North Korea conducts firing test of ballistic missile from railway train

According to information published by the North Korean News Agency on January 15, 2022, North Korea has conducted firing tests of a short-range ballistic missile launched by a railway-borne missile regiment. It is the third launch of ballistic missiles by North Korea this year. It was supervised by commanding officers of the Korean People's Army and leading officials of the Academy of Defence Science.
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A short-range ballistic missile was launched from a train car during a reported test on January 14, 2022. (Picture source Rodong Sinmun)

North Korea railway-based missile regiment conducted firing drill with the launch of ballistic missiles took off from Uiju, a county near the northwestern corner of North Korea, and flew 430 km at an altitude of 36 km before crashing off the country’s east coast, the South Korean military said.

Citing information published by the North Korean press agency, the regiment received a firepower mission at short notice from the General Staff in the morning on Friday before swiftly moving to the firing ground and precisely striking the set target in the East Sea of Korea with two tactical guided missiles.

The combat posture of the railway-borne missile regiment of North Phyongan Province which demonstrated high maneuverability and rate of hits in the drill was highly appreciated in the review and the issues were discussed to set up proper railway-borne missile operating system across the country and to find out ways for further completing our style fighting methods with the railway-borne missiles.

According to pictures released on the Internet, the ballistic missile was launched from train cars and hit targets on an island off the east coast, North Korea’s state media reported on Saturday.

Official media of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) reported on 16 September 2021 that a newly established “railway-borne missile regiment” launched two ballistic missiles from a rail-mobile launcher on 15 September 2021. This is the first time the DPRK has revealed this ballistic missile basing mode, a mode known to have been adopted only by the Soviet Union/Russia.

The missile trains are stealthy and highly mobile, capable of covering up to a thousand kilometers in a single day. Disguised as a freight train, a missile train cannot be spotted either by satellite or electronic surveillance.

The Soviet military deployed its first rail-portable long-range missile in 1987 and had 12 of them by 1991. Rail-mobile missiles were removed from service in 2002 and the last base dismantled in 2007 under the START II arms reduction treaty with the United States.

Citing a report published on the Internet by Tianran XU, Jaewoo SHIN, Katsuhisa FURUKAWA on September 17, 2021, from the pictures released by DPRK media, the missiles launched from the rail-mobile launcher appear to be KN-23 short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM), 10 eight of which were previously launched on four occasions in 2019. The 15 October 2021 launch would mark the ninth and tenth known launches of this missile without any apparent failure.

Citing open sources information, the design of the KN-23 missile seems very similar to the Russian Iskander-M and South Korean Hyunmoo-2B SRBMs, being distinguished by its elongated cable raceway, different jet vane actuators, and smooth base.

The KN-23 missile could have a range of some 450 km with a 500 kg warhead, putting all of South Korea within range, though it is possible to extend the range out to 690 km with a reduced payload. The warhead of the missile is likely to be unitary, sub-munitions, or possibly nuclear. It could be launched from an 8x8 wheeled TEL (Transporter Erector Launcher) unit or railway cars.

North Korea conducts firing test of ballistic missile from railway train 925 002

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