The LTTE's North Korean Connection

By :Defencewire

(October, 18, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) A South Korean Newspaper called the Sankei Shimbun reported on 26th August 2007 of a North Korean vessel seized while transporting North Korean weapons from Chonjin to Sri Lankan rebels. According to the Sankei Shimbun, the weapons being smuggled to the LTTE included automatic rifles, anti-tank weapons and machine guns. Given the reputation of North Korea at assisting non-state armed elements, and the LTTE’s thirst for new deadly weapons, DefenceWire took the liberty of consulting a South Korean Security Expert who has studied, at length, the LTTE and North Korean weapons systems.

The LTTE has been designing crude stealth craft to boost the firepower of the Sea Tigers, who have incidentally launched over three hundred suicide attacks against the Sri Lanka Navy. Recent video footage of preparation by the LTTE Sea Tigers for suicide missions indicated that the organization was developing a Human Torpedo. The suicide contraption was similar to a one-man water-scooter with detonation cones at the front. This contraption could have little practical use since the suicide cadre is exposed to gunfire, unless the LTTE uses it during conditions of low visibility. The contraption is also useless against fast moving deep-sea vessels, such as the Jetliner Transport ship, which travels at high speeds in deeper waters.

Unfortunately, with a possible collaboration with the North Koreans, new possibilities may have already emerged for the LTTE. Unconfirmed reports had indicated for years that the LTTE was developing a small suicide submarine. This is not an impossible task considering the group managed to launch surprise attacks using light aircrafts smuggled into the country.

The Imperial Japanese Navy used a suicide torpedo called KAITEN during WWII for suicide missions against the Allied Forces. The success or failure of these attacks is controversial. However, this basic design has been modified by the North Koreans to include stealth capabilities

Since LTTE’s manufacturing capability is under watch by the Security Forces and since a submarine with a steel body needs a building-dock for building and maintaining, the LTTE could turn to the North Koreans for help. Since the LTTE requires a disposable submarine for suicide mission, the LTTE does not need steel bodied full scale submarines. Only possible option is FRP (Fibre-Reinforced Plastic) bodied midget submarines. Therefore the North Korean Yugo class (NATO code name) can be of considerable use for the organization.

The Yugo Class is the smallest SSM in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Navy (DPRK-N). It is made of plastic and hence hard to detect. The vessel is traditionally 66 feet in length and can travel at 8kts submerged. The prominent aspect of the Yugo class is the materials used for the hull. The boat is half made of FRP which enables more stealth and less cost for maintaining. The most significant issue is that given the recent revelations of LTTE-North Korean ties, we can reasonably assume the transferring of FRP submarine technology to the LTTE, thus enabling them to build a much smaller vessel and eliminating the need for building-docks detectable by the Security Forces. When DefenceWire questioned prominent Naval Intelligence Sources, they were not fully aware of the potential threat of suicide torpedoes. Given the organization's history of striking economic targets, the Colombo Harbour could also be at risk from such attacks.