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North Korea’s Wednesday Test Was Hypersonic Missile
By Staff, Agencies
North Korea said that Wednesday’s missile test was a hypersonic weapon, adding that it successfully hit its target.
The launch, detected by Japan and South Korea, was the first since October and the second of a hypersonic missile, despite a United Nations ban on such activity.
Unlike ballistic missiles that fly into outer space before returning on steep trajectories, hypersonic weapons fly towards targets at lower altitudes and can achieve more than five times the speed of sound – or about 6,200 kilometers per hour.
“The successive successes in the test launches in the hypersonic missile sector have strategic significance in that they hasten a task for modernizing [the] strategic armed force of the state,” state news agency KCNA said.
In Wednesday’s test, the “hypersonic gliding warhead” detached from its rocket booster and maneuvered 120km laterally before it “precisely hit” a target 700km away, KCNA reported.
The test also confirmed components such as flight control and its ability to operate in the winter, it added.
The missile demonstrated its ability to combine “multi-step glide jump flight and strong lateral maneuvering,” KCNA said.
While it has not tested nuclear bombs or long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles [ICBMs] since 2017, in recent years North Korea has developed and launched a range of more maneuverable missiles and warheads likely aimed at being able to overcome missile defenses like those wielded by South Korea and the United States, analysts have said.
The country first tested a hypersonic missile, the Hwasong-8, in September.
“My impression is that the North Koreans have identified hypersonic gliders as a potentially useful qualitative means to cope with missile defense,” Ankit Panda, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in the US, told the Reuters news agency.
Hypersonic weapons are considered the next generation of arms that aim to rob adversaries of reaction time and traditional defeat mechanisms.
Photos of Wednesday’s test showed what analysts said was a liquid-fueled ballistic missile with a conical-shaped Maneuverable Reentry Vehicle [MaRV] blasting off from a wheeled launch vehicle in a cloud of flame and smoke.
It is a different version to the weapon tested last year, and was first unveiled at a defense exhibition in Pyongyang in October, Panda said.
“They likely set up at least two separate development programs,” he added. “One of these was the Hwasong-8, which was tested in September. This missile, which shares a few features in common with the Hwasong-8, is another.”
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