By Joseph S. Bermudez Jr.
08 October 2015
This Saturday, October 10, is the 70th anniversary of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK). While there has been speculation concerning a large military parade in Pyongyang, no details or reliable information concerning such a parade have been available until now. Commercial satellite imagery acquired on October 6 of the capital provides our first detailed look at what may be one of the largest military parades in North Korea’s history.
In the 1990s, North Korea converted the former Mirim (Pyongyang East) Airbase that included a small helicopter base in the eastern section of the city to serve as a parade training ground and assembly area. The facility and support areas cover approximately 1.5 km squared and consist of 6 km of practice track and roads that include a replica of Kim Il Sung Square where the actual parade takes place.
Beginning in May 2015, troops and equipment began to arrive and set up approximately 45 tents on the site of the helicopter base. These were most likely support troops deployed to prepare the infrastructure for the soldiers and equipment that would arrive soon. By August, the city had grown to over 500 tents, approximately 600 trucks and more than 170 armored fighting and military vehicles. Temporary shelters for larger equipment had also been erected. Small groups of troops were identified in parade formation along the simulated parade route.
Recent imagery from October 6 shows that the city has grown to approximately 800 tents, 700 trucks and 200 armored fighting and military vehicles. Throughout the facility numerous groups of troops are seen assembling and moving in formation around the practice track, passing before the replica reviewing stand. Interestingly, there are several formations of horses and riders practicing on the track of the Mirim Riding Club—possibly in preparation for the parade.
Figure 1. Overview of Mirim Parade Training Facility in Pyongyang.
While the ballistic missile launchers and long-range self-propelled guns that are the stars of North Korean military parades are not identifiable, they may be under the large temporary shelter erected on the southeast corner of the facility. Alternatively they could arrive a day or two before the parade as sometimes has happened in the past. Among the interesting equipment seen in the image are seven unmanned aerial vehicles on mobile launchers—some partially draped with camouflage tarps—used for surveillance and reconnaissance missions.
Given the six-month buildup and the high level of observable activity throughout the parade training facility, it would appear that the forthcoming parade celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, regardless of whether ballistic missiles are present or not, will be one of the largest in North Korea’s history.
Figure 2. Close up of “Tent City” on helicopter base.
Figure 3. Close up of Mirim Parade Training Facility.
Figure 4. Riders on horses in formation observed at Mirim Riding Club.
Figure 5. Large equipment storage area.
Figure 6. Unmanned aerial vehicles at large equipment storage area.