North Korea Arming Boats with US Gatling Guns: Report

(General Dynamics photo via Defense Department)(General Dynamics photo via Defense Department)

North Korea is reportedly arming many of its patrol boats with U.S.-made Gatling guns.

That’s according to a news report published Thursday on the website of the Yonhap News Agency, South Korea’s largest news organization:

“North Korea has been seen replacing its aging weapon systems with the rotary gun system,” a military insider said. “If all the 380-something North Korean littoral combat boats are armed with the machine gun, this would pose an added threat to our Navy.”

The sources said the weapon replacement seems to be aimed at strengthening North Korea’s naval combat capabilities especially in close quarters. At present many smaller North Korean boats use hand-operated 30 millimeter cannons.

Local sources speculate that the North Korean guns are the 12.7 mm weapons made by General Electric. The machine gun has a cyclic rate of fire of 2,000 rounds per minute and can reach targets five to six kilometers away, although the effective range is 2 km.

It’s unclear why they wanted to switch out the guns — or how they obtained the U.S.-made designs, which based on the description appear to be the mini-gun designated GAU-19 by the U.S. military and currently manufactured by General Dynamics Corp.

The company bills the lightweight, three-barrel GAU-19/A weapon as “ideally suited for scout or utility helicopters and light fixed-wing aircraft,” providing effective “firepower against area suppression and point targets, such as light armored vehicles,” according to its website. It comes with “a fixed-forward mount that can be attached to standard 14-inch NATO stores racks or lightweight mount, which attaches directly to a universal stores pylon,” the website states.

(General Dynamics photo via Defense Department)

The GAU-19/B, meanwhile, is designed for “a variety of air, land and sea platforms, including helicopters, fixed wing aircraft, land-based vehicles, naval vessels and high-speed patrol boats,” according to the company.

In addition to the U.S., the weapon is also used by such countries as Colombia, Japan, Mexico, Oman — and now apparently North Korea.

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Brendan McGarry
Brendan McGarry is the managing editor of He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.