North Korean SRBM tests

In recent days, North Korea has been engaged in tests of short-ranged ballistic missiles, coinciding with US-South Korean military exercises that the DPRK’s leadership of course abhors. Although not on the severity scale of North’s ICBM tests of two years ago, these latest launches are still quite worrisome, as they highlight the North’s growing ability to hold US and South Korean missile defenses themselves at risk with entirely new types of offensive missiles.

Most of the recent launches have been of what the West knows as the KN-23 or “Kimskander” – a at least visually close copy of Russia’s Iskander short range ballistic missile. These solid fueled weapons are much more mobile, responsive and survivable than the old reliable Scud derivatives, and experience with solid fuels is no doubt assisting North Korean SLBM, IRBM, and ICBM programs. The KN-23 launches have been on “quasi-ballistic” profiles with a low apogee that puts a lot of strain on the missile airframe but also represents a harder target for Patriot and THAAD batteries to engage.

However, as it turns out, the North has another new missile type. Fired from a two-round(?) launch vehicle, this weapon resembles the US MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System, fired from the Multiple Launch Rocket System. Why Kim would pursue both the KN-23 and this just disclosed weapon is unknown; perhaps the ATACMS counterpart is meant to be cheaper and could be used to “soak up” interceptors.

North Korean ballistic missile drawing

First try (and highly provisional) at visualizing the new North Korean short range ballistic missile