Recent commercial satellite imagery of the dual-use Wonsan-Kalma International Airport captured the probable conclusion of a fighter aircraft flight exercise. Imagery from June 22, 2020, shows an unusually large number of MiG-21, MiG-15 and MiG-17 aircraft, where only a handful are normally parked in view.
The Wonsan-Kalma Airfield is reportedly home to a MiG-21 fighter regiment comprised of two squadrons and a MiG-15/17 Operational Conversion Unit, or OCU. The bulk of these units are rarely observed in the open, as the airfield has tunnel aircraft storage located at the southwest end of the airfield. Normally, five MiG-21s can be observed on the parking apron at the north end of the airfield. Occasionally, one to five aircraft might be observed adjacent to the aircraft shelters near the alert apron at the southern end of the runways.
The aircraft storage tunnels are located at the far southwest end of the airfield adjacent to a railroad supply spur. Located there are two sets of tunnel entrances, each supported by a U-shaped access road. In addition to the aforementioned aircraft and their locations, three MiG-15s and nine MiG-21s can be observed tightly parked in open storage on the access roads. Presumably, these aircraft are not flight ready.
Figure 1. Overview of Wonsan-Kalma Airfield.
On June 21, the five MiG-21s that are normally parked on the north apron were present, and two MiG-21s were adjacent to the 12 aircraft shelters. On June 22, the five MiG-21s were again observed at the north apron, but only one MiG-21 was parked near the shelters. However, a large array of fighter aircraft was located on the southwest aprons near the aircraft storage tunnels.
In addition to those MiG-21s and MiG-15s parked in open storage, ten MiG-15s, three MiG-17s, and thirteen MiG-21s were on the adjacent aprons, with one additional probable MiG-21 being towed along the connecting taxiway, toward the other aircraft. This activity suggests flight operations may have concluded and the aircraft were being prepared to return to tunnel storage.
The last time this large a number of MiG-15, -17 and -21 aircraft was observed assembled together was during the Combat Flight Contest attended by Kim Jong Un in mid-November of 2019.
Figure 2. Five MiG-21s parked at north apron.
Figure 3. One MiG-21 parked near aircraft shelters.
Figure 4. Large number of aircraft parked in open storage and adjacent aprons.
An operational conversion unit (OCU) is a unit within an air force whose role is to support preparation for the operational missions of a specific aircraft type by providing trained personnel. Operational conversion units teach pilots how to fly an aircraft and which tactics best exploit the performance of their aircraft and its weapons.