North Korea developing unusual submarine with ballistic missile threat to US mainland

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Pyongyang has modified an older Romeo-class diesel-electric submarine to be able to launch ballistic missiles from below the surface of the sea. The submarine has undergone refurbishment and modification so it can launch Pukguksong-3 ballistic missiles. The new modifications have enabled the submarine to be armed with three Pukguksong-3 missiles, that have a maximum range of 1,200 miles and mounted within a submarine would pose a serious threat to the US mainland.

The modification involved placing silos for three missiles in the top of the submarine.

The North Korean Navy has an estimated 20 Romeo Class submarines.

The Romeo Class is a Russian design but it is thought that somewhere built in China, and some in North Korea itself.

If North Korea had the ability to miniaturise a nuclear bomb and fit to these missiles as a warhead then the threat increases by many orders of magnitude.

US intelligence has taken seriously North Korea’s claim that it has the technology to fit its missiles with nuclear warheads.

Intelligence reports from the US have estimated that Kim Jong-un could have up to 60 nuclear weapons.

It is not known how many of these can be miniaturised to be placed onto a Pukguksong-3 ballistic missile.

As far back as 2017, Japan’s defence ministry stated that the North Korean regime was able to miniaturise nuclear weapons to be mounted on to ballistic missiles.

Last year the Korean Central News Agency, North Korea’s official state media, reported: “The test-firing scientifically and technically confirmed the key tactical and technical indexes of the newly-designed ballistic missile and had no adverse impact on the security of neighbouring countries.

“The successful new-type ballistic missile test-firing comes to be of great significance as it ushered in a new phase in containing the outside forces’ threat to the DPRK and further bolstering its military muscle for self-defence.”

Senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Ankit Panda told Naval News that the Romeo Class submarines would not be able to venture far out to sea.

He said: “Allied Anti-submarine warfare, ASW, means they probably can’t treat the submarine as highly survivable if they go far out into the Sea of Japan.


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“The concept of operations ultimately will be littoral: if the submarine deploys.

“It will likely stay in their claimed territorial sea.”

Mr Panda added: “There are serious questions about how well North Korea could exercise effective command and control over its sea-based force in a crisis.”

It is estimated the Korean People’s Navy has between fifty-two and sixty-seven diesel electric submarines.

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