The Koksan M1978 is a North Korean 170 mm self-propelled artillery gun, and is the DPRK’s longest range non-rocket artillery weapon. First seen by U.S. intelligence in 1978 (hence its name), the M1978 is a long-barreled weapon mounted externally on a tank chassis.
Koksan M1978 at a Glance
Originated from: North Korea
Possessed by: North Korea, Iran
Class: Self-Propelled Gun
Basing: Steel armored tank chassis
Length: 14.9 m
Width: 3.27 m
Caliber: 170 mm
Warhead: HE, fragmentation
Range: 40 km (standard munition), 60 km (booster munition)
In Service: 1978-present
Koksan M1978 Development
The weapon’s design took elements from both Russian coastal artillery and the Chinese Type 59 MBT.1 The M1978 was one of the longest range self-propelled artillery gun of the 1970s, capable of firing munitions 40-60 km.2
Koksan M1978 Specifications
The M1978’s 170 mm gun is open-mounted, providing no armored protection for its assumed 4-6 crew members.3 The M1978 is 14.9 m in length, 3.27 m in width, and weighs 40 metric tons.4 The M1978 can fire 1-2 rounds every five minutes.5 The range of the M1978 using a standard HE frag armament was 40 km, and a rocket assisted HE frag shell could be fired up to 60 km.6In addition to firing shells, the M1978 also can be used to create a smoke screen by pouring diesel fuel into the exhaust outlet.7
Because of its size and design, it must be accompanied by a second vehicle to transport ammunition. This was improved upon in the M1978’s successor, the M1989, which carried 12 rounds of ammunition on-board.8 To stabilize the chassis while firing, two large spades are attached to the rear of the hull and anchored to the ground.
North Korea exported an unknown number of M1978s to Iran during the late 1980s, where the gun was used against Iraqi forces during the Iran-Iraq war.9 During the war Iraqi forces captured several M1978s and put them on public display.10 While the current status of Iran’s M1978s is unknown, they have been displayed on equipment trailers during Iranian military parades.11
- “170mm M1978 self-propelled gun Koksan,” in IHS Jane’s Land Warfare Platforms: Artillery and Air Defense 2016-2017, ed. Christopher F. Foss & James C. O’Halloran (United Kingdom: HIS, 2016), 43-44.
- John Grisafi, “DPKR History: the 170mm Self-Propelled gun in the Iran-Iraq War,” NK News, June 19, 2016, https://www.nknews.org/2016/06/dprk-history-the-170mm-self-propelled-gun-in-the-iran-iraq-war/.
- Joseph Bermudez, “M 1978 and M 1989 170mm Self Propelled Guns, Part I,” KPA Journal 2, no. 6 (2011): 2, http://static1.1.sqspcdn.com/static/f/716134/15291676/1322255860447/KPAJ-2-06.pdf.
- Department of Defense, Worldwide Equipment Guide Volume 1: Ground Systems (Fort Leavenworth, 2015), 441, https://wss.apan.org/s/TRADOCTraining/ACETI%20Publications/WEG2015%20Vol1%20Ground%20Systems.pdf.
- “M 1978 (Koksan) 170mm self-propelled (SP) gun,” Federation of American Scientists, https://fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/land/row/m-1978-170.htm.
- Department of Defense, 441.
- “170mm M1978 self-propelled gun Koksan,” in IHS Jane’s Land Warfare Platforms: Artillery and Air Defense 2016-2017, ed. Christopher F. Foss & James C. O’Halloran (United Kingdom: HIS, 2016), 44.
- Bermudez, 2.
- Bermudez, 2.