Ch’ŏnma in Eritrean service

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Eritrean Defence Forces

North Korea adopted the Soviet T-62 as their MBT in the 70s, replacing their antiquated T-34s and T-55s (although over 2000 T-55s are still in service today). They were produced domestically, with the first leaving the production line in 1976. These were designated Ch’ŏnma (roughly meaning ‘Pegasus’) – ‘Chonma-ho’ is often used online, but this designation is fake and not used by North Korea.

The Ch’ŏnma copied the turret of the T-62 obr. 1972, and the hull of the T-62 obr. 1962. However, North Korea also made a few minor changes, mostly to the turret. Namely, they replaced the two handles on each side of the turret with just one on each side – this is by far the easiest way to differentiate them from the T-62. They also modified the loader’s hatch, as well as changed the anti-aircraft mount to a 14.5mm KPVT, which could traverse 360°. The only change to the hull was not including supports for mine rollers on the lower plate, which was a common feature on Soviet-built T-62s.

In the early 1980s, North Korea delivered an unknown quantity of Ch’ŏnma’s to Ethiopia. The two country’s had established relations following the Ethiopian Revolution, when the nominally Marxist-Leninist military dictatorship (the Derg) overthrew the Ethiopian Empire in 1974. The Ch’ŏnma’s served in the Ethiopian Civil War in the 80s up until the fall of the Derg in 1991, used by both pro-government forces, as well as in limited capacity by rebels who had captured them.

  • Three Ethiopian Ch’ŏnma’s (and one T-62) in the garden of the Addis Ababa Royal Palace on May 27, 1991 – 1 day before the end of the war.

  • Burnt out Ethiopian Ch’ŏnma outside Addis Ababa Royal Palace, taken after the end of the war.

In 1998, the Eritrean-Ethiopian War began, following Eritrea’s independence in 1993. This would last until 2000. It’s unknown if Ethiopia used Ch’ŏnma’s during this war, but they almost certainly had no more in service during the 2020-2022 Tigray War. At some point, Eritrea inherited a number of Ch’ŏnma’s, alongside regular T-62s. They could have captured them all from Ethiopia during the 1998-2000 war, could have obtained them after independence from Ethiopia during the brief period of relative peace and cooperation, or could have received them directly from North Korea – it isn’t clear. It’s also unclear just how many entered Eritrean service, and how many are used today – it could just be a few vehicles, only one was definitively spotted in 2019 during a parade.


  • Two Eritrean T-62s on either side of a Ch’ŏnma in 2019

The Ch’ŏnma in Eritrean service is identical to the North Korean model, aside from a unique modification made to both their Ch’ŏnma’s and T-62’s. The 14.5mm KPVT has been moved from the loader’s hatch, and placed coaxially to the right of the main cannon. No other modifications appear visible.

The only other unique feature of these Ch’ŏnma’s is the two-tone camouflage, present on a number of other Eritrean vehicles.

  • Close-up of two Eritrean T-62s, nicely showing the camouflage

Otherwise, the tanks remain identical. The Ch’ŏnma is armed with a stabilised 115mm U-5TS, and likely fires APFSDS rounds imported by North Korea from the Soviet Union, such as 3BM3 and 3BM4, alongside 3BK4 HEAT-FS and 3OF11 HE rounds. The Ch’ŏnma’s turret has 214-240mm of frontal armour, 140-165mm of side armour, and 65mm at the rear. The hull is 100mm, sloped at 60°, 80mm at the sides, and 45mm at the rear. The tank weighs 37t, and is equipped with an engine providing 580hp, letting it reach a top speed of 51km/h (and 8km/h in reverse).

The Eritrean Ch’ŏnma is a unique vehicle, introducing a unique (albeit minor) modification of a unique T-62, and one of the few North Korean vehicles that has seen combat and service outside of the DPRK. I would think it would fit best as a premium or event vehicle for a future North Korean sub-tree or United Korean tech tree.


  • 115mm U-5TS
    • Stabilised
    • 3BM3 APFSDS
    • 3BM4 APFSDS
    • 3BK4 HEAT-FS
    • 3OF11 HE
  • 14.5mm KPVT coaxial
  • 7.62mm coaxial


  • Hull
    • Front - 100mm at 60º
    • Sides - 80mm at 0º
    • Rear - 45mm at 2º
  • Turret
    • Front - 214-240mm
    • Sides - 140-165mm
    • Rear - 65mm


  • Speed
    • 51/-8 km/h
  • Weight
    • 37t
  • Engine power
    • 580hp, 15.7hp/t


  • Crew
    • 4 – Commander, gunner, loader, driver



  • Ch’ŏnma is the second tank from the front

  • Ch’ŏnma is the second tank from the front


  • Ch’ŏnma is the first tank from the front



Ch'ŏnma - Tank Encyclopedia
T-62 (Object 166) - Tank Encyclopedia
Tankograd: T-62
The Armed Forces of North Korea: On the Path of Songun – Stijn Mitzer and Joost Oliemans

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An interesting premium for a DPRK tree, either as a sub or united. +1

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