New satellite imagery seems to confirm North Korea’s recent claim that it has built a new submarine capable of launching ballistic missiles that could carry nuclear warheads. According to an analysis by a Washington think tank the photos also indicate that North Korea may be preparing for a new test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile, ABC News informs.
On July 23 North Korean state media released photos of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un inspecting a “newly built submarine” and said that the new submarine’s “operational deployment is near at hand.”
New commercial satellite images of the Shinpo South Shipyard on August 26 seem to provide confirmation of that claim as well as the readying of a new missile test.
Analysis by the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Beyond Parallel says the new submarine is likely a successor to North Korea’s existing experimental SINPO-class ballistic missile submarine.
That experimental submarine has a tube fixed to the top of its hull capable of carrying a ballistic missile. But that is a rudimentary capability when compared to a new submarine that would carry and launch the missiles from inside its hull.
Since 2015, with varying degrees of success, North Korea has carried out launch tests of ballistic missiles “ejected” from a submersible barge that then ignites above water. A significant development in 2017 was the successful firing of solid-fueled missiles that could be used in submarines. Solid-fueled missiles are more stable than liquid-fueled missiles making them easier to transport, particularly on submarines.
The new satellite images show support vessels and a crane, suggesting possible preparations for another test of a submarine launch test from a barge towed out to sea.