North Korea appears to be getting into the hypersonic arms race.
The nuclear-armed nation conducted a test launch on Tuesday (September 28) of a new “hypersonic missile” called the Hwasong-8, state media KCNA reported on Wednesday (September 29), according to KCNA Watch, which adds published news. . by the official North Korean media.
Hwasong-8 was topped with a hypersonic gliding vehicle (HGV) warhead, KCNA wrote. Hypersonic ships travel at least five times faster than the speed of sound, or Mach 5, and are highly maneuverable. They are much more difficult to track and intercept than ICBMs, which follow predictable trajectories.
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The United States, Russia and China have prioritized the development of hypersonic weapons in recent years. The United States has been working on several different hypersonic designs over the past decade, for example, and scored major success with one, the hypersonic air-breathing weapon concept, during a test last week, Pentagon officials announced Monday ( September 27th). ).
KCNA stated that Tuesday’s Hwasong-8 mission, which was launched from North Korea’s east coast, was also a success.
“In the first test launch, national defense scientists confirmed the missile’s navigation control and stability in the active section and also its technical specifications, including the guidance maneuverability and glide flight characteristics of the hypersonic sliding warhead. separate, “the KCNA report reads.
However, outside experts are not so sure. Missile specialist Chang Young-keun told Reuters the Hwasong-8’s HGV reached a maximum speed of just 2.5 Mach during Tuesday’s test, citing analysis by South Korean military intelligence.
“The North’s heavy-duty vehicle technology is not comparable to that of the US, Russia or China, and for now, it seems to be targeting a short range that can target South Korea or Japan,” said Chang, who works at the Korea Aerospace University in Goyang, South Korea. he told Reuters.
Furthermore, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff believe that North Korea’s hypersonic technology is far from ready for battle and that both the United States and South Korea are capable of detecting and neutralizing Hwasong-8, the BBC reported. on Wednesday.
As the BBC noted, Tuesday’s test was North Korea’s third missile launch in September, suggesting that the nation may be accelerating some of its weapons programs. Work on those programs has progressed despite numerous sanctions imposed over the past 15 years by the United Nations Security Council, as well as by the United States and some of its allies.
North Korea is an isolated autocracy led by dictator Kim Jong-un. In recent years, the nation’s top officials have repeatedly indulged in saber rattling against North Korea’s perceived enemies, for example, threatening to turn America’s major cities into “seas of fire.” North Korea possesses nuclear weapons, which gives such threats an advantage and explains why experts track the country’s missile and rocket programs so assiduously.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.