republic of Korea (MQM-107D)
Singapore
Sweden (999A)
Taiwan (999F)
Turkey (999L)
United Arab Emirates (999L)
United States (All Variants)

What's sad is that this is the primary source:
http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/northkorea/2012/0

Kind of short?

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Nick T. February 6, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Iran. N-Korea is probably just bragging that they got the most advanced model to "scare" us, like saying the Poh-pong-whatever can take out a Abrams 1-1. Iran can't get parts to keep using them, so why not sell them off (through a proxy country) to another country that hates the US and is willing to use them offensively?

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McPosterdoor February 6, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Wouldn't you think Iran gave them to Syria? That seems the obv, choice. That or the Swedes, infiltrating us with their Dragon Tattoo propaganda.

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blight February 6, 2012 at 2:13 pm

Iran shipping a target drone to Syria who then ships it to the DPRK seems a little circuitous. Iran->Pakistan->DPRK might make a little more sense? God knows. Or Jordan might've dumped an old target drone into the trash where it was fished out and shipped to the DPRK, similar to how the Iranians snuck into warehouse sales to grab F-14 parts.

There doesn't have to be a sinister procurement pathway; but it's worth investigating by governments to ensure there isn't a pipeline funneling arms to the DPRK. Until then, it is a relatively old target drone, but what distinguishes a targeting drone from a TLAM is the TERCOM, GPS, INS and warhead. Then again, if the DPRK only really cares about delivering payloads on Seoul, then it's just a matter of developing payloads and lobbing them south in the general direction of the largest city in South Korea,in a metropolitan area holding almost half of the population. They'll hit something.

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Jay February 6, 2012 at 2:13 pm

They could have picked them up off of black market easily. Any one of those Arab countries that don't keep a good inventory could have given them up. North Korea is turning into China, they are on the way to indegionously producing most things they pick up along the way. They will reverse this technology and be able to create more sophisticated RPA's.

I have a question, does anyone know how easy it will be for them to turn a Mig-15 through Mig-21 into an unmanned drone? I know they are a long ways away from getting to this but I've heard it being down to a F-4 Phantom II a while ago.

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blight February 6, 2012 at 2:25 pm

"Black market" is a vague term, and I'm not sure how easily a target drone would end up on the black market. Small arms that can disappear into sub-Saharan Africa conflicts I would believe, but when things get bigger than a jeep it gets harder to smuggle past customs unless you disassemble it, which then raises the specter of the buyer risking that the bucket of parts they bought doesn't go together again.

I would be surprised that Iran doesn't manufacture the target drones they got under the Shah and sell them over the counter. Or that the DPRK doesn't have target drones from the Soviets or the Chinese?

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MCQknight February 6, 2012 at 9:25 pm

What I could see is any one of those middle eastern countries selling it to North Korea. All it takes probably takes is greasing the hands of one or two officials in high places and you're good to go. Plus, when some third party investigator asks: "Hey, where did all your TARGET DRONES go?", the culprits could just respond "We shot them down…duh."

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blight February 7, 2012 at 12:15 pm

That and arms control guys likely aren't looking at target drones when they do inventory checks. SSMs? Check. Aircraft? Check.

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dave February 7, 2012 at 6:43 am

The DPRK is turning into China? What are you smoking? A tiny country full of half-starved peasants. It would be better for everyone if we just ignored them, sooner or later we'd wake up to find that the last Nork had starved to death, and the ROK could get all that empty land back.

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blight February 7, 2012 at 11:52 am

It's easy for us to say, as we're Americans with much less skin in the game than the South Koreans, many of whom still have family up there. We will probably follow the lead of the ROK: which alternates between sunshine and a hard-line; and at the moment it is more hard-line.

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Jay February 6, 2012 at 2:37 pm

Understood. But with Iran they would go through Iraq… Whatever customs they have there and Egypt has tunnels going into Israel for smuggling. It just seems like the countries around that region don't watch things that should be. (Other than Isreal)

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DhuntAUS February 6, 2012 at 7:20 pm

I thought Iran and Iraq hated each other. Dont think they would be working together, unless it was some under the counter stuff i guess.
Man alot of US tech is being nicked and used against, its like the world has no imagination.

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Lance February 6, 2012 at 3:58 pm

the US used these drones in Vietnam to recon areas in Hanoi where the air defenses where too heavy for a RF-4 could fly near. So North Korea could get some reconnaissance and even very light attack with these drones. But this technology is very limited and can not hold much a of any weapons load and or carry electronic sensors like modern UAVs have. How ever to distract US and ROK air defenses away from manned North Koran planes could be done with this drone.

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Kski February 6, 2012 at 7:07 pm

Well I guess the everyone concerned is scrambling to figure this one problem out.

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Cylon February 7, 2012 at 12:11 pm

An unnamed South Korean military source who gave out second hand information.

Yes, very trustworthy.

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blight February 7, 2012 at 12:14 pm

Almost as bad as mobile WMD trucks (though Biopreparat likely did have them, and Biopreparat hysteria likely motivated arms control organizations throughout the '90s and early 2k's, though they don't talk about it).

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4mer03sgt February 8, 2012 at 10:43 am

nest they will be usning old Z28 camaro's as fast-attack urban assault vehicles! Morons…

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blight February 7, 2012 at 12:18 pm

I'm trying to figure out which nations did procure the -D.

Egypt?

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blight February 7, 2012 at 3:20 pm

Runs the spectre of being intercepted at sea and being boarded. Happens often enough.

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