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North Korea fired off a 'more advanced' missile that flew at 10 times the speed of sound, South Korean military says

Jan 12, 2022, 00:28 IST
Business Insider
A view of what state news agency KCNA reports is the test firing of a hypersonic missile at an undisclosed location in North Korea, January 5, 2022.KCNA via REUTERS
  • North Korea tested its second missile so far this year on Tuesday.
  • The South Korean military said it was "more advanced" than the one launched last week.

North Korea test-fired a missile Tuesday that the South Korean military assessed was more advanced than the one tested last week and hit a top speed of Mach 10, or ten times the speed of sound.

The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said the weapon flew 435 miles before landing in the East Sea. The maximum altitude was 37 miles.

The South Korean military explained in a statement that it determined that this weapon was "more advanced than the ballistic missile launched on Jan. 5," NK News reported.

Last week, North Korea tested a "hypersonic" weapon that the country claimed "precisely hit a set target 700 km away" and made a "120 km lateral movement" during flight, demonstrating "the control and stability of the hypersonic gliding warhead."

South Korea's defense ministry said that "the North's claim about the missile's capabilities, such as its operational range and lateral movement, appears to be exaggerated."


Along with a statement, North Korea also released photos of the weapon tested on Jan. 5.

Ankit Panda, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's Nuclear Policy Program, told NK News looked like a new liquid-fueled maneuverable re-entry vehicle ballistic missile. South Korea concluded the same.

A view of what state news agency KCNA reports is the test firing of a hypersonic missile at an undisclosed location in North Korea, January 5, 2022.KCNA via REUTERS

A maneuverable re-entry vehicle, or MaRV, is a bit different from a hypersonic glide vehicle, though both can technically operate at hypersonic speeds, any speed over Mach 5.

A hypersonic glide vehicle can fly along a depressed trajectory, can maneuver after separation from a booster rocket, and is often what is being referred to when the term "hypersonic missile" is used.

A MaRV, on the other hand, is a kind of ballistic missile re-entry vehicle that has the ability to alter course after re-entering the atmosphere on an arched trajectory.


Regardless of whether or not the North Korean missile is an HGV or a MaRV, "North Korea's claims of maneuverability remain significant and could pose additional missile defense challenges," Joseph Dempsey, a research associate for defense and military analysis at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, wrote in a post on social media last week.

The newly developed hypersonic missile Hwasong-8 is test-fired by the Academy of Defence Science of the DPRK in Toyang-ri, Ryongrim County of Jagang Province, North Korea.KCNA via REUTERS

North Korea first tested what it called a "hypersonic missile" in late September, when it tested a weapon the country called the Hwasong-8.

In January of last year, North Korea said a goal was to "develop and introduce hypersonic gliding flight warheads in a short period." It is unclear whether North Korea has developed what is often considered a "hypersonic missile."

Hypersonic weapons are a key area of competition, with China, Russia, and the US all actively developing these combat capabilities valued for their ability to evade enemy air-and-missile defense systems to deliver a warhead to a target.

On Tuesday, according to CNN, South Korea expressed confidence in its ability to defend itself against North Korea, saying that the "military has the ability to detect and intercept this projectile, and we are continuously strengthening our response system."


Tuesday's missile launch was the second time this year North Korea has tested a missile.

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