North Korea's new corvette shows off working cruise missiles

According to North Korean state-controlled media, Kim Jong Un oversaw a nuclear-capable "cruise missile" test launch from the nation's new Amnok-class corvette.
Christopher McFadden
Supposed image of the test under observation by Kim Jong Un.


The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's (DPRK) state-controlled media service, has published images of the country's latest weapon of war: an operational Amnok-class cruise missile armed corvette. Operated by the Korean People's Navy (KPN), the new warship, known locally as Patrol Ship No. 661, was featured with images of it test-firing one of its missiles while under observation from another ship by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Naval cruise missile ship

Experts are not entirely sure where the test occurred, but according to KCNA, Kim Jong Un oversaw the missile tests somewhere on the east coast of North Korea. However, some investigators may have geolocated the location to the coast of Munchon, north of Wonsan. The missile launches were apparently conducted to test the ship's combat and missile system capabilities and improve the sailors' attack mission skills.

KCNA claimed that the ship hit the target accurately, but no information was provided about said "target." The agency also quoted Kim praising the ship for maintaining “high mobility and mighty striking power and constant preparedness for combat to cope with sudden situations.” KCNA also identified the weapons as "strategic cruise missiles," implying that they may also be able to be armed with nuclear warheads.

The most likely candidate is the DPRK's ground-launched "Hwasal-2," considered nuclear-capable, and a submarine-launched version is also believed to exist. This is confirmed, albeit tentatively, through comparisons of the launched missile and other known examples of it previously published. Photos of the vessel seem to show eight cruise missile launch tubes located aft of the superstructure. Moreover, the installation appears to be part of the design, not a subsequent add-on. The released images also reveal that the missiles are fired from an angled container instead of a vertical launch system (VLS).

In an off-the-record briefing to NK News, the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) provided details about the missile's capabilities. It was reported that one or more "Hwasal-2s" flew under 124 miles (200 km) off the coast of Wonsan and failed to hit its target at sea. However, the cause of the failure remains unclear, and the details cannot be independently verified.

The South Korean JCS added that South Korean and US forces had “monitored [the ship] in real-time” and declared that North Korean statements about the firing trials were “exaggerated." They also stated that, according to NK News, “there are many parts [of the North Korean account] that are different from the truth.”

The warship also appears to have various other weapons systems, including a 100mm main gun, six-barrel 30mm Gatling-type guns, and six-barrel 14.5mm machine guns, to engage various targets, from other vessels to missiles and aircraft. It also appears to have a mixture of outdated Chinese and Russian sensors, radar, countermeasures, decoys, and other electronic systems required by modern warships. It may also, as Naval News reports, have a complement of trainable torpedo tubes hidden within its superstructure. It also appears to sport a rear AK-630 “style” close-in weapon system (CIWS).

Only one, for now

Only one Amnok-class corvette armed with cruise missiles is currently known to be active and, according to military analysts, is not considered a major threat to US and ally assets in the area. However, its strategic weaponry potentially diversifies the North Korean nuclear arsenal, which could complicate matters should hostilities break out.

Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
message circleSHOW COMMENT (1)chevron
Job Board