North Korean MiG-21 Fishbed – After the country was liberated from the Japanese, the North was quickly brought into the communist sphere of influence whilst the South looked to the USA for assistance. On 25th June 1950 the North Korean army invaded the South, which, with help from the United Nations, finally repelled the invaders and an uneasy truce was agreed in 1953, which is still holding. The Korean People’s Army Air Force (KPAAF) was separated from the Army in 1948. The USSR provided aid until 1991, from which time aircraft and other goods were charged at the market price and paid for in hard currency.
With no indigenous aircraft industry, supplies came from the USSR and China. Reliable information from this most secretive of states is not available but it is generally accepted that at least 200 MiG-21 fighter variants, including 30 built in China, were received.
About 80 MiG-21 F-13 (izdeliye 74) fighters were delivered in 1966-67 and have been noted with red three-digit serials: for example, 302, 304, 711 and 714.
It is known from US Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) reports that the KPAAF’s 1st Fighter Division had one operational squadron of 14 MiG-21 F-13s in 1963.
Evidence of MiG-21 PFs (izdeliye 76) in North Korea is sparse and relies on the correct identification of 401 and 701. It was reported by the US DIA that there were 60 MiG-21 s in service in December 1968 and the total for October 1969 was 96, of which 46 were MiG-21 PFs and MiG-21 PFMs. It is likely that no MiG-21 PFs were supplied and that deliveries of 65 in 1968-1971 and 24 in 1974 were entirely the MiG-21 PFM (izdeliye 94A) variant.
By 1971 there were ten Fighter Regiments with mixed types with each regiment possessing at least one squadron of MiG-21 s.
The USSR stopped supplying aircraft to North Korea in 1974 and by 1977 the total of MiG-21s was 120 (as per US). However the USSR agreed to reinstate supplies in 1983, by which time the number of operational MiG-21 s had fallen to 50. There are reports that 150 MiG-21 MF (izdeliye 96F) were delivered in 1985; this total would probably have included some MiG-21 PFM fighters.
30 Chinese-built F-7B types were ordered in 1988 and delivered in 1989-1991 (it is possible that some might be FT-7 two-seaters).
Subsequent deliveries included 38 MiG-21 bis (izdeliye 75A) from Kyrgyzstan in 1999. These aircraft were the remnants from a collection left when that country took over all former Soviet aircraft on its airfields after the dissolution of the USSR in 1991. As more modern types were available the Kyrgyzstan Air Force opted for them and did not take on charge any MiG-21 variants.
About 50 MiG-21 trainers of several different variants were supplied to North Korea over the years and about 30 are thought to be still in service.