The Koksan M-1978, or simply M-1978, is a North Korean self-propelled gun (SPG) featuring a 170 mm gun. It must be noted before moving forward that as with all North Korean military discussions, concrete information is limited; this includes the M-1978 SPG. The main gun in the M-1978 is mounted in an open mount on what is suspected to be Chinese Type 59 chasis a platform and two retractable spades located on the rear of the vehicle. When the vehicle is in a firing position the spades are lowered. The M1978 employs a large muzzle brake. The designation for this SPG is not native; but rather assigned by the US Department of Defense. The reference Koksan M-1978 is to the year and the location in North Korean in which the vehicle was first noted by western analysts; specifically, in 1978 in Koksan county, North Hwanghae Province. The vehicle was first seen in a public display in a parade in 1985 in North Korea. The M-1978 does not carry any ammunition; this would need to be delivered by support vehicles. It is believed that the M-1978 has a range of 40 km; and 60 km when shells are used with a booster (rocket assisted).

The M1978 appears to be crewed by between 6 and 8 personnel; this is reinforced by a photo of an Iranian M1978 with it’s crew. However it must be noted that the Type 59 is manned by a crew of 4. If the Type 59 is the chasis for the M1978 (or a comparable vehicle) then it likely has limits for onboard personnel transport to at most 4 people. We can speculate then that the remaining crew would travel in support vehicles such as the munitions transport vehicle(s).

Export operators include Iran; which used this weapon system during the Iran-Iraq war of 1980-1988. Iraq captured at least one Koksan M-1978 during the Iran-Iraq war; which would end up on display at the University of Anbar, only to be taken by US forces in 2008 (in relation to the US led invasion of Iraq in 2003).

The Koksan M-1978 is believed to still be in active use. A 2013 inspection of Korean People’s Army (KPA) unit 641 by Kim Jong Un showed the unit’s M-1978’s on display for review. Unit 641 is believed to target the South Korean held island of Baengnyeong; off South Korea’s north-west coast. Unit 641 is on the south-west border in close striking distance to Baengnyeong.

The deployment of the M1978 is not known with precision; various attempts describe it as deployed at the regiment or battalion level. Possibly a regiment of 36 units, made up in turn of 3 battalions of 12 units. This along with supporting equipment (vehicles and the like) and personnel. Such attempts at determining the deployment of the M1978 are speculative to be sure; however satellite photos of Unit 641 shows two distinct storage facilities close to each other with each facility housing 4 M1978 SPGs.

Many artillery pieces including the M1978 are stationed near the Korean Demilitarized Zone with South Korea as a part of a broader strategy of the North Korean Military.

SPG: Koksan M-1978
Main Armament: 170 mm gun
Secondary Armament: N/A
Weight: Unknown
Speed: Unknown
Crew: 6 to 8

Works Cited

  1. “Koksan (Artillery).” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia, Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 15 Aug. 2017, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koksan_(artillery). Accessed 15 Aug. 2017.
  2. Pike, John. “Military.” M-1978 / M1989 (KOKSAN) 170mm self propelled (SP) gun, www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/dprk/m-1978-170.htm. Accessed 15 Aug. 2017.
  3. “M1978 Koksan 170-Mm self-Propelled gun.” Military-Today.com , www.military-today.com/artillery/m1978_koksan.htm.
  4. “KPA Unit 641.” Satellite Analysis of DPRK, WordPress.com, 20 Aug. 2015, nkbypanda.wordpress.com/2015/08/18/kpa-unit-641/. Accessed 16 Aug. 2017.
  5. Mansourov , Alexandre Y. “North Korea coming to Assad’s rescue.” The Korea Times, 13 June 2013, www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2013/06/197_137440.html. Accessed 21 Aug. 2017.
  6. “North Korea (1978) Self Propelled Gun .” Tank Encyclopedia, 14 Apr. 2015, www.tanks-encyclopedia.com/coldwar/North_Korea/Koksan-M1978.php. Accessed 21 Aug. 2017.