Tracking North Korea’s Sub-Launched Ballistic Missile

North Korea's KN-11 submarine-launched ballistic missile is based in part on the Soviet-era R-27, R-29 and R-29RM designs. (Wikipedia image)North Korea's KN-11 submarine-launched ballistic missile is based in part on the Soviet-era R-27, R-29 and R-29RM designs. (Wikipedia image)

North Korea’s reportedly successful launch of a ballistic missile from a submarine signals an advancement in defense technology and a potential new capability for the communist state.

The military around 5:30 a.m. Wednesday fired a KN-11 submarine-launched ballistic missile, or SLBM, in waters off Sinpo, South Hamgyong Province, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.

The missile traveled for about 500 kilometers, or 311 miles, toward Japan — and actually reached Japan’s air defense identification zone, or ADIZ, for the first time, according to Reuters. Indeed, the projectile was launched at a high trajectory, or angle, indicating its full range may be closer to 1,000 kilometers, or 620 miles, the news agency reported.

The launch, which came shortly after the South and the U.S. began annual military exercises, was detected and tracked by the Pentagon.

North American Aerospace Defense Command, which conducts the mission of aerospace warning, “determined the missile launch from North Korea did not pose a threat to North America,” according to a statement. U.S. military members “remain vigilant in the face of North Korean provocations and are fully committed to working closely with our Republic of Korea and Japanese allies to maintain security,” it states.

The KN-11, which is based in part on the Soviet-era R-27, R-29 and R-29RM designs, may give North Korea an improved capability to penetrate air defense systems in South Korea and Japan — even if launched from an aging fleet of about 70 submarines of mixed types.

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Brendan McGarry
Brendan McGarry is the managing editor of Military.com. He can be reached at brendan.mcgarry@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.