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North Korea Flexed Its Superb Rocket Artillery

March 8, 2020

Via North Korean media.

As the chances of rekindling high level diplomacy with the Trump administration disappears Kim Jong Un once again presided over an event his propaganda machine referred to as a “firepower strike drill.” Just days after North Korea’s corpulent leader watched his army unleash an artillery barrage on an islet another exercise took place on March 2 featuring large caliber rockets. Images published by North Korean media revealed the weapon systems involved were the new extreme-range guided rockets dubbed the “KN-25” and the “M1991” that has 22 tubes for 240mm rockets mounted on a 6×6 truck.

The M1991 is comparable to the Soviet BM-27 Uragan although it carries additional rocket tubes.

North Korea’s latest rocket artillery weapon blurs the line separating conventional rockets and ballistic missiles. With the diameter of its warhead set at 600mm–an important detail for assessing the explosives it carries–observers can merely guess its range. For rocket artillery with a diameter in excess of 400mm and a length that extends beyond six meters it’s possible these are designed for targets as far away as 150 kilometers. Another vital clue to ascertain the performance of ballistic ordnance is checking open source estimates for their flight altitude as these are useful figures when determining maximum range. Expert analysis puts this rocket type’s range at a remarkable 390 kilometers.

Adding winglets or canards near the tip of extreme-range rockets like the KN-25 is another red flag Seoul and Washington, DC can’t ignore. Having this particular upgrade on conventional rockets means their flight path is guided by a navigation system for precision targeting. The effectiveness of ballistic missiles with advanced guidance systems was proven beyond any doubt when Iran attacked a base housing US troops in Iraq this January. The worst part is in these cases the larger the missile type used means the less effective standard anti-aircraft defenses are. North Korea’s continuous testing of an extreme-range guided rocket on a wheeled transporter marks a sudden leap in effectiveness against the South Korean and US forces stationed below the DMZ.

Since consolidating his leadership over North Korea in 2013 Kim Jong Un has diverted considerable resources to building up his country’s armed strength. The sudden advancement of Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal and its attendant missile types from 2014 until 2017 may have brought on severe consequences and war threats by the US but it achieved its intended goal–discouraging any preemptive attacks by the US and its allies. However, after a series of personal meetings with President Donald Trump led to no genuine concessions, North Korea has gone ahead with additional weapon programs. An ominous breakthrough occurred in 2019 when missile types resembling the Russian Iskander were test launched on successive dates.

In August that same year North Korean media hailed the initial launches of a new rocket artillery weapon mounted on a wheeled transporter. It has an even larger variant with six tubes on a gargantuan tracked vehicle. The former type made its latest appearance early this month and, judging by its importance in North Korean propaganda, looks to be a solution for neutralizing sensitive military targets deep inside South Korea.

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