The North Korean missile threat is evolving rapidly. Unlike the past when three or four Scud-based short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) using liquid fuel were fired, the new solid fuel SRBM and multiple rocket launchers are used in large quantities.
In fact, on the 5th, North Korea fired eight SRBMs at four locations in 35 minutes. The missiles fired by North Korea have a very short preparation time for launch and are capable of rapid movement and deployment, such as the North Korean version of the Iskander (KN-23) and A-Takims (KN-24), the super-large multiple rocket launcher (KN-25), and a new tactical guided weapon. they are weapons
◆North Korean missiles entering the stage of preparation for actual deployment… KAMD threat
North Korea’s missile launch on the 5th means that the new SRBM, which has appeared in recent years, goes beyond technical verification and is entering the stage of tactical development with actual combat in mind.
In case of an emergency on the Korean Peninsula, it will launch a surprise launch from several locations at the same time rather than just one missile from one location, and this shows that the North Korean military has the command system and capabilities to make it successful.
North Korea’s move puts a significant burden on the ROK-U.S. coalition forces.
During the 1st Gulf War, Iraqi forces carried a Scud SRBM on a mobile launch vehicle (TEL) and then fired a surprise fire, then moved quickly to embarrass the multinational forces.
However, due to the limitations of liquid-fueled Scud missiles, many Iraqi launch attempts have been neutralized by multinational fighters or special forces units.
North Korea has overcome the limitations of Iraqi forces to a large extent. The Scud SRBM, which takes more than an hour to prepare for launch using liquid fuel, has been replaced with a solid fuel SRBM that can fire quickly.
Solid fuel SRBMs have a very short preparation time for launch, making it difficult to detect signs before launch.
If solid-fuel SRBMs are launched simultaneously from various inland locations in North Korea, the South Korean Missile Defense (KAMD) system increases the burden in the process of tracking them. The risk that the KAMD will be pierced may increase accordingly.
Another difficulty for KAMD’s operations is that the time it takes for many SRBMs fired from inland North Korea to reach the metropolitan area is only a few minutes.
When a Scud missile is launched from south of Pyongyang toward the metropolitan area, it is known that it takes less than 5 minutes to reach Seoul.
The new solid fuel SRBM, which has improved performance than the Scud, is faster, has a lower altitude, and has a pull-up maneuver to avoid an intercept attempt like the KN-23.
Like a new tactical guided weapon with a maximum altitude of only 25 km, North Korea’s new SRBM flies very low, reducing the chance of detection by radar.
In this regard, there is concern that there will be only a minute or so of time that can be used for air defense operations that detect, identify, determine, and intercept North Korean ballistic missiles. It is difficult to destroy North Korean missiles with air defense operations that are carried out in stages by applying the existing method.
This is why critics say that North Korea has shown its obsession to break through the KAMD with the new SRBM ‘run-and-run’ tactic.
Requires a more sophisticated counterattack than KAMD
If North Korea develops a missile ‘run-and-run’ tactic, KAMD cannot guarantee 100% interception in case of an emergency on the Korean Peninsula. KAMD’s intercept range and scale are limited, but there is a risk that it will be breached if North Korea repeatedly attacks with missiles.
If North Korea develops tactical nuclear weapons and mounts them on SRBMs, the problem becomes even more serious. Tactical nuclear-equipped missiles have a high risk of having fatal consequences even if only one falls to the ground. This means that the burden of the intercept operation is further increased.
To avoid this risk, in addition to the passive method of intercepting incoming missiles with a KAMD, an offensive concept of reducing the number of missiles flying south by destroying them in the pre-launch stage should be added. This increases the probability of intercepting KAMD.
The South Korean military, along with KAMD, operates a kill chain that preemptively strikes North Korea’s nuclear and missile targets. When the opponent is about to pull the trigger, you shoot first to subdue it.
The operation of the kill chain is also of great help to KAMD. North Korean missile units are inevitably conscious of the risk of attack from the kill chain.
Concentrating on avoiding the kill chain will limit operation, such as firing missiles without accurate data or only launching missile attacks on days when the weather is bad.
In the 1st Gulf War, Iraqi Scud units fired missiles on a cloudy day as multinational forces attacked intensify. The intention was to make it impossible for US reconnaissance aircraft to detect the heat or smoke of the missile.
Considering the missiles that the kill chain destroys, the number of North Korean missiles that KAMD will face when the kill chain is in operation is likely to decrease more than expected.
Israel, which is suffering from the threat of rockets from Hamas and Hezbollah, is operating an intercept system, Iron Dome, and conducting a ‘point strike’ using fighters is also a measure to reduce the number of rockets that Iron Dome must intercept as much as possible.
There are still challenges to be improved for the kill chain to work properly.
First, reliable and accurate information on the scale and operational capabilities of North Korean SRBMs is required. During the First Gulf War, Iraqi forces had more Scud TELs than US intelligence had estimated. The multinational forces had to extend their air operations beyond schedule to destroy them.
Although the Defense White Paper specifies about 100 North Korean surface-to-ground guided weapon launchers, there is a good chance that TELs that were hidden to avoid the surveillance network of the ROK and US forces exist. It is necessary to converge relevant information from various sources to confirm the reality of North Korea’s missile power.
This also affects the number of strategic targets in North Korea in case of an emergency on the Korean Peninsula. In a war situation, the number of strategic targets to be struck increases rapidly.
Just before the First Gulf War, the US set up only 27 strategic targets in Iraq. Immediately after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the number increased to 57, and during Operation Desert Storm, there were over 400.
It is known that there were times when the war goals were changed, but in some cases, forces that were not normally identified were added as they were identified.
In response to the faster tempo of the battlefield with the advent of solid fuel SRBMs, there are also voices calling for converting the kill chain, which is a sequential response structure, to a kill web concept in which sensors, communication, processing, and hitting are simultaneously operated in real time. have.
If the detection, strike, and communication system are connected to a web of mesh structure and applied to various targets, it can also respond to North Korea’s ‘shooting’.
The effect can be further enhanced by adding artificial intelligence (AI) and high-performance networks to the kill web. When the military commander issues an order to intercept and destroy North Korean missiles, the AI-based decision-making system combines the power required to execute the order and presents it as a package. If the leadership approves, the command is propagated in real time through the network and the operation proceeds.
If the AI-provided package power is presented at random, it is nearly impossible for the North Korean military to predict the South Korean military’s operations in advance. This allows the ROK military to take the lead in intercepting and destroying North Korean missiles.
If related technologies are applied to response to North Korean missiles in a situation where the 4th industrial revolution technology is applied to national defense, ‘Defense Innovation 4.0’ is being promoted, it will raise the KAMD, which is considered the most vulnerable among the South Korean 3-axis systems, in a short period of time and threaten the North Korean missiles. This is expected to have a significant impact on the decline.