According to a report by the Korean Central News Agency on January 15, North Korea tested a railway-borne missile in its firing drills on Friday.
According to the report, on the morning of the 14th, the Railway Mobile Missile Regiment received an urgent task from the General Staff of the Korean People’s Army and quickly arrived at the designated launch site to launch two tactical missiles. The missiles accurately hit the target in the East Sea of North Korea.
This is the third time North Korea has launched a hypersonic missile three days after the launch of a hypersonic missile on the 11th of this month. The three missile launches within half a month have once again attracted great attention from the outside world on the situation on the Korean Peninsula.
North Korea tests missile twice in a week
Judging from the photos released by the Korean Central News Agency, the test launch is based on the railway mobile ballistic missile known as the North Korean version of the “Iskander” (“Hwasong”-11), which was first made public Appearance in September last year.
This is North Korea’s third missile launch this month. Of the three launches, the most talked about are the two hypersonic missile tests on January 5 and 11.
According to North Korean state media, the DPRK Academy of National Defense successfully conducted a test launch of a hypersonic missile on the 11th. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visited the test launch. Allegedly, the purpose of this test is to finally confirm all the technical characteristics of the newly developed hypersonic missile weapon system.
Pyongyang said “the missile made a 120 km lateral movement in the flight distance of the hypersonic gliding warhead” before it “precisely hit a set target 700 km away,” the Korean Central News Agency reported.
The North Korean release of the details of the hypersonic missile test is also intended to prove the success of the missile test to the outside world, and to retaliate against South Korean and American intelligence agencies’ doubts about it.
Judging from the official photos released by North Korea, the hypersonic missile tested this time is the same as the missile tested on January 5, using an axisymmetric biconical configuration with small wings, which North Korea tested last year. The Hwasong-8 hypersonic missile is adopted a wedge-shaped gliding warhead (waverider shape), but both are boost-gliding hypersonic missiles, and the warheads should be unpowered gliding aircraft. Compared with the warhead in the shape of the waverider, the axisymmetric biconical configuration with winglets has a smaller lift-to-drag ratio, better aerodynamic stability, and relatively low technical difficulty. The warhead used in the hypersonic missile (LRHW) that the U.S. Army is preparing to install also adopts an axisymmetric biconical configuration, while the previous HTV-2 hypersonic vehicle with a symmetrical waverider shape failed in two tests.
North Korea conducted its second hypersonic missile test six days after the test launch of the hypersonic missile on the 5th, which is quite a bit of a “slap in the face” of the South Korean intelligence agency.
The South Korean intelligence agency released news on the 6th that North Korea claimed that the hypersonic missile it tested on the 5th hit a target set up 700 kilometers away with zero deviation, which is different from the range detected by the South Korean and U.S. intelligence agencies, but South Korea and the United States did not specify. Introducing parameters such as range, the implication is that the technical indicators of the missiles tested by North Korea have not reached the mainstream level of boost-glide hypersonic missiles.
On the 11th, the South Korean Joint Staff said that the missile launched by North Korea that morning had a speed of about Mach 10, which was an improvement over the hypersonic missile launched on the 5th. Considering that the speed of the missile launched on the 5th was Mach 5-6, the latter was nearly twice as fast as the former. Mach 10 is on par with mainstream boost-glide hypersonic missiles and practically impossible to intercept. If North Korea is deployed in actual combat, it will only take a few minutes to attack the rear bases in South Korea.
It is worth mentioning that Kim Jong-un, the leader of North korea, visited the site to guide the launch, which also proved that the test was a success. The five core tasks of the five-year national defense force development plan proposed by Kim Jong-un at the Eighth Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea, and hypersonic weapons with the most important strategic significance is one of the tasks.
On September 28 last year, North Korea tested the newly developed Hwasong-8 hypersonic missile for the first time. At the “Self-Defense 2021” National Defense Development Exhibition held in October of that year, North Korea unveiled the Hwasong-8 missile at close range for the first time. As mentioned above, the Hwasong-8 missile is equipped with a waverider hypersonic glide warhead. Analysis believes that the booster is taken from the first and second parts of the Hwasong-12 missile, and the range of the Hwasong-12 missile exceeds 4,000 kilometers. , the “Hwasong” -8 missile will also have a range of more than 4,000 kilometers. The second hypersonic missile booster tested this time also has a great technical connection with the Mars-12 missile. The length of the booster is shorter than that of the Mars-8 missile. From the range of 1,000 kilometers , which should be a shortened first-level section.
North Korea’s state media also mentioned that the missile’s “ampoule-based missile fuel system and engine stability” had been “confirmed” for the first time. The missile’s fuel can be stored for months, compared to conventional missiles that require liquid fuel injection hours before launch. Ryu Sung-yup, a professional research member of the 21st Century Military Research Institute of South Korea, said, “So far, South Korea and the United States have been able to monitor North Korea’s fuel injection process and know in advance the trend of North Korea’s provocation.” “Once North Korea popularizes the use of ampoule fuel, it will be left to us in advance. The detection time will be greatly shortened.”
North Korea’s exploration of both routes in the field of boost-glide hypersonic missiles shows that it is committed to keeping up with the world’s cutting-edge military technologies. The technical difficulty of the hypersonic missiles tested this time is relatively low, but it is conducive to finalizing the equipment for the troops as soon as possible and cracking the surrounding areas. The US, Japan, and South Korea’s anti-missile “fence” is getting stronger and stronger, while the Hwasong-8 is a strategic-level hypersonic missile that can carry a nuclear warhead to enhance nuclear deterrence.
Hypersonic race has begun
After the split between North and South Korea, North Korea and South Korea have been engaged in a very targeted arms race. You chase after me. In recent years, the competition between North Korea and South Korea in the field of missiles has shifted from the previous land-based medium and short-range ballistic missiles to long-range cruise missiles and submarine-launched ballistic missiles. Against the background of the rapid development of hypersonic weapons, the missile competition has expanded to the field of hypersonic weapons.
After North Korea test-fired its second hypersonic missile on January 5, South Korean media published an article saying that the South Korean Institute of Defense Science stated that the field of hypersonic technology is ahead of North Korea and will be deployed in actual in coming years.
In August 2020, Jeong Kyung-doo, then the Minister of Defense of South Korea, said at the 50th anniversary ceremony of the Daejeon Institute of Defense Science (ADD) that the development of hypersonic missiles will be accelerated. Jung Kyung-doo’s speech was the first time the government has officially announced the development of hypersonic weapons. The Defense Department has since stated at a December 2020 meeting of key military commanders that hypersonic missiles will be “needed” from the standpoint of strategically deterring various nuclear and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) threats. In weapons development, “need” refers to plans to develop or purchase weapons.
Korean media said that the missile tested by North Korea was a hypersonic glider (HGV), and the National Defense Science Research Institute developed a hypersonic cruise missile (HCM), Hypersonic glide vehicle (HGV) booster segment and part of the middle segment have the same target characteristics as ballistic missiles and are easy to detect, while hypersonic cruise missiles can achieve low-altitude and high-speed flight in the early stage of flight, and are not easily detected by enemy radars. The core targets such as enemy headquarters and military installations are raided and precisely attacked. If a Mach 5 hypersonic missile is launched from the sky over Seoul, it will take only about 1 minute and 15 seconds to reach Pyongyang, which is 250 kilometers away.
It is said that the Korea Institute of Defense Science conducted research on the application of hypersonic core technology from 2010 to 2012, and conducted related research by setting up a specialization laboratory for ultra-high-speed intake engines from 2011 to 2017. On this basis, the ground-launched hypersonic vehicle above Mach 5 has been developed since 2018. The flight test is planned to be completed by 2023.
In December last year, the Korea Defense Science Institute showed the Hycore hypersonic missile model to the outside world for the first time, which is similar in shape to the American X-51A hypersonic vehicle. The X-51A is a hypersonic test vehicle jointly funded and developed by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DAPRA) and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory. The main power is a dual-mode scramjet engine, and the design flight speed is between Mach 6-6.5.
South Korea has successfully developed a number of “Xuanmo”-2 missiles with precision strike capabilities, and the technological span of developing hypersonic missiles equipped with axisymmetric biconical glide warheads on its basis is not large.
The Hycore missile is 8.7 meters long and weighs 2.4 tons. When the missile is launched, the booster accelerates the cruise body to Mach 6.2, with a height of about 19.8 kilometers. After the booster is separated, the scramjet starts to work, making it to fly at speed of Mach 5. It can cruise at a high speed and strike mission. The maximum range is between 500 kilometers and 1000 kilometers, and it can perform ground or sea strike missions. The Hycore missile is developed on the basis of the existing ballistic missile booster, “Xuanwu”-2 launch system and fire control system technology. The main development work is focused on the cruise body, which can reduce the difficulty and cost of development.
As the Korean media said, the technological complexity of South Korea’s Hycore hypersonic missile is higher than that of North Korea’s boost-glide missile, but now the U.S. DARPA’s air-breathing hypersonic missile project based on X-51A technology is progressing slowly, with the accumulation of South Korea’s technology and level, it is likely that the development plan will not be completed on time. Considering that South Korea’s neighboring countries are focusing on promoting the development and installation of boost-glide hypersonic missiles, the development of air-breathing hypersonic missiles is relatively loose in time, so South Korea may also adjust the development route of hypersonic missiles. In the past 20 years, South Korea has vigorously developed medium and short-range ballistic missiles using solid rocket motors, and now the main focus is on gliding warheads.
As North Korea continuously tests hypersonic missiles, the South Korean military industry will face increasing pressure, which will inevitably prompt the South Korean government to increase investment and vigorously develop hypersonic missiles. The competition for hypersonic weapons on the Korean peninsula will also become increasingly fierce.