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North Korea’s Secret Submarine Project Spotted: SLBM Ready to Launch?

Daniel Kim Views  

The North Korean Shipyard in Sinpo. CSIS Beyond Parallel

North Korea has seen an increase in activity at its Sinpo Shipyard in South Hamgyong Province, raising speculation that it could be preparing to test-fire a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM).

According to Beyond Parallel, a North Korea-focused website run by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), activity has increased over the past five weeks at the Sinpo Shipyard involving the North Korean submarine Hero Kim Kun Ok, 8.24 Yongung (“August 24 Hero”) and a submersible missile test barge. North Korea publicly claimed these vessels as their first tactical nuclear attack submarines.

These three vessels are central to North Korea’s ballistic missile submarine, SLBM, and submarine-launched cruise missile (SLCM) development program.

Beyond Parallel analyzed, “This overall level of activity may portend the commencement later this summer of sea trials for the Hero Kim Kun Ok, preparations for the resumption of SLBM/SLCM flight testing, or both.”

The Hero Kim Gun Ok, unveiled in September last year, has been moored at the Sinpo Shipyard and moved to the Shipyard’s dry dock mid-last month. A dry dock is a structure dug into the ground to allow ships to enter and exit for construction or repair.

Beyond Parallel explained, “Available satellite imagery from May 23 through June 11, 2024, provides no precise indication of the nature of the work being undertaken on the submarine.” However, they speculated that the erected tower crane in the dry dock could be related to installing launch tubes for sea trials.

The August 24 Hero also moved to the Shipyard’s dry dock between May 8th and 17th and is currently relocated under a security canopy in place of the Hero Kim Gun Ok. Furthermore, a telescopic crane was installed on the security canopy over the August 24th Hero between May 28 and June 4 and was confirmed to be removed in satellite images two days later.

The site pointed out that the submersible missile test barge, installed next to the Shipyard passageway, has been moved to a security area and positioned at the stern of the August 24th Hero.

Beyond Parallel noted that these vessels’ level of activity and success will heavily influence the future development of North Korean SSBs, SLBMs, SLCMs, and submarine technology, including designs and operational procedures.

“Aside from practical construction-related developments, these activities may represent an element of Kim Jong Nn’s increasingly aggressive diplomatic posturing since 2023,” they added.

Daniel Kim
content@viewusglobal.com

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