Explainer-N.Korea Tests ‘Hypersonic Missiles’ in Global Race for New Rockets | World News

By Hyonhee Shin and Josh Smith

SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea started the New Year with more and more succesful missile assessments, together with not less than one it claims was a hypersonic missile, amid an intensifying race for the subsequent era of long-range weapons which might be more durable to detect and intercept.

South Korean army officers have solid doubts on North Korea’s declare a missile fired final week was hypersonic, however on Tuesday officers in Seoul mentioned the North appeared to have take a look at fired one other missile that flew at comparatively low altitudes at as much as 10 occasions the pace of sound (12,348 kmh/7,673 mph).

North Korea didn’t instantly verify the launch. The efficiency and the launch location reported by South Korea, nonetheless, instructed it might be one other hypersonic missile.


North Korea examined its first such missile final yr, becoming a member of different nations resembling China, United States and Russia, which have carried out assessments of hypersonic weapons in current months.

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Hypersonic missiles sometimes launch a warhead that travels at greater than 5 occasions the pace of sound – or about 6,200 km per hour (3,850 mph), typically manoeuvring at comparatively low altitudes.

Despite their identify, analysts say the primary characteristic of hypersonic weapons isn’t pace – which may typically be matched or exceeded by conventional ballistic missile warheads – however their manoeuvrability.

North Korea’s first hypersonic missile take a look at in September featured a glider-shaped warhead, whereas final week’s launch concerned what analysts and South Korean army officers mentioned was really a conical manoeuvrable reentry automobile (MaRV), or a ballistic missile warhead able to manoeuvring to hit a goal.

Combining a glide automobile with a missile that may launch it partially into orbit – a so-called fractional orbital bombardment system (FOBS) – may strip adversaries of response time and conventional defences mechanisms.


Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), in contrast, carry nuclear warheads on ballistic trajectories that journey into house however by no means attain orbit.

Last yr China launched a rocket carrying a hypersonic glide automobile that flew by house, circling the globe earlier than cruising down towards its goal, which it missed by about two dozen miles. [L1N2RD01Y]

In July, Russia efficiently examined a Tsirkon (Zircon) hypersonic cruise missile, which President Vladimir Putin touted as a part of a brand new era of missile methods. Moscow additionally examined the weapon from a submarine for the primary time. [L8N2R017O]

The United States mentioned in late September that it had examined an air-breathing hypersonic weapon – which means it sustains flight by itself by the environment like a cruise missile – marking the primary profitable take a look at of that class of weapon since 2013.

Days after the U.S. announcement, North Korea fired a newly developed hypersonic missile for the primary time, calling it a “strategic weapon” that boosted its defence capabilities, although some South Korean analysts described the take a look at as a failure.

The current assessments are the strikes in a harmful arms race in which smaller Asian nations are striving to develop superior long-range missiles, alongside main army powers.

Hypersonic weapons, and FOBS, may very well be a priority as they’ll doubtlessly evade missile shields and early warning methods.

Some specialists cautioned in opposition to hype surrounding missiles such because the one China examined in August.

“China already has 100 nuclear-armed ICBMs that may strike the U.S.,” Jeffrey Lewis, a missile specialist on the U.S.-based James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, mentioned on Twitter on the time. “Although the glider is a pleasant contact … that is an outdated idea that’s newly related as a approach to defeat missile defences.”

(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin and Josh Smith; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel)

Copyright 2022 Thomson Reuters.

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