New Construction Activity at the Kusong Tank Plant

Recent satellite images of the Kusong Tank Plant (also known as the Machine Plant managed by Ho Chol Yong), reveal new construction activities, including the addition of a large new factory hall that, when complete, will be the largest structure at the site.

The Kusong Tank Plant has been regularly monitored for its production of tracked vehicle since at least 1983, as noted in a declassified document from the National Photographic Interpretation Center. Notably, the site has been visited by Kim Jong-Un five times between the years 2012 – 2016, indicating the site’s importance. In 2017, the site was also the likely location for the pre-test launch inspections, by Kim Jong-Un, for the first publicized tests of the Pukguksong-2 and Hwasong-12.

Pre-test inspection of the Pukguksong-2 – presumably at the Kusong Tank Plant

Prior to the first reveal of the Pukguksong-2’s tracked TEL (Transporter Erector Launcher), the site saw the addition of the first large factory hall during a Kim Jong-Un visit in 2016.  Since this location is associated with the production of tanks and other tracked vehicles, its role in the manufacturing of the tracked TEL that launched the Pukguksong-2, is believed to have occurred there as well.

Large factory hall under construction during 2016 KJU visit to the Kusong Tank Plant.

With North Korea’s expansion in the use of tracked missile launchers being reflected in their use as transporters for the North’s newer fleet of solid fuel SRBMs (Short Range Ballistic Missiles), this new construction activity is likely connected to the expanding need to produce more variants of tracked TELS, like the ones seen in this year’s October military parade.

Tracked missile launchers seen in October 2020 military parade
Source: Rodong Sinmun via Ankit Panda

The first signs of this activity were captured in images between August 6th and 30th, with the visible addition of the large factory building’s outer walls being more apparent in recent imagery from November 13th. Construction activity has also been spotted at the nearby No. 112 factory — however the construction is smaller in scale and its purpose is unclear.

As a general observation, however, the new activity is consistent with the idea that, even while North Korea is expanding it’s ability to build large, wheeled TELs, it is simultaneously doubling down on the ability to produce their more reliable, tracked cousins.

Satellite images showing overview of construction activity happening north of Kusong.
Image: Planet Labs, Inc. CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0