South Korea Feared North Korean War Blimps: CIA Report

How We Imagine a North Korean War Blimp

South Korea feared the North was testing dirigibles over its territory that could be used to drop agents, propaganda or even biological weapons, according to a declassified CIA report now available online.*

According to a “highly-classified briefing” provided to South Korean Air Force officers in early 1970, radar had picked up “maneuvers” of what were assumed to be “dirigibles because of their shape and speed.” The objects were sighted just north of the DMZ which separates South and North Korea, but some penetrated South Korean air space and even “exploded.”

South Korea feared the sightings might be tests of a new secret weapon. “NK (North Korea) may use the self-propelled balloons for dropping agents, propaganda, or even epidemic germs into the ROK (Republic of Korea),” reported the CIA report (based on information from a South Korean intelligence officer, reflecting that the allied governments of the US and South Korea have long conducted intelligence gathering on one another.)

An-2 “Colt” Transport Plane

We’ve seen no further information on the suspected North Korean dirigibles and wonder if they were really just propaganda balloons of the type then often launched by both Koreas (if so, reports of “maneuvers” seen by the radar operators were mistaken).

Nowadays, analysis of the North Korean air threat to the South usually focuses on drones and the many Antonov An-2 “Colt” biplanes Pyongyang would use to land special forces behind the lines during a war.

*The document was apparently posted on the CIA web site late last year and had been declassified in 2002.
[May 2017]