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Rear view of M1978 in Iranian service.
Source: - © copyright lies with original owner

North Korea
Self-propelled howitzer
Entered service
1985, possibly as early as late 1970's
In service
North Korea
Late 1970's to 1990's
North Korea
Number produced
At least dozens, possibly up to 500.
Koksan (Western nickname)
M1978 (Western designation for early model)
M1989 (Western designation for late model)
Notable users
North Korea



The Koksan is a self-propelled howitzer of North Korean origin. It was designed for very long range shelling and for several decades was the longest range conventional artillery piece in use. The nickname Koksan was coined by Western intelligence service by naming it to the city it was first spotted. The original North Korean designation is not known.


The Koksan is based on the Type 59 tank chassis and mount a very large 170mm gun which is believed to be an ex-Russian naval or coastal artillery gun. The gun is mounted in an open superstructure and is stabilized by two large spades at the rear. A large multi-slotted muzzle brake is fitted. An improved model is based on a chassis that is visually similar to the Soviet 2S7 Pion and carries more ammunition.


The massive 170mm gun fires powerful shells. The range of standard shells is believed to be about 40 km and rocket assisted shells can be fired out to 60 km. The range and firepower is offset by a very low rate of fire of up to 2 rounds per 5 minutes.


The Type 59 chassis is armored but only provides protection for the driver. The gun crew is not carried on the Koksan and in the firing position the crew is fully exposed. The only protection that is provided is the ability to use the weapon well behind the front line due to its long range.


The Type 59 chassis provides a reasonable mobility on roads and in the field. The maximum road speed is estimated a 40 km/h. The high center of gravity and large gun make it difficult to travel in the field.


North Korea has up to 500 large caliber guns. The Koksan makes up an unknown portion of these guns. A number of M1978 was exported to Iran and was extensively used in the Iran-Iraq war. One or more M1978 were captured by Iraq and subsequently modified in order to use stocks of 180mm ammunition. The modified vehicle(s) can be identified by the pepperpot muzzle brake, which is not original.



The M1978 is the original model of the Koksan. It is based on the Type 59 tank chassis. This is the most common version and is also the version that was exported to Iran.


The M1989 is an improved model of the Koksan. It is based on a modified tracked chassis. The advantages are an improved balance and 12 shells are carried on board. It is possible that these are not produced new, but are refurbished M1978 models.


Related articles

2S7 Pion

The M1989 variant of the Koksan looks somewhat similar to the Soviet 2S7 Pion.