North Korea continues testing 600-mm MLRS








The first launch of a new rocket, July 31, 2019

Recently, the DPRK announced new tests of its promising development – a super-large-caliber missile system. This system has been tested at training ranges since last summer and is expected to be handed over to the troops soon. It is expected that the appearance of a system with a caliber of approx. 600 mm will dramatically increase the strike capabilities of missile forces and artillery.

Test history

The existence of new models of North Korean weapons often becomes known only at the test stage or later – thanks to the official media. A promising missile system was no exception. Its existence was first reported on August 1, 2019, immediately after the first test firings.

According to TsTAK, the first tests of the complex (its designation remains unknown) took place on July 31; they were personally led by Kim Jong-un. Television showed footage of the launch and missile at an early stage of the flight, as well as the moment the training target was hit. Curiously, the launcher was hidden by pixelation – unlike the rocket. The media clarified that the launch was a success, and the rocket confirmed the design characteristics.


Launcher used in the first tests

The South Korean military tracked the launch. According to them, the rocket flew about 250 km. The Korean People’s Army did not comment on these reports in any way.

On August 2, the events were repeated. The second launch, also carried out under the leadership of the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the DPRK, again ended in success and confirmed all the characteristics. New photos of the launcher were published, also censored. However, this time, pixelation only affected the transport and launch container package. They did not hide the tracked chassis.

The following reports about the tests of the new complex appeared only a few months later. The third firing took place on March 3, 2020 during the exercises of the missile forces and artillery of the ground forces. The official media again published photos and videos of great interest. The exercise involved a new version of a self-propelled launcher on a wheeled chassis.


On trials in August 2019

Just the other day, on March 29, the DPRK National Defense Academy performed another test launch of the “super-large multiple launch rocket system.” The purpose of the event was to “re-confirm the tactical and technical characteristics.” A combat vehicle on a tracked chassis fired a rocket, which successfully hit the target. This time the launch was shown without any retouching. The launcher can be viewed in detail. It is reported about the imminent transfer of new equipment to the troops.

South Korea has re-tracked the launches and released key figures. There was a launch of two missiles, it was carried out from the east coast of the DPRK towards the sea. Items flew approx. 230 km.

Extra large caliber

As always, North Korea is in no hurry to reveal all the features of the new project, but estimates and conclusions can be made based on the available data. In general, we are talking about the creation of a promising long-range MLRS equipped with an ultra-large caliber missile. The development of such an ammunition is a rather difficult task, but its appearance provides special combat capabilities.


Start on March 2, 2020 from a wheeled installation

The characteristics of the new missile are not disclosed. Official photos show a product with a cylindrical body of large elongation and an ogival head. There are no signs of separation of the missile into stages, but the warhead can be made detachable. The head has an X-shaped plumage, probably rudders. The tail is equipped with stabilizers that can be deployed in flight.

According to various estimates, the rocket caliber reaches 600 mm. Length – up to 8-9 m. Weight is unknown. Perhaps it reaches several tons. The product is equipped with a solid fuel engine. According to the South Korean military, during the tests, the flight range was 230-250 km. It is likely that the DPRK tested its new weapon at maximum range.

The DPRK showed the results of target shooting. The above shows that the missile is equipped with some means of maintaining the course or guidance, ensuring acceptable hitting accuracy. Trajectory control can be carried out by the head set of planes.


Shooting March 29

Apparently, the rocket of the new type is supplied in a cylindrical TPK for mounting on a launcher. At the moment, three types of installations of different designs with different combat capabilities were involved in the tests.

Launchers

The first in the news was a certain tracked vehicle with a lifting frame for the TPK. It was shown in “pixel” form, which is why the main features cannot be considered. However, it was clearly not a launcher from the later news.

Already in early August, they showed another tracked combat vehicle with a different layout. The ten-wheel chassis is equipped with a pronounced cab, and a large cargo area allows you to stack a frame with a TPK on it. Such a vehicle carries and launches 6 new types of missiles. The container package is lifted hydraulically to an angle corresponding to the firing range.


A rocket in flight. The main design features are visible

The third type of launcher is built on a wheeled chassis – the South Korean version of the Tatra four-axle truck. The machine has a protected cabin and other necessary devices. At the same time, the ammunition load has been reduced to 4 missiles. Unlike a tracked chassis, a wheeled vehicle needs jacks for leveling before firing.

Benefits and Potential

The new North Korean MLRS with an unknown designation has outstanding characteristics, which is why it is extremely interesting. At the same time, it poses a great danger to South Korea, and Seoul will have to take into account the presence of such systems in a potential adversary.

The new development of the DPRK is declared as a multiple launch rocket system. However, the range and power of the missile warhead allow us to consider it as an operational-tactical missile system. The presence of six missiles on one installation gives special operational capabilities, and at the same time advantages over other OTRK and MLRS.


Target after being hit by a rocket

Apparently, the classification as MLRS is associated with the planned methods of combat use. So, combat vehicles will have to work as part of batteries of several units. They will have to carry out a massive shelling of distant targets with volleys of the entire ammunition load. Thus, almost dozens of large warheads can simultaneously attack an enemy object.

From official reports, it follows that the new MLRS will go into service with missile units from the ground forces, but not in the strategic missile forces. Thanks to this, the non-strategic KPA troops will have a special tool for specific tasks.

The ability to work in formations and a long firing range make the new MLRS extremely dangerous for South Korea. With its help, the KPA will be able to attack targets at a significant depth of defense, and Seoul and the nearest cities fall into the firing zone. In fact, the army’s multiple launch rocket system of the operational-tactical level is being transformed into a strategic weapon.


Storyboard hitting a training target

However, the new North Korean weapons should not be overestimated, nor should the South Korean capabilities be underestimated. The new complex uses a “conventional” limited-range ballistic missile, which may not be the most difficult target for a developed air defense and missile defense system. Seoul is trying to develop its army, taking into account the current threats, and the appearance of a new MLRS in service will lead to a symmetrical response.

Waiting for deliveries

According to official data, the new MLRS has been tested since last summer. The last launch at the moment took place just a few days ago. The complex has not yet been delivered to the army and is not in service. However, testing and development may be completed in the very near future, and the KPA will receive a new weapon with broad capabilities – a new means of deterring a potential enemy.

In response, South Korea will be forced to take one or another military measure. What the consequences of this will be, and how far the next round of the arms race will go is a big question. In addition, other countries in the region may pay attention to the new MLRS, which also will not contribute to an improvement in the international situation.

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