Much of war involves deception. So it would come as no surprise if we were to learn that part of the reason for the bellicose talk from Kim Jong-un, and the well-publicized land-based missile tests were part of a strategy to get the world to look the wrong way. This is not to say that his land-based missiles are any less of a concern. The point is that they are not the only concern.
When it comes to North Korea, we spend so much time examining and discussing the nation’s land-based missile tests that we might forget that it also has submarines. It is mistake we cannot make, as a properly designed missile launched from a sub might have a relatively short distance to travel before hitting its target.
It has now been revealed that North Korea has been conducting tests with its submarines to ensure that it can properly fire missiles without endangering the sub itself. If they are successful in developing effective submarine-launched missiles, the risk goes up dramatically.
“The US military has detected ‘highly unusual and unprecedented levels’ of North Korean submarine activity and evidence of an ‘ejection test’ in the days following Pyongyang’s second intercontinental ballistic missile launch this month, a defense official told CNN on Monday.
“An ejection test examines a missile’s ‘cold-launch system,’ which uses high pressure steam to propel a missile out of the launch canister into the air before its engines ignite. That helps prevent flames and heat from the engine from damaging either the submarine, submersible barge or any nearby equipment used to launch the missile.”
A North Korea with a few dozen missile launchpads roaming under the surface of the oceans becomes a more dangerous foe, especially considering that the goal no doubt is to make those missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
“The current US intelligence assessment is that the missile program aboard submarines remains in the very early stages.
“CNN reported earlier this month that North Korea had sent a diesel-powered Romeo Class sub on an unprecedented patrol and had been outfitting its Gorae Sub with a possible missile launch demonstration tube.”
Regardless of the stage of development, achievement of an effective submarine-based nuclear missile capability is a game-changer. It is not to be ignored.