North Korea unveils new local-made Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile SLBM

During the military parade that was held during the night of January 15, 2021, North Korea has unveiled a new local-made submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM). In October 2020, North Korea had already shown its new development of SLBM under the name of Pukguksong-4.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 The new North Korean SLBM submarine-launched ballistic missile unveiled at the military parade of January 15, 2021. (Picture source Korean News Agency)

A submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) is a ballistic missile capable of being launched from submarines. A ballistic missile is a rocket-propelled self-guided strategic-weapons system that follows a ballistic trajectory to deliver a payload from its launch site to a predetermined target. The missile can carry conventional high explosives as well as chemical, biological, or nuclear munitions. They can be launched from aircraft, ships, and submarines in addition to land-based silos and mobile platforms.

According to North Korean press statements, the Pukguksong-1 will be cold launched, solid-fueled, and will carry a nuclear warhead. The missile will have an operational range of 500 km according to the test-fire, but North Korea claims that the Pukguksong-1 could reach a maximum range of 2,500 km.

For many years, North Korea has expanded the development of mass destruction weapon capabilities to the naval domain including SLBM. The Pukguksong-1 was the first version of SLBM developed by the North Korean defense industry, this missile was successfully test-fired on May 8, 2015.

In February 2017, North Korea announced a successful test-fire of a land-based variant, named Pukkuksong-2, a new Korean's nuclear-capable strategic weapon. The North Korean Central News Agency (KCNA)also announced that this test is the upgraded, extended-range version of its submarine-launched ballistic missile.

According to a report published in 2017 by the Naval War College Review, North Korea’s decision to develop an indigenous SLBM capacity appears to be an extension of its nuclear brinkmanship strategy. Acquiring a sea-based, second-strike nuclear option complements the nuclear weapons assumed to be deployed on land-based ballistic missiles.

The new SLBM unveiled during the military parade on January 15 seems to be longer than the Pukguksong-4 and could be named Pukguksong-5. Citing The Korea Herald newspaper, Pukguksong-4 SLBM is expected to be used with a 3,000-ton-class submarine, while Pukguksong-5 could be carried by a 4,000-ton one or larger submarine. North Korea has developed a new 3,000-ton submarine one capable of carrying three SLBMs. It is also believed to have been developing a larger-sized submarine, which could be a nuclear-powered one.

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