North Korea Conducted Test of Hyper Glide Vehicle Armed Ballistic Missile

Missile Test

North Korea conducted a successful test launch of an Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) armed with a Hyperglide Vehicle (HGV) near the capital of Pyongyang on April 2nd. The South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff issued a statement that said the IRBM test occurred in the Pyongyang region at 6:53 a.m. local time and that the missile flew for approximately 373 miles (600 km) before it landed in the Sea of Japan.

The statement also said that the test is likely connected to the solid-state fuel ground engine test for a new IRBM that North Korea conducted on March 20th.

A South Korean military officer also confirmed that the test included the new IRBM armed with a HGV. The missile flew for at least 10 minutes, much shorter than the flight times of IRBMs previously tested. However, the official noted the IRBM’s speed “was similar” to hypersonic missiles.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “supervised” and “led” the test, with him leading the missile launch system and looking on as personnel prepared the launch site. Kim then watched the launch from a command and control post and monitored its flight.

After the test, Kim was satisfied with the test launch, and it “rose up desperately in the struggle to develop Juche weapons to realize the strategic plan of the Party Central Committee.” He also said that “another powerful strategic attack weapon was born that shows off the absolute superiority of our defense science and technology.” Kim further said that North Korea “can convert all tactical, operational, and strategic missiles of various ranges into solid fuel, warhead control, and nuclear weapons.” He also said that “the three principles of the Party Central Committee’s missile force construction of ‘quickly, accurately, and powerfully’ against any hostile object in the global sphere were brilliantly implemented.”

Analysis

The recent test indicates that North Korea is making significant progress in its ballistic missile and HGV vehicle programs. For example, the relatively short time between the March 20th ground test and the April 2nd missile test indicates that the country can bring missile systems from test to operational status in an increasingly short timeframe. Another example is how North Korea can also produce ballistic missiles, including hypersonic missiles, that can also be armed with HGVs.

Regarding North Korea’s HGV program, the images of the Hwasong-16B IRBM armed with a HGV indicate that North Korea is capable of producing multiple kinds of vehicles. The HGV appears to be significantly different than previous images of HVGs that tipped other variants of the Hwasong IRBMs. For example, the HVG in the April 2nd test appears to be a more refined design and has two additional fins than the vehicles previously seen. Another example is that the HGV also utilized a special canister that protected it while the IRBM was transported to the launch site.

The test also indicates that North Korea is continuing to receive military assistance and technology from Russia as part of their munitions deal signed in October 2023. For example, the number of failures of North Korea’s satellite launch vehicles and more advanced ballistic missiles has significantly decreased since the deal. Furthermore, the relatively short time between engine and missile tests also indicates that Russia is providing engineering and technical assistance so North Korea can overcome the technological hurdles associated with hypersonic missiles and HGVs. However, China could also help in the form of materials that North Korea would require to build the solid-state fuel engines and other components for either the hypersonic missiles or HGVs.

Images

Below are various images taken by North Korean state media of the IRBM test.

Joaquin Camarena
Joaquin Camarena
Joaquin the panda began Sino Talk in 2022 primarily to give an objective, unbiased view on China related topics as well as other issues related to the Indo-Pacific region. He spent several years studying and traveling throughout China and many countries in the Indo-Pacific region. In another life, the panda was also a U.S. Marine intelligence analyst who enjoyed bamboo MREs and drinking bourbon and soju. Indo-Pacific Division Desk Chief for Atlas News.

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