The US has reportedly detected a ramp-up in North Korean submarine activity and tests of ‘cold launch’ submarine missile ejection systems.
A US defense official told CNN on Monday that ‘highly unusual and unprecedented levels’ of North Korean submarine activities had been detected, including three ‘cold ejection’ tests in July.
Cold ejection involves the use of pressurized gas to expel a missile from the launch tube before ignition to reduce the risk of catastrophic damage to the vessel.
The latest cold ejection test took place on land at Sinpo Naval Shipyard on Sunday, the defense official said.
‘Highly unusual and unprecedented levels’ of North Korean submarine activities had been detected in July. Pictured: Kim Jong Un boards a North Korean submarine in 2014
North Korea has conducted three ‘cold ejection’ tests of submarine launch tubes in July alone. Pictured: Kim Jong Un peers through the periscope aboard a North Korean sub in 2014
North Korea also engaged in ‘unusual deployment activity’ earlier this month, with a Romeo-class submarine patrolling 100 kilometers out to sea off the coast of Japan, much farther than usual, the official said.
North Korea is believed to have about 70 submarines in its fleet, but most are older and unable to fire missiles.
The regime’s newest and largest submarine, the diesel powered Sinpo-class, is the only one believed to have ballistic missile launch capability.
The Sinpo-class is believed to have a range of 2,800 kilometers, less than half the distance from North Korea to Hawaii.
There is only one confirmed Sinpo-class sub (also called Gorae, or whale) in the North Korean fleet.
North Korea is believed to have about 70 submarines in its fleet, but most are older and unable to fire missiles
The regime’s newest submarine, the Sinpo-class (seen in satellite image), is believed to have a range of 2,800 kilometers, less than half the distance from North Korea to Hawaii
North Korea’s only Sinpo-class (also called Gorae) submarine is seen in 2016 satellite imagery. The regime is said to have stepped up submarine activity over the past month
However, the US has monitored regime leader Kim Jong Un’s fleet more carefully since an incident in 2010 when a North Korean sub torpedoed a South Korean naval vessel.
North Korea has conducted at least one successful submarine-based missile test, firing a Pukkuksong-1 intermediate-range ballistic missile last year.
North Korea has successfully tested two land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles this year, with the latest test last week indicating the missile could reach Los Angeles, Denver, or Chicago.
It is unclear if the escalation in submarine testing and activity points to a build-up towards a test of a sub-based ICBM.
On Tuesday, US and South Korean experts said Japanese video footage of last week’s ICBM test indicates the warhead did not survive re-entry.
An underwater test-firing of a strategic submarine ballistic missile is seen last year. Experts believe North Korea has successfully tested at least one such missile
Footage of the Hwasong-14’s re-entry vehicle shortly before it crashed into the sea suggests it failed to survive the extreme heat and pressure after re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere following its launch.
Analysts say the North will likely conduct more flight tests of the Hwasong-14 missile to obtain a successful re-entry vehicle, which is needed to return a warhead to the atmosphere from space so it can hit its intended target.
US President Donald Trump said at a cabinet meeting Monday of North Korea that the situation ‘will be handled.’ But he didn’t elaborate.