July 10, 2020

DPRK history: the 170mm self-propelled gun in the Iran-Iraq War
Only combat use of North Korea’s exclusive weapon and its subsequent capture

Among the most distinctive and readily identifiable weapons in North Korea’s inventory is the 170mm self-propelled gun, known informally outside North Korea as the “Koksan gun” and assigned the designations of M-1978 and M-1989 – depending on the variant – by the United States military. The 170mm gun is a unique weapon designed and produced solely by the Democratic People’s Republic of (North) Korea beginning in the 1970s. It was one of the world’s longest-ranging artillery pieces and was intended to allow the Korean People’s Army to fire deep into South Korean territory across the Demilitarized Zone. Despite the 170mm self-propelled gun being designed and produced exclusively in the DPRK, Iran has the distinction of being the only country ever to use the weapon in combat, in the Iran-Iraq War.

The Iran-Iraq War was an eight-year war (September 1980-August 1988) for regional dominance between Iran and Iraq. In the aftermath of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, Iraq – under the leadership of Baathist dictator Saddam Hussein – launched an invasion of its neighbor and rival Iran in September 1980. The Iraqi leadership was motivated by a combination of factors including Saddam’s desire to supplant Iran as the dominant power in the Persian Gulf region, previous border conflicts with Iran and the fear that the Revolution might inspire insurgency among Iraq’s Shia population.