As part of the country’s efforts to develop cutting-edge weapons, North Korea has recently opened a new research center under the Academy of National Defense Science to study hypersonic missiles, Daily NK has learned. 

Able to travel at over Mach 5, hypersonic missiles are a next-generation weapon that can theoretically hit any place on the planet within three hours.

Unlike conventional ballistic missiles, hypersonic missiles do not follow a simple ballistic trajectory. Accordingly, military experts count them among the major weapons that will change the face of future warfare.

From North Korea’s perspective, hypersonic missiles could be the “magic sword” that brings down America’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD)-led “invincible shield” because they cannot be intercepted by existing missile defense systems.

“There were rumors going around [about the new center] within the Academy of National Defense Science from the middle of last year, and an order issued on Sunday led to the creation of the Hypersonic Rocket Research Center,” a source in the North Korean military told Daily NK yesterday. “The center is considered so important that the Central Committee made it the first project to be implemented in the new year.”

The source further noted that “it is also very significant that the center was established around the time of the Eighth Party Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea” and that the founding of the center marks a significant step forward in the history of North Korea’s “defense sciences.” 

North Korea has long placed an emphasis on “new strategic weapons,” and the creation of the new center suggests that the development and deployment of hypersonic missiles will become a “major national task” going forward. The center’s establishment also suggests North Korea is strengthening its military power to promote internal solidarity, even as it prepares for negotiations with the US and other nations. 

Soldiers marching during the Party Foundation Day military parade on Oct. 10, 2020. / Image: KCNA

“Internally, people are saying that since the nukes are completed, lots of Workers’ Party money will go into hypersonic rockets,” said the source. “The general view is that they will pour all their resources into preparing for the distant future.”

Based on the source’s report, North Korean authorities believe hypersonic missiles, with their high speed, ability to fly at low altitudes – and even to perform evasive maneuvers – could prove a “game changer” that will “shake up” the world’s military and security order by replacing nuclear weapons, which are unlikely to be used in real combat. 

According to the source, North Korean authorities have been conducting basic research on hypersonic missiles since the successful test launch of the Hwasong-15 ICBM in 2017. This means they have been preparing to establish the research center for three years.

The center reportedly has four departments and seven labs with a staff of about 300. General preparations to start the center’s operations have been completed: a commuter bus line was created upon the center’s establishment, and the Ministry of Social Security has put in place a “security network” to guard the center’s premises.

As its first set of “tasks” for 2021, the center has been ordered to conduct “full-fledged development of hypersonic guided missiles and shipboard laser weapons,” the source said.

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.