An MQM-107 Streaker Target Drone taking off

An MQM-107 Streaker Target Drone being launched (Source: Designation Systems)

Kim Jong Un’s turn as nostalgic replacement for his late grandfather, Kim Il-Sung, wasn’t the only bit of “history made new again” to come out of North Korea this week.

North Korea has acquired US-made MQM-107 Streaker target drones from the Middle East and is seeking to use them as a basis for an unmanned attack aircraft program:

SEOUL, Feb. 5 (Yonhap) — North Korea is developing unmanned attack aircraft using U.S. target drones purchased from the Middle East, a military source in Seoul said Sunday, indicating the aircraft will likely target the South.

“North Korea recently bought several U.S. MQM-107D Streakers from a Middle Eastern nation that appears to be Syria, and is developing unmanned attack aircraft based on them,” the source said on condition of anonymity.

The MQM-107D Streaker is a high-speed target drone used by the U.S. and South Korean militaries for testing guided missiles.

North Korea has conducted numerous tests on high-speed target drones mounted with high explosives, but has yet to master the technology, the source said, citing South Korean intelligence sources.

If it succeeds in developing the attack aircraft, the North appears likely to deploy them near the inter-Korean border to target South Korean troops stationed on border islands in the Yellow Sea. (Source: Yonhap News)

The MQM-107D Streakers, with top speeds of 575 mph (925 km/h) and a flight ceiling of around 40,000 ft (12,192 m), are normally programmed with flight routes pre-launch or controlled by very basic radio link. They are retrievable (if not destroyed) by parachute recovery systems.

The 1970s-era technology won’t likely lend itself to modern unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) control systems, with little evidence that North Korea has such systems anyway. At the very best, North Korea now possesses a very unwieldy, inaccurate, subsonic cruise missile, in limited numbers, that is slightly better equipped technology-wise than a German WWII-era V-1 Buzz Bomb.

Of course, if we consider these drones in the same class as modern unmanned aerial vehicles, North Korea now possesses the fasted UAVs on earth…along with South Korea, Australia, Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Singapore, Sweden, Taiwan, Turkey, The United Arab Emirates, The United States, and every other country that currently uses simple target drones.

While it must be hilariously good times for the intelligence community to watch North Korea fail at toying with these old things, beyond the niggling problem of dated-US technology seeping through from the Middle East into North Korea, I wouldn’t worry about seeing these kick-start a North Korean UAV program.

They certainly shouldn’t cause South Korea to lose much sleep either. South Korea could count the ways to shoot these down on more than two hands.

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Craig was born & raised in the United States, having recently returned there after over five years in Asia. He is currently pursuing further education in the realms of East Asian Studies and Politics. Craig is an avid fan of the political, economic, and military machinations occurring throughout the Asian continent and how those turning gears affect the rest of the world. He's currently covering both North and South Korea for Asia Security Watch, enjoying shedding light on to this far-too-often ignored slice of Asia.
Craig Scanlan has 82 post(s) on Asia Security Watch