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Update: North Korean warplanes conduct rare mass drill

South Korean F-15Ks and USAF F-16 jets fly in response to North Korea's IRBM launch on 4 October 2022. The F-15s subsequently bombed an uninhabited South Korean island 50 km west of the mainland. This appears to have partly prompted a larger bombing exercise by North Korea on an undisclosed islet on 8 October. (South Korean Ministry of National Defense)

North Korea has conducted an unprecedented series of live-fire drills using warplanes. This includes what Pyongyang describes as one of its largest air combat exercises.

In a statement on 10 October, the North Korean state-owned Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said that air drills were conducted on 6 and 8 October. “The KPAF [Korean People's Air Force] on 8 October, carried out a large-scale combined air-attack drill during which more than 150 fighter planes of different missions took off simultaneously for the first time in history,” KCNA said.

This was preceded two days earlier on 6 October, by a flight of 12 KPAF warplanes north of the “inter-Korean air boundary”, according to South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS). These warplanes potentially conducted a live-firing exercise, according to South Korean media.

Local media said that the 6 October flight involved the movement of North Korean warplanes from Koksan Air Base towards Hwangju Airbase in North Hwanghae Province.

According to the JCS, the North Korean flight comprised eight fighter aircraft and four bombers. The North Korean warplanes flew north of the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) at around 1400 h local time on 6 October, the JCS said. The South Korean Ministry of National Defense (MND) told Janes that KPAF aircraft flew south of the so-called special reconnaissance line.

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