Chonma-ho I, II, III

By Massimo Tessitori


The name Chonma-ho (Pegasus-Tiger; the suffix 'ho' means 'model, type', and is optional in the designation) describes a wide family of tanks based on the Soviet T-62, built in North Korea and evolved for small steps into more modern forms.
Very few informations and images of these tanks have been published; even the names of many versions are uncertain, and they are often referred with names attributed by the US DoD , whose description not always corresponds well with what we can see on available photos.

The Chonma-ho, as other military vehicles,  is a product of North Korea's approach of Juche, or self-reliance, aver having been abandoned by its former allies, China and Soviet Union/Russia.  The Chonma-ho and its developments are an attempt to partially fill the technology gap between its current dated tanks and South Korean K1A1 and the US M1 Abrams tank.
Around 90% of the Chonma-ho is indigenously produced. There is evidence, however, that North Korea has purchased entire engines, or engine components, from Slovakia. Furthermore, it is thought that ceramic components, possibly for an upgraded armour scheme, are from foreign sources, as well as fire control components.

It was esteemed that about 1000 Chonma-ho of all variants were built and serviceable in the North Korean army, in addition to up to 800 Soviet-built T-62 that are called with the same name. They are not intended as replacements for older types, because the NK army keeps in service even vintage T-34s and other vehicles of the '50s.

Chonma-ho I 

This is a lightened copy of the T-62 with thinner armour. It is distinguishable from the original Soviet-built T-62 because of two bolts visible on the lower part of the front glacis of the hull.

The Chonma-ho I name was also given (at least by the West and South Korean white papers) to the imported T-62, which was later slightly upgraded to the IM version. 


Chonma-ho I (probably of Russian production) during a parade.

Note the tracks with rubber chevrons, a North Korean characteristic never seen on Russian/Soviet T-62s.

They are updated with 14.5 KPM machine gun instead of the original 12.7 mm DShKM of T-62s.

Chonma-Ho I during a parade, probably in 2015.

All vehicles feature an emblem on the turret (unclear if painted or it was an adhesive).

Chonma-ho I during manoeuvres.It is unclear if North Korean tanks brings always flags as a standard, or they use them only on propaganda movies.
Note the small rings on the turret sides, absent on usual T-62. Note also the white sheet with some mark,  fixed with wire to the left turret side.

Again, Chonma-ho I during maneuvers.
Small bolts or rings are visible on the lower part of the front glacis.

Note that the tanks bear the usual all-metal tracks of T-62 instead of the type with rubber chevrons.

Images of Chonma-ho I on parade. The images show vaguely a wide storage box welded to the rear of the turret; the device, unknown on Soviet-built T-62s, seems a refitting, and its shape seems similar to that of later Chonmas, apart for being shaped to fit on a cast turret. The tank numbered 706 is particularly interesting because of its camouflage.

A Chonma-ho I on parade. Note the Manpad SAM roughly fitted on the turret, to provide some AA defense. It is unclear if this weapon is operated by hand or, less likely, from inside the tank. A detail of the missile. Click on blue-bordered images to show a wider version.

Some screenshots from the North Korean TV (February 2016) show a cover on some Chonma-1. The cover is intended to reduce the optical, infrared and radar evidence of the tank.

The cover hides the turret (excluding hatches, optics and searchlights; on some tanks it covers the gun barrel too, but not on all) and the hull (excluding the tracks and wheels, the driver's hatch and optics, the lights, the lower plate, the exhaust pipe, the vents openings on the engine deck and the supports for drums).

The cover looks colored in grey-green, light sand yellow, orange-ish tan; the large bands look divided by thin black lines. Note the reddish shade of the ground.

The white inscription on the red banner means 'ready to die for the defense'.

An interesting characteristic of these Chonma-ho I is the rear extension of the turret with a shaped stowage box similar to that of later Chonmas, but shaped to fit on the curved cast turret. A smaller box looks visible under the cover on the right side of the turret, under the banner. Some of these tanks seem to be without the small searchlight on the commander's cupola.


Chonma-ho II 

It is similar to a stock Chonma-ho I and T-62, but has a laser rangefinder housed in a blister above the main gun; this is not the same type of rangefinder mounted on Soviet T-62s of late type. More than one type of arrangement above the gun can be seen on photos. 

There are recent photos of Chonma-ho I without this device, so it seems that it was not systematically refitted to older tanks.

These tanks look Soviet-built T-62s because of the lack of rings on the front glacis and turret sides.
They are updated with laser rangefinders and 14.5 KPM machine gun instead of the original 12.7 mm DShKM.
Above: close view of a laser rangefinder.

Right:  Chonma-II exposed on a recent display after 2010.

Note that each image shows a different type of laser rangefinder housing.

Chonma-ho III 

This has been described by some sources as a simple progressive upgrade of the Chonma-ho II, with a thermal sleeve for the main gun and armored track skirts added. ERA bricks have been described on the glacis and turret sides. It is also said to have a  curved armor in front of the turret, something similar to the Soviet BDD armour.

Unfortunately, I haven't found any photographic proof of the existence of this version, supposed with cast turret.

Photos that can resemble to this description, as the one on the left, seem all provided with a laminated turret when examined carefully. Besides these photos don't show any thermal sleeve, absent even in more recent modes (see Chonma-ho IV,V, VI).

Note that the Chonma-II exposed after 2010 aside more modern models doesn't show any trace of these updates. 

So, my idea is that Chonma-III, as described, is a misinterpretation of photos of what was called Chonma-IV with laminated turret.

A front view of the same type (it is unclear if the parade and the camouflage are the same).

Here we see the additional plates on the front of the turret too. They appear asymmetrical and don't cover the part where smoke mortars are installed. Note the white inner side of the hatches and the tracks with rubber chevrons.


Go to Chonma-ho IV, V, VI

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