NKorea grounds transport planes on high oil prices

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SEOUL, Oct 28 (Reuters) High oil prices have pushed North Korea to ground its fleet of low-speed AN-2 transport planes that can be used to drop special forces deep behind combat lines, a news report said today.

The Soviet-made single-engine AN-2 Colt has a cruising speed of less than 200 km/h, and is capable of low-altitude flights that allow infiltrations through radar surveillance with about a dozen soldiers aboard, a military expert said.

''We believe AN-2 flights have been suspended because the fuel for them is being diverted for other training flights,'' South Korea's Yonhap news agency quoted a military source as saying.

The first Antonov-2 prototype flew in 1947. The impoverished North, with about 300 AN-2s in its fleet, is one of just a handful of countries to keep the ageing plane in service.

South and North Korea remain technically at war half a century after the truce that halted the 1950-53 Korean War.

About 1.9 million troops are still deployed on either side of the Demilitarised Zone border that divides them.

REUTERS SKB VC1312

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