The Kimster is slowly getting back into his old routine of testing different types of missiles and making high-profile inspections of new and advanced (relatively) strategic weaponry that is under construction. The launches have gone from sporadic to near-daily now, though he has kept them limited to short-range systems, maybe in an attempt to keep Trump off his back and to continue experiencing the far more tranquil environment he now enjoys, one that he gave up next to nothing to attain.
One of the things that caught our eye with this week's multiple-launch rocket system (MLRS) test was the fact that Kim viewed it from inside a custom-built observation vehicle that we have never seen before. It's just another sign that when it comes to those at the top of the regime itself, international sanctions have not stopped them from spending lavishly on official and lavishly customized state vehicles.
The images show Kim and the typical brace of regime goons inside a small bus or large van that has been totally outfitted for observing test launches. In the past, Kim has always had his little field office setup for these spectacles, which included a number of key items: large desk, a few flat-screen monitors showing the telemetry from the launch and other footage, a phone system of some sort, a pair of huge binoculars, and an ashtray to support his incessant cigarette consumption. Sometimes paper maps, pointers, and paperweights are also present. A canopy of some kind often covers the whole setup.
But this arrangement often left Kim out in the elements, from the heat of summer to cold winds of winter. Also, it offered no protection if the experimental projectiles veered far off course and impacted nearby. He was literally exposed out in the open. In addition, North Korea has been more heavily censoring photos of recent launches to try to conceal their locations, some of which are totally new. That objective conflicts with photographing Kim in an open-air field office. Even concealing Kim from high-flying prying eyescould now be a major priority.
The setup did provide some ridiculous comic book villain-like imagery that has since been ingrained in pop culture.
With this in mind, making a mobile observation post with all the same accouterments of the usual field offices used by the "Young General" is a somewhat logical evolution, but it would come at a cost.
We reached out to our colleague, automotive journalist Jonathan Klein, as to what type of vehicle this might be. He was inclined to think it was a Mercedes Sprinter-like mini-bus conversion. This would make a ton of sense as we know the Kim family has a long love affair with Mercedes Benz automobiles and Kim Jong Un is already in his second iteration of armored Mercedes Guard limousines. We also know all too well that North Korea has an elaborate smuggling network that is designed to acquire these types of vehicles and import them clandestinely into the country, skirting international sanctions, for the regime's use.
As you can see in the images below, the cabin is fairly roomy and is replete with cherry wood accidents (similar to his plane), soft-touch liners, and a hardwood floor. There is a small refreshment and control area as well, with what looks like Keurig-like coffee maker or other beverage dispenser. It is likely the vehicle also has a private restroom for Kim as the composition of his fecal matter is a closely guarded secret. And, of course, it also has all the staples of the field offices seen during previous Kim Jong Un 'commanded' missile launches. It may even be reconfigurable for other uses by the regime when it is not being used to monitor weapons tests as there are no hard fixtures installed on its floors.
What's also notable is the wireless tablet on his desk and what appears to be his own personal phone in some sort of generic white case. So far, open source sleuths have not been able to identify the exact type of phone, but North Korea has its own weird smartphone industry, so it's possible that it could be an indigenous model of some sort.
Help us identify this exact vehicle type. Let us know what your thoughts are in the comments below.
Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com