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N. Korea uses aged Russian aircraft to fire missiles: source

All News 11:35 October 09, 2008

By Byun Duk-kun

SEOUL, Oct. 9 (Yonhap) -- North Korea used an aging Russian-made aircraft to fire two short-range missiles earlier this week, a source privy to North Korean affairs said Thursday, surprising officials here who believed that equipping the plane to launch missiles was technically impossible.

The source said the North appeared to have used an AN-2 aircraft, but others argued against the account.

"I wonder if that is technically possible," Won Tae-jae, a spokesman for the Defense Ministry, told reporters.

North Korea was earlier reported to have fired two short-range missiles on Tuesday in the West Sea, but officials here had been unable to confirm whether the missiles were fired from the ground or a ship.

The AN-2 Antonov is a Russian-made light single-engine biplane that has a maximum cargo capacity of about 1.5 tons.

"It is just technically not possible for the small AN-2 to lift off while carrying 2-ton missiles and to fire them in air," an Air Force official said, asking not to be identified. "It is simply impossible to equip an AN-2 with the Styx missiles as its wings are only a few feet from the ground."

The official believed the North could have instead used IL-28 jet bombers, which are also Russian-made, to fire what appeared to be the heavy, anti-ship KN-01 missile. The weapon weighs about 2.3 tons.

IL-28, he said, "are completely capable of carrying and firing the missiles."

Meanwhile, sources here on Thursday said the communist nation may be preparing to fire up to 10 short-range missiles in the West Sea.

Officials here have said the North's firing of two short-range missiles this week appeared to be a part of a regular exercise to check the performance of its munitions stockpile.

They noted, however, that if such a launch were to occur, it would be the first time for the communist nation to fire more than 10 missiles in such a short period of time.

The North has declared a no-entry area in the West Sea effective until Wednesday, according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.


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