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Monday, March 4, 2024

North unveils GPS-guided rockets with ‘enhanced precision’

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Photos of the240mm artillery shells that North Korea has claimed of testing on Sunday. The pictures were released by the state-owned Korean Central News Agency. [KCNA/YONHAP]
Photos of the240mm artillery shells that North Korea has claimed of testing on Sunday. The pictures were released by the state-owned Korean Central News Agency. [KCNA/YONHAP]

North Korea on Monday claimed the successful development of a new “controllable shell and ballistic control system” for multiple rocket launchers, which purportedly enhances precision.

According to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the Academy of Defence Science on Sunday conducted a ballistic control test firing of 240 millimeter-caliber controllable multiple rocket launcher shells.

It claimed that the testing has proven its latest arms development’s accuracy.

“The development of the 240 mm-caliber controllable multiple rocket launcher shell and its ballistic control system will make a qualitative change in our army’s multiple rocket launcher force,” KCNA reported.

The state media stressed that the Academy of Defence Science is “convinced” that the strategic value and utility of the 240 mm-caliber multiple rocket launcher will increase on the battlefields.

The South Korean military said it has detected the firing of 240-mm artillery shells around Nampho, South Pyongan on Sunday.

The artillery shells reportedly landed in the Yellow Sea.

This is the first time that North Korea had officially disclosed its testing of the GPS-guided 240-mm multiple rocket launchers, which is intended primarily for targeting Seoul and the surrounding areas of Gyeonggi and Incheon.

It is the same artillery shell that was fired at Yeonpyeong Island in 2010, resulting in the deaths of two Marines and two civilians as well as injuring 19 people including both military personnel and civilians.

North Korea is also suspected of supplying 240 mm shells in large quantities to Russia for use in its war against Ukraine since North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Vostochny Cosmodrome on Sept. 13.

In addition to the 240-mm artillery, North Korea is known to possess 122mm, 300mm, and 600mm artillery. The 300mm and 600mm artillery are suspected of achieving guidance capability.

The North Korean leader Kim reportedly ordered the development of GPS-guided 122mm and 240mm artillery shells in August last year, following field inspections of arms factories ahead of a ROK-US joint exercise.

Kim emphasized the importance of modernizing equipment, stating that achieving control over the 122mm and 240mm multiple rocket launcher shells represents a significant revolution.

“The qualitative levels of war preparations depend on the development of the munitions industry, and the factory has a tremendous responsibility in accelerating our military’s war preparations,” Kim was quoted as saying.

Especially this year, North Korea has been stepping up its provocation by bombarding its artillery shells toward the islands including Yeonpyeong.

For three days between Jan. 5 and Jan. 7, North Korea fired more than 300 shells into the Yellow Sea near the islands, prompting the islanders to evacuate.

According to Shin Jong-woo, a senior researcher at the Korea Defense and Security Forum, equipping the 240mm artillery shell with GPS guidance could significantly extend its target range.

“The effective range of the previous North Korean 240mm artillery shell is 40 kilometers (25 miles), with a maximum distance of 60 kilometers,” Shin said. “With the implementation of GPS guidance, the effective range of the new 240mm artillery shells could potentially be extended to 70 kilometers or even up to 100 kilometers.”

However, a South Korean military official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, expressed uncertainty regarding North Korea’s success in developing such precision-guided artillery shells citing the technological challenges involved and the associated costs.

“They may have attached wings that could control the flight direction,” the military official said.

Hong Min, senior research fellow at the Korea Institute for National Unification, suggested that North Korea’s announcement on Monday may serve two purposes.

Firstly, it could be aimed at exerting pressure on South Korea amid its recently intensified rhetoric of preparing for war.

Secondly, it may also be directed toward Russia, given North Korea’s suspected supply of artillery to the country.

BY LEE HO-JEONG, HAN YOUNG-HYE [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]