A week after the second test of a missile with a hypersonic warhead, North Korea conducted another test flight of such a missile. According to the flight map released by the Koreans, the missile was launched into a ballistic trajectory. According to missile expert Tal Inbar, upon release from the missile body, the hypervelocity glide vehicle (HGV) pulled up (bounced) and deviated sideways from the ballistic path, demonstrating maneuvering at the hypersonic speed. North Korean authorities stated the missile precisely hit a target some 1,000km (621 miles) away.

Three days later, on 14 January afternoon, North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles toward the Sea of Japan. The missiles landed about 430 km and reached an apogee of around 36 km. This launch seems to be unrelated to the hypersonic testing but emphasizes the North Korean muscle-flexing campaign.

This was the third reported test of a hypersonic glide vehicle reported by North Korea. South Korea and Japan both detected this launch, saying a missile had been fired from North Korea towards the sea of Japan. The launch was detected around 7:27 a.m. local time (22:27 GMT Monday) from North Korea’s Jagang Province toward the ocean off its east coast, the same location as last week’s test.

North Korean Hwasong 12 missile with HGV launched on 11 January 2022.
“We assess that this is more advanced than the missile North Korea fired on Jan. 5, though South Korean and U.S. intelligence authorities are conducting detailed analysis,” the South Korean joint chiefs of staff (JCS) statement said. According to the JCS statement, the North Korean missile traveled more than 700km (435 miles) to a maximum altitude of 60km (37 miles), and has reached a top speed of Mach 10. Hypersonic missiles fly at least five times the speed of sound, at relatively low trajectories, making them harder to detect and intercept by conventional air and missile defenses. The difference between the 700 km range reported by the South and 1,000 km, claimed by the north is probably the flight segment of the test where the HGV flew at relatively low altitude and in conditions impairing its detection by radar. Pyongyang said this segment was approximately 240 km long and the HGV performed at least two course changes in this phase of the flight, bringing it to impact on the target.

Hwasong 8 missile and its HGV were first displayed in Pyongyang during the Self Defense exhibition in October 2021. The HGV used on the 5 and 11 January 2022 launch are of a different design.

With this successful test series North Korea joins Russia, and China which both have advanced and, to some level, deployed such weapons. The United States is still in the development phase, initial launches of HGVs were done but actual weapon fielding could take years.

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