Sunday, December 26, 2010

MS-29 Yono / IS-120 Ghadir Class Midget Sub - research quest

There is something of an ongoing quest by Open Source Intelligence enthusiasts to piece together a better understanding, and balanced view, of the North Korean 'Yono class' midget submarine, and its related types in service with other countries, particularly Iran where it is called the IS-120 Ghadir Class. Iran is deploying it in growing numbers within the Persian gulf, with at least 11 operational at this time.
Iranian IS-120. Image: FARS News

Another blog post covering it is here

Here are the latest estimated views showing the internal layout as discerned from video and other evidence:

There have been many iterations of these sketches and the 3D model, but each has differed in minute detail that only the most enthusiastic observer might notice.

The original schematic/cutaway sketch was by the blogger Plane Man. We can now see that it was wrong in almost every detail, but correct in many ways too. It acted as the starting point of this project.

The first key error is that the small cylindrical item between the railings at the front of the fore deck is not a crew access. Instead the crew access in the main sail is in fact entering the 'torpedo room' - the video was misinterpreted. Another early sketch by Plane Man had similar errors:

Below it is a screen capture of our scale model from about the same angle, with many sections transparent. As you can see, the older sketch has forward hydroplanes which are mounted too high up and are much too large. Also evident is that the navigation lights on the sail (red on port, green on starboard) are misinterpreted as windows in the older sketch.

Although the original source is not clear (if you know please tell us so that we can give credit!), this South Korean sketch which we found during research turns out to be very good, although not exactly as per the IS-120 model:
(Red annotations added)

Another RoK illustration (author/source unknown to this author) of the related but smaller P-4 class submarine was also useful:

An earlier model of the MS-29 was created by TLAM Strike using SubSim game modelling approach.

Compared to the IS-120 model/sketches, the above MS-29 model has a more rounded nose and lacks the toothed edge between the upper deck cladding and the pressure hull. This is not incorrect, rather it shows some of the observed differences between the IS-120 and the early-production MS-29. The model shows externally mounted torpedoes which conforms to some DPRK defector accounts. This arrangement is either altogether wrong or more likely mixes up various DPRK submarines - whichever, the account of the defector are otherwise credible and extremely enlightening. William Magoffin was among the researchers contributing to this effort and has modelled many North Korean submarines, creating excellent visualisations.

The main break however came from several videos of the internal arrangement of the Iranian IS-120 shown on Iranian news channels and available in poor resolution on Youtube: