North Korea is developing two new bases for its fleet of assault hovercrafts. The bases, when completed, could be able to deploy troops on South Korea's island of Daecheong-do in the West Sea within 30 minutes.
The new assault hovercraft bases are being developed at North Korea's Yonbong-ni site and are expected to be completed by 2019. Once completed, the Yonbong-ni base can house 54 assault hovercrafts, according to a report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, which was published by Beyond Parallel.
Satellite images from December 2017 revealed that a total of 11 two-bay hovercraft shelters and four four-bay shelters were under construction at the Yonbong-ni base. The hovercrafts shelters have also been excavated from hillsides and come with rear walls as well as potentially reinforced doors. These features indicate that the Yonbong-ni base likely possesses an enhanced survivability when compared to the other North Korean hovercraft bases.
"While none of these features provide protection from direct attack they do provide significantly better protection from blast and fragmentation damage than any of the existing sheds or shelters found at other hovercraft bases," 38North analyst Joseph Bermudez wrote in the new report.
According to the new report, North Korea's assault hovercrafts can reach the South Korea-controlled Daecheong-do island in half an hour from the Yonbong-ni base. Hovercrafts deployed from the base can also reach the ROK islands of Socheong-do (Soch'ŏng-do) and Yeonpyeong-do (Yŏnp'yŏng-do) within around 40 and 70 minutes, respectively. Meanwhile, the South Korean port city of Incheon could likely be reached by Pyongyang's hovercrafts in 90 minutes.
According to a report by The Telegraph, each of Pyongyang's assault hovercrafts will be capable of carrying 50 of North Korea's elite special forces, including soldiers trained to sabotage enemy control and defence sites, as well as trained snipers.
"If North Korea does redeploy the existing hovercraft units at Kibong-dong and Tasa-ri to the Yŏnbong-ni hovercraft base it would represent: the furthest forward deployment of any KPN hovercraft unit to date; a significant escalation of the navy sniper brigade threat to the ROK islands in the West Sea and ports along the coast; and potentially a political calculation that the ROK is too weak to counter such a move," Bermudez wrote.