A trio of new North Korean missiles can evade air defence systems including Patriot, Aegis and THAAD according to a report published by US Congressional Research Service (CRS).
The CRS has called attention to missiles recently developed North Korea which it says are designed to evade air defence networks and pose an imminent threat to Japan.
The report on North Korean nuclear and ballistic missile systems released by the CRS suggests that Pyongyang’s recent missile testing “may seek to achieve more than a simple political statement and that it may be intended to increase the reliability, effectiveness, and survivability of their ballistic missile force.
‘’The recent advances in North Korea’s ballistic missile test program appear to be directed at developing capabilities to defeat or degrade the effectiveness of missile defences deployed in the region: Patriot, Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD), and Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD),” the report states.
The report goes on to add that North Korea’s progress with submarine-launched ballistic missiles suggests an effort to counter land-based THAAD missile defences by launching attacks from positions at sea outside the THAAD’s radar field of view.
The missiles mentioned by the US are the short-range KN-23, KN-24 and KN-25. The similarity missiles led to the confusion when they were being tested in 2019 and 2020 that they might be the same weapon.
All three are fired from mobile truck launchers, follow “atypical flight paths” designed to trick air defence systems and share a fairly limited range.
Can THAAD, Aegis or Patriot protect Japan?
A white paper published earlier this week by Tokyo raised a similar warning about North Korea’s missile capabilities, particularly noting that Pyongyang may be developing a low-trajectory ballistic missile that could avoid Japan’s missile defence systems and deliver a nuclear strike on Japan.
The KN-23 has a range of 690kms or 430 miles exemplifies the most notable advance” for the DPRK in the field of smaller weapons, as the missile was observed during one test to conduct a “pull-up” manoeuvre intended to confuse an anti-air missile or targeting system.
The KN-24 demonstrates the guidance system and in-flight manoeuvrability to achieve precision strikes and could even posses be a dual-capable system, meaning it can be fitted with nuclear or conventional warheads.
The KN-25, the last of the trio of missiles, distorts the line between rocket and missile sporting advanced avionics, inertial and satellite guidance systems, and aerodynamic structures and is similar to the US Army’s rocket artillery HIMARS system.
Japan’s security is guaranteed by the United States especially against its hostile neighbours like China and North Korea. Most of the defence systems like THAAD, Aegis or Patriot are focussed on targetting ballistic missiles while short-range air defence capabilities have been neglected.
According to experts, Washington needs to find an urgent solution to short-range missiles like the K-23, K-24 and K-25. The possible options include anti-drone defences, such as the “Howler” suicide drone system and ship-mounted flak cannons or refitting some of its Joint Light Tactical Vehicles (JLTV) Humvee replacements to carry short-range anti-air missiles.