North Korea, which declared the completion of a national nuclear force after the test-fire of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) Hwasong-15 in November 2017, is speeding up the development of a means of delivering tactical nuclear weapons this year.
Experts believe that both the ‘new tactical guided missile’ (an improved version of the KN-23) that North Korea test-fired on March 25 this year and the ‘new long-range cruise missile’ that North Korea test-fired on the 11th and 12th of this month are weapons made as a means of delivering tactical nuclear weapons. .
At the 8th Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea presided over by General Secretary Kim Jong-un held in January of this year, North Korea declared Δ nuclear technology advancement and Δ nuclear weapon miniaturization and tactical weaponization development Δ tactics as “a core concept and important strategic task to dramatically strengthen and develop the defense industry” He proposed the development of nuclear weapons and the production of super-large nuclear warheads.
At that time, North Korea also revealed that it plans to “apply in various ways depending on the purpose of the operational mission and the target of attack in modern warfare” regarding the direction of development of tactical nuclear weapons. Test-fired two tactical guided missiles in the direction of the East Sea. The new tactical guided missile was first unveiled by North Korea at a military parade commemorating the party convention in January. It is believed to be an improved weapon of the KN-23, nicknamed ‘Kander’.
In the test launch at the time, North Korea said that the missile had a flight range of about 600 km and a peak altitude of about 60 km.
The South Korean military authorities initially estimated the missile’s flight range to be 450 km, but later corrected it to 600 km, the same as North Korea claimed in consideration of the possibility of a ‘pull-up maneuver’ (the missile rises again while descending).
According to the North Korean Academy of Defense Science, the new tactical guided missile is equipped with an ‘improved solid fuel motor (engine)’ and has a warhead weight of 2.5 tons. In terms of warhead weight alone, it is heavier than our military’s ‘high-power ballistic missile’ (Hyunmoo IV, warhead weight 2 tons).
In addition, the new tactical guided missile is applied to the target as well as the existing tactical guided missile.
Experts in this regard suggested that North Korea may have developed this missile as a “tactical nuclear weapon capable of carrying a large warhead.”
In addition, the North Korean Academy of Defense Science conducted a test launch of a ‘new long-range cruise missile’ on the 11th and 12th of this month, five months after the test launch of the new tactical guided missile.
Cruise missiles are generally slower and less destructive than ballistic missiles. It is for this reason that the UN Security Council excluded cruise missiles from sanctions, unlike North Korea’s development of nuclear and ballistic missile technologies.
However, North Korea referred to the new long-range cruise missile that it test-fired this time as a “strategic weapon,” implying that it is developing related technologies as a means of delivering nuclear weapons.
In this test launch, North Korea said that the new long-range cruise missile flew 1500 km along an elliptical and figure 8 flight trajectory in 7,580 seconds (2 hours 6 minutes 20 seconds). It means that it has a ‘waypoint’ (middle point) setting function.
North Korea also announced that a ‘turbine blower motor’ (turbo fan engine) is applied to the new long-range cruise missile.
Since cruise missiles maintain a low altitude of several tens to hundreds of meters while flying to their target, it is difficult to detect them with general air defense radars.
In particular, since the South Korean military’s missile defense system is specialized in responding to North Korean ballistic missile attacks, some are pointing out that there may be a ‘loophole’ if North Korea fires both ballistic and cruise missiles in an emergency.
The South Korean military official said, “Since cruise missiles are slow, once they are caught, there is no problem in intercepting them.” Another view is that it is unclear whether North Korea has succeeded in miniaturizing its nuclear weapons enough to be mounted on cruise missiles.
However, experts point out that “the ROK and US military authorities need to strengthen their readiness posture by expanding the operation of surveillance and reconnaissance assets such as early warning devices.”
(Seoul = News 1)
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