Observers said the missiles appeared to be the KN-23 type, which is modeled on Russia’s Iskander mobile ballistic missile.

North Korea has conducted missile tests in recent days. According to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), a railway-borne missile regiment was deployed during the drills on January 15, 2022, amid a U.S. push for fresh sanctions against the isolated state following its recent series of weapons tests. The North Korean missiles were launched from Uiju in North Pyongan province, which borders China, and flew around 430 km (270 miles) at an altitude of 36 km and hit a top speed of Mach 6, according to the South Korean military.

“The drill was aimed at checking the alert posture of the combatants of the regiment and bolstering their ability,” the official Korean Central News Agency said in a dispatch. Observers said the missiles appeared to be the KN-23 type, which is modeled on Russia’s Iskander mobile ballistic missile. The weapon is known to be capable of so-called pull-up maneuvers during its flight, a technique that helps it evade missile defenses.

 KN-23 type
KN-23 type

The launch railcar used two side-by-side erector mechanisms like the side-by-side arrangement used in the transporter erector launcher. The Korean People’s Army would aim to set up a railway-borne missile operating system “across the country.” The rail launches were likely more maneuverable weapons — could give the isolated country more options for evading missile defenses. Disguised as a freight train, a missile train cannot be spotted either by satellite or electronic surveillance.

KN-23 is a designation given to a North Korean solid-fueled tactical ballistic missile. Like the Iskander-M, it flies in a quasi-ballistic trajectory, flattening out below an altitude of about 50 km (160,000 ft) where the atmosphere is dense enough so the missile’s fins can change course along its flight path. It is believed to have a range of some 450 km with a 500 kg warhead, putting all of South Korea within range, though it is possible to extend range out to 690 km with a reduced payload; warhead is likely to be unitary, submunition, or possibly nuclear.

In recent months, North Korea has tested a range of increasingly powerful new weapons systems. These have included the train-launched weapons and hypersonic missiles, as well as a long-range cruise missile believed to be capable of delivering a nuclear bomb to Japan and a new submarine-launched ballistic missile. All are believed to represent progress in Pyongyang’s quest to defeat missile defenses.

The pace of innovation in the country’s weapons testing, and the development of missiles that can evade defense systems, has caused concern in the international community. Given that this move poses a threat to neighboring countries and regional security.


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