South Korean military on Monday said North Korea has developed a new road-mobile intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM), based on a technology of submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM).

According to a Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) official, North Korea test-fired a new solid fuel-powered IRBM based on SLBM technology.

North Korea on Sunday launched a ballistic missile Pukguksong-2. It flew towards the East Sea for 500 km after blasting off at an altitude of 550 km.

Following the launch, the JCS said it could be an advanced version of intermediate-range Musudan ballistic missile, which soared as high as 1,413.6 km and travelled 500 km during a test-flight in June 2016.

The Seoul military changed the Sunday assessment, saying top North Korean leader Kim Jong Un probably instructed the development of a longer-range ground-based missile based on the technology of the SLBM, which was test-launched in August last year.

The new missile was fired from a crawler-type mobile launcher and the South Korean military put its range at anything between those of SLBM and Musudan missiles.

The North Korea-owned SLBM is believed to have a range of 2,000-2,500 km, with the estimation of Musudan range put at 3,000-3,500 km. The Pukguksong-2 may have a range of 2,500-3,000 km.

Musudan, dubbed Hwasong 10 by Pyongyang, is known to put the entire territories of South Korea and Japan as well as US military base in Guam in its target range.

The Sunday launch may mean North Korea’s development of a new type of intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in addition to KN-08, called Hwasong-13 by North Korea.

The KN-08 was displayed for the first time during a 2012 military parade, but it has yet to be publicly tested. North Korea is believed to have its upgraded version called KN-14, which also has not been tested before.

The new rocket engine, which North Korea tested in September, was believed to be used for the ICBMs or Musudan missiles.

Some estimate the first-stage propellant of the ICBMs may be composed of four engines used for Musudan missiles.

The advent of Pukguksong-2, which is based on SLBM technology, may indicate the development of an upgraded ICBM version based on the new IRBM technology.

North Korea’s KCNA news agency said the Sunday launch re-confirmed the separation of vehicles at the stages and verified the position control and guidance in the midcourse and re-entry sections.

It took North Korea just six months to develop the surface-to-surface IRBM following a successful test in August last year of the SLBM, called Pukguksong-1.

First Published | 13 February 2017 2:23 PM
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