Over the past few days, North Korea has repeatedly launched some kind of missile, but the South Korean and American military could only get very vague and general information about it. Cruise missiles were reported to have been launched, as well as short-range ballistic missiles. About specific types, as well as what exactly was tested, it was difficult to say something definite.
In this regard, the main source of information was the official media of the DPRK itself, which accompanied the whole thing not only with detailed launch details with technical characteristics, but also with very colorful photos and sometimes video material. Admittedly, the statement made by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Friday, March 24 gave potential opponents of the DPRK much thought.
The KCNA reported that between March 21 and 23, North Korea tested an “unmanned nuclear submarine attack boat”. The task of this “secret weapon” was to “swim under water secretly, produce a super-powerful radioactive tsunami by means of an underwater explosion in order to destroy and destroy enemy ship groups and ports”, said the TsTAK in Russian.
The technical details are also very surprising. It turned out that this “underwater nuclear drone” was launched into the sea on March 21 in the region of South Hamgyong province, after which it swam underwater for nearly two and a half days – 59 hours, “moving with a constant change of course at a depth of 80-150 m”. In the afternoon of March 23, the aircraft, having completely confused the tracks of a potential enemy, “hit its target in the waters of Hongwon Bay, which imitated the enemy’s port, and its test warhead exploded underwater”. This underwater drone, as noted, can be equipped with a nuclear warhead, the detonation of which causes the promised “destructive radioactive tsunami”. The name of the new weapon also turned out to be characteristic – “Heil”, which in Korean simply means “tsunami”. The DPRK has been allegedly developing the weapon in secrecy since 2012, and Kim Jong-un has personally witnessed various stages of testing more than two dozen times.
Additionally, on March 22, North Korea launched four Hwasal-1 and Hwasal-2 strategic cruise missiles “with experimental warheads simulating a nuclear payload.” They flew over a distance of 1500-1800 km over the Eastern (Japanese) Sea and accurately hit conditional targets. One of the missiles was detonated at an altitude of 600m to “test the reliability of nuclear blast control systems and mimic devices” of a nuclear warhead.
As already mentioned, all this unpleasantly surprised South Korea and the United States, which these days are conducting various military exercises one after another. The DPRK, however, clarified that with its tests, it “responds” to all these maneuvers, during which options for strikes against the DPRK, as well as offensive actions, are also being worked out.
South Korean experts in “immediate pursuit” admitted that the DPRK demonstrated the ability to bypass all possible missile defense systems, as well as the ability to strike suddenly, from various environments – from land, water , submarine, underground , mobile installations, mines, submarines and even armored trains. At the same time, launches were also carried out in such a way as to demonstrate the possibility of detonating charges in different environments – by direct contact with the target, in the depths of water and at a certain height – the latter increases significantly the number of casualties and destruction.
Southerners were very impressed with the underwater “drone”, which was immediately compared to the Russian “Poseidon”. “Of course, the Russian system is much larger, more powerful and, as the Russian Federation has stated, has a nuclear power plant, while the North Korean system imagines a much smaller, but similar system in its principle of operation: it can move secretly under water for a long time and deliver a huge blow … If the DPRK tests went as stated, then it should be recognized that such systems are extremely difficult or almost impossible to detect. They don’t need to hit a ship or other target directly, but just explode underwater somewhere near the warhead, it will destroy the whole area and there may well be huge waves with increased radioactivity,” said Moon Geun-sik, a professor at Gyeonggi University.
Other experts note, however, that the DPRK is consistently fulfilling what it adopted as the five key development tasks in the field of armaments following the 8th Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea in January 2021. , five main areas have been announced: hypersonic weapons, ultra-high yield nuclear warheads, missiles with a range of up to 15,000 km, submarine and land-based intercontinental solid-propellant ballistic missiles (ICBMs), and nuclear submarines. missile carriers.
At the time of the announcement in early 2021, these goals were seen by many overseas as unrealistic posturing and plans, but it is now recognized that North Korea is keeping its word. “It has only been a little over two years since Kim Jong-un made a statement to the party congress in January 2021 on the need to achieve five main arms goals, and great progress is already evident on many of them,” the South said. says Korean news agency Yonhap. According to agency reporters, hypersonic weapons are “almost ready”, tests are underway in terms of solid-propellant underwater and land-based ICBMs, and serious achievements are evident, ICBMs with a range of up to ‘at 15,000 km have already been launched more than once. It is only noted that so far nothing has been shown only for nuclear submarines and heavy nuclear warheads. However, the DPRK still has nearly three years to deliver on its promises, and judging by the pace and the successes, these all no longer sound like fantastic goals, but real ones.
For their part, South Korea and the American troops stationed on its territory are also trying to “keep up with the times”. Seoul is carrying out an active program of modernization of the army, there are new developments in terms of missile defense systems, missile strike forces, communication systems, intelligence, the latest combat aircraft of fifth generation are purchased from the United States, submarines and destroyers are being built. US strategic bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons, as well as aircraft carriers, have already become frequent guests in South Korea. Thus, in the next few days, the US Navy’s nuclear aircraft carrier Nimitz, which is the largest in the world for this class of ships, will arrive in the port of Busan. In addition, the United States, the Republic of Korea and Japan are working to create a full-fledged trilateral military alliance in the region. At the same time, Seoul is showing a very militant attitude. The President of the Republic of Korea, Yoon Seok Yeol, said today that North Korea “will pay dearly for any provocation”.
We asked Vladimir Khrustalev, a well-known expert on North Korean military matters, to comment on the capabilities of the “secret weapon” declared by North Korea today – the unmanned nuclear attack boat “Heil” .
What are the general impressions of this DPRK “underwater drone”?
Vladimir Khrustalev: According to what is officially declared, this is a kind of torpedo-shaped unmanned autonomous underwater vehicle with a nuclear or thermonuclear warhead, in fact an ultra-long torpedo drone.
What are the analogues in other countries?
Vladimir Khrustalev: Apparently it’s something between our Poseidon, conventional nuclear torpedoes and the now popular high range underwater drones.
How effective are they as a means of destruction, what are their advantages?
Vladimir Khrustalev: Among the advantages of such a system should be noted the great difficulties in combating it in real conditions. She is small, calm and not in a hurry. It is difficult to guarantee protection. Now, in any case, the enemy planners will have to divert part of the fleet’s forces to this danger, whether or not they are actually prepared by Pyongyang for use.
Media around the world were impressed by the turnover of the “radioactive tsunami”, which was used by North Korean publications to characterize the possible consequences. How realistic is this?
Vladimir Khrustalev: Regarding the concept of “radioactive tsunami”, it should be remembered that the generation of such phenomena over large areas presents a number of physical difficulties. But a nuclear charge of 20 to 40 kilotons, which was detonated in the harbor water area near the coast, is really enough to create huge radioactive waves from boiling water, enough to reliably destroy the ships and port infrastructure within a radius of several kilometers from the epicentre. Let’s also not forget the very high levels of radiation in the first hours after the explosion. This is certainly enough to completely disable a large trading port or naval base.
How does the presence of this type of weapon modify the overall balance of power?
Vladimir Khrustalev: The appearance of these weapons should be seen against the general background of the development of the naval component of the nuclear potential of the DPRK. It complements the already known submarine-launched ballistic missile systems without submarines, the ballistic missile-launching submarines under development (including projects for the creation of nuclear missile carriers by the DPRK), as well as strategic cruise missiles launched from submarines from torpedo tubes. The latter, given the size of the DPRK’s submarine fleet, means a potentially rapid increase in the number of rigs covering the whole of Northeast Asia.
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