According to the Korean Central News Agency, the new solid-fuel missiles, which are designed to be fired from land vehicles, could be armed with warheads weighing as much as 2.5 tons. During Thursday’s tests, the missiles demonstrated low-altitude, maneuverable flight and accurately hit a sea target 600 kilometers (372 miles) away.
Analysts say the North likely tested an upgraded version of a system modeled after Russia’s Iskander mobile ballistic missiles. Their flatter trajectories compared to conventional ballistic weapons make them fly at an altitude where air is dense enough to allow for maneuverability. The unpredictability makes them harder to be intercepted by missile defense systems, experts say.
South Korea’s military took an unusually long time to release its assessment on the launches Thursday before it said hours later that the missiles traveled as far as 450 kilometers (279 miles).
Kim Dong-yub, a professor from Seoul’s University of North Korean Studies, said the discrepancy between the South Korean and North Korean assessments possibly shows how difficult it is for radar systems to accurately track these missiles during flight.
“Even if our military got things wrong, it doesn’t matter for now as they could easily adjust their assessment after analyzing satellite data,” said Kim, a former South Korean military official. “But how are you going to do that in times of war?”