In the early morning hours of September 29, North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency reported on a missile launch that had taken place the previous day, saying, “The National Defense Academy has successfully test-fired a newly developed hypersonic missile [Mars 8] type.
The hypersonic missile is one of the most high-profile weapons in the military world today. North Korea is actually moving forward with this development,
As of the day of the launch at 6:40 a.m. on the 28th, the South Korean military announced that the missile had a range ofless than200km and a maximum altitude of about30km, and that it was not confirmed to be a ballistic missile.
However, as unconfirmed information from South Korean military sources, Yonhap News and other news outlets reported that it was “presumed to be a new type of missile due to its different altitude and speed” and that it “could be a test of a hypersonic missile. The North Korean announcement confirms that these fears were true.
What is a hypersonic missile?
With the development of missile defense by the United States, the possibility of interception by conventional ballistic missiles has increased. Therefore, Russia and China are focusing on the development of missiles that can evade missile defense.
One such missile is the hypersonic glide missile, which can be launched at speeds of Mach 5 or higher with a low trajectory. The warhead is made of a glide body, which allows the missile to fly long distances at relatively low altitudes at high speed, making it difficult for the enemy to detect and predict its trajectory, making it difficult to intercept.
In addition, if it flies at an altitude of 70 km or less, current Aegis ships equipped with exo-atmospheric interceptors will not be able to cope with it. Hypersonic missiles are the trump card for missile defense, and North Korea has actually been developing them.
North Korea has already developed the KN-23 short-range missile, which glides at low altitude on an irregular trajectory, for use in breaking through enemy Aegis missile defenses, but it is still not powerful enough and does not have sufficient speed or range. When launched at an altitude that would allow it to evade Aegis interceptors, the KN-23 missile could barely reach South Korea and, at best, parts of western Japan.
“Analysis of Mars 8 from photographs
According to the photos released by the Korean Central News Agency, the Mars 8 is equipped with a single-stage liquid-fuel rocket and a new type of glider with
It is difficult to estimate the performance directly from the photo, but
According to the relevant article in the Korean Central News Agency, ”
Also, from the phrase ”
Of course, this is not the end of the story.
New weapons are being completed one after another.
In addition, the following part of the article is noteworthy.
“The research and development of hypersonic missiles, which is one of the top five priorities of the strategic weapons sector in the Five-Year Plan for the Development of National Defense Science and Weapons Systems outlined by the Eighth Party Congress, has been carried out according to a sequential, scientific and reliable development process.
In other words, the hypersonic missile is one of the five priority strategic weapons developments that are currently underway.
As for the other four, the report of the 8th Party Congress in January 2021 proposed the following as future tasks: “miniaturization and lightening of nuclear weapons into tactical weapons and production of super-large nuclear warheads,” “accurate warhead guidance within a range of 15,000 km (*”multi-warhead individual guidance” is also mentioned in another part of the report),” “underwater and (*Multi-warhead individual guidance is also mentioned in another part of the report), underwater and ground-based solid rocket ICBMs, and nuclear submarines and underwater-launched strategic nuclear weapons. North Korea is probably continuing to develop all of these.
Thus, North Korea is steadily moving forward with the development of new weapons, which it proudly announced to the world in January 2021. Some believe that the missile launches were intended as a political check on the U.S. and South Korea, but the three missiles launched by North Korea in September were a completely new type of cruise missile, a new improved version of an existing missile, and a completely new hypersonic glide missile. All of them were live-fire tests of new weapons.
Given that North Korea’s missile launches have had no real effect on the U.S. and South Korea as a check on them, we must assume that they are simply conducting, and will continue to conduct, the tests necessary to meet their own force-strengthening goals.
Kim Jong-un is proudly strengthening his nuclear missile capability.
Of course, there is no way that the goals set in January can be realized one after another in such a short period of time, so it is likely that Kim Jong-un announced at the Party Congress in January the new weapons that he had been working on for some time and was on the verge of realizing. In fact, the North Korean statement at the time of the cruise missile launch referred to the weapons as having been “developed in the past two years. In terms of timing, this would be after North Korea hardened its negotiations with the US following the breakdown of the US-North Korea summit in Hanoi, Vietnam in February 2019.
Incidentally, Chairman Kim Jong-un (now General Secretary) also instructed a “new policy to further strengthen nuclear war deterrence and operate strategic armed forces in a high state of alertness” at an expanded meeting of the party’s Central Military Commission in May 2020. While the international community was talking about the “denuclearization of North Korea,” the North Koreans were making no secret of their commitment to strengthen their nuclear missile capabilities.
North Korea’s Next Launch Test Could Fly Over Japan
So what will North Korea do next?
It has been confirmed that the most advanced preparations are now underway for the ”
North Korea has already successfully conducted an underwater launch test of the submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) Polaris 3 in October 2019, but has yet to conduct a launch test of its improved Polaris 4 and its further improved Polaris 5, although they appeared in a military parade. The launch tests are probably ready to be conducted at any time.
If North Korea conducts its next SLBM launch test, it may launch it at a very high altitude and drop it into the Sea of Japan, or maybe even fly over the Japanese archipelago. In any case, the cruise missiles, hypersonic glide missiles, and new SLBMs that North Korea is developing at a rapid pace are all weapons that pose a serious threat to Japan.
The Japanese government needs to continue to keep a close watch.
Reporting and writing： Buntaro Kuroi
Buntaro Kuroi: Born in 1963. Military journalist. Has covered many conflict zones. His military and intelligence-related publications include "Cho Geopolitics de Yomikaku! Taboo Map Book" (Takarajima-sha), etc.