North Korea has reportedly tested an ejection launcher for submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) in Sinpo, South Hamgyong Province.
Carried out onboard a land-based vertical launch tube, the latest tests suggested the initial stage of firing a missile out of a submarine launch tube and signified the shift towards underwater missile strike potential for a future nuclear-tipped missile.
Earlier, the US intelligence agencies reportedly observed ‘two or three’ such trials last month at a facility claimed to be a major development centre for the North Korea’s SLBM programme, in line with South Korea’s intelligence over the North’s missile development, Yonhap reported.
The new missile is believed to be either a new anti-ship cruise missile boasting a range of 130km or a new short-range ballistic missile with 240km range.
In addition to the new vertical launching system, North Korea is also expected to transform its 3,000t Golf-class submarine to make it capable of firing medium-range ballistic missiles.
Last month, North Korea launched a new 67m-long Soviet-era Golf II-class diesel submarine, which is capable of carrying a single-stage, liquid-propellant missile with a 1,180kg warhead and a maximum range of 1,420km.
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North Korea reportedly possesses 78 submarines, the most in the world, followed by the US, China and Russia.
However, most of the North Korean vessels are outdated Soviet-era and Chinese vessels.