Dear Members and Friends,
Caught by surprise, the North Koreans yesterday successfully tested a brand new Hwasong-12 missile, first seen and introduced for the first time last month on the April 15th, 2017 during a North Korean military parade (link). The Hwasong-12 is a liquid-fueled single-stage missile with a liquid divert and altitude capability for accuracy of targeting on its bus capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. It was launched from a transportable erected launcher (TEL) of which it was disengaged from the mobile platform before it was launched. The Hwasong-12 was one of four new missiles displayed in that April 15th parade that had not seen testing; two of the four were new ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missile) and the third, a new maneuverable SCUD short-range ballistic missile.
Click here to watch video footage of North Korea’s Hwasong-12 ballistic missile being test launched on May 14, 2017.
The Hwasong-12 proved reliability in a liquid-fueled propellant without stabilizing fins like those used on the North Korean liquid fueled Musudan missile that currently struggles with reliability. Further, the Hwasong-12 proves out a first-stage liquid-fuel capability for a North Korean ICBM or intermediate-range missile. The Hwasong-12 marks the second successful lofted trajectory this year following the February 12 North Korean solid-fueled Polaris-2/KN-15 missile launch off a mobile platform (link). Lofted trajectory intentionally skirts the lateral distance restrictions by going vertically rather than horizontally while also providing maneuver space for reentry angles of the warhead in creating reliability for surviving the heat from the high speeds of reentry.
In following the North Korean rhetoric drumbeat of launching a missile every week and a president-elect in South Korea last week (link), this new missile would have been planned for quite some time. However, it is perceived, the second launch and success of a North Korean lofted trajectory ballistic missile test is very close to crossing the threshold of retaliatory action by the United States, Japan and Korea for the precedent enables increased accelerated pace of North Korean nuclear ballistic missile development and deployment. The Hwasong-12 significantly moves North Korea closer to having surprisingly demonstrated capability to strike the United States that is being first seen and introduced only in a parade less than a month ago.
Ballistic physics don’t lie, and North Korea is taking advantage. American and Japanese Aegis BMD ships who are in the seas around the repeated landing areas of North Korean lofted launches, can use their physics and position as to launch their SM-3 IA and IB interceptors remotely off data from the U.S. AN/TPY-2 forward-based radar in Japan and intercept North Korea’s incoming lofted missiles high in space as they have been designed, required, tested and proven to do. Why spend close to $100 million tax dollars with a single North Korean threat replicating missile costing $50 Million on a test to duplicate this scenario when all the weapons, crew and systems are trained, ready, operational, reliable and in place in the region? Why not enforce the United Nations resolutions that band North Korea from ballistic missile testing? Why not defend the economic trade zone of Japan that is being violated by North Korea? Why not, at the minimum, present this as a stressor, a deterrent to North Korea?
Regardless, allies Japan, South Korea and the United States need to increase capacity in this region of missile defense and deploy and operationalize new systems and interceptors like the SM-3 Block IIA and Aegis Ashore sites in Japan and Hawaii to stay ahead and safe from the rapid missile development of North Korea. Hawaii especially needs to be out front in emergency operationalizing Aegis Ashore out of its western most island at PMRF (Pacific Missile Range Facility) in front of this threat with launch on remote to defend Hawaii and just like Alaska for the lower 48, put the interceptors forward down the threat corridor to defend best what you want defended that is behind you, not to the side of you and not in front of you. It’s physics and physics don’t lie.