Daily NK has learned that North Korea has recently completed deployment of its Kumsong-3 cruise missile at sea and on land. 

Based on the Russian-made KH-35 (Uran) anti-ship missile, the Kumsong-35 has ship-to-ship and land-to-ship versions. North Korea test-fired the missile into the East Sea from Gangwon Province in June 2017 and April of this year.

According to a Daily NK source within the military, the North Korean military authorities have been deploying derivations of the Kumsong cruise missile on warships and with ground-based rocket battalions of the East Sea and West Sea fleets since 2017.

“The Kumsong-3 rocket, with its range of about 200 kilometers, has two versions,” the source said, on condition of anonymity. “Deployment of the ship-to-ship version to modified combat vessels and the ground-to-ship version to ground-based rocket units attached to squadrons of the East and West Sea fleets was completed by Nov. 10.”

In particular, the source said, “The major objective of this deployment is to protect the submarines and destroyers of the 10th and 11th squadrons of the West Sea Fleet and the fourth and fifth squadrons of the East Sea Fleet.”

This suggests a strategy that takes advantage of the Kumsong-3’s low-altitude flight course and undetectability. The source called this a “new strategy to protect ballistic rocket-armed submarines and destroyers.”

As “ballistic rockets” refer to submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), this suggests the Kumsong-3 would harass enemy ships when North Korea’s SLBM-armed submarines are operating.

Kim Jong Un observed the firing of ship-fired rockets back in 2015. / Image: Rodong Sinmun

Moreover, the ground-based Kumsong-3 were reportedly deployed with automated fire-control systems and high mobility. This is believed to be aimed at using the missile to threaten the South in an emergency, even as the system fulfills its original goal of defending the East and West Sea coasts.

Overall, the completion of the Kumsong-3’s deployment could be seen as in line with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s emphasis on bolstering strategic and tactical weapons along with the conventional weaponry of the army, navy and air force since he took power.

Meanwhile, the General Staff Department, Naval Command, commands of the East and West Sea fleets and the commands of the relevant squadrons plan to train with the Kumsong-3 during the military’s winter training, which begins in December.

“Formal training on the Kumsong-3 will begin from December 1, and commanders and sailors must work hard to adjust,” said the source.

Please direct any comments or questions about this article to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.

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Jeong Tae Joo is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. He focuses on North Korean military matters. Please direct any questions about his articles to dailynkenglish@uni-media.net.