Solid-fuel ICBM: North Korea suspected of widening its weapons program
On Wednesday, the 75th founding anniversary of North Korea's army was marked by a huge night-time military parade at Kim Il Sung Square in the capital city of Pyongyang. Experts suspect that among the armaments displayed at the parade was a solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), Al Jazeera reported.
Experts and outside governments closely watch military parades in North Korea. Conducted as a means to justify the nation's policies on the global stage to the local audience, they often display the progress made in weapons development, and the recent parade was no exception.
After several waves of aircraft flying in low formations, flares, and fireworks, the parade began and displayed a variety of weapons, such as tactical missiles and ICBMs, all of which are nuclear-capable.
North Korea's solid-fuel ICBM
A few things caught expert attention among the military hardware at the display. As many as 11 Hwasong-17 ICBMs were displayed during the parade, the highest number so far; prior to this, only four Hwasong-17s had appeared together during a parade in 2020, indicating that the country has perhaps begun mass production of these missiles.
Although the Hwasong-17 is referred to as the 'Monster Missile', the presence of four canister systems, which experts believe could be a solid-fuel missile, North Korea's largest ballistic missiles currently use liquid propellants, which means that they need to be fueled up at the launch site, which is a time-consuming process.
By shifting to solid fuel, North Korea could gain higher mobility for its missile and reduce its time to launch a missile. This would also make it harder to spot the missile before a launch and target for destruction during times of conflict, the Al Jazeera report added.
It remains unclear at what stage of testing the solid-fule ICBM is currently. In the past, North Korea has also displayed mockups at parades, weapons that have not yet entered the testing phase.
Despite sanctions from the United National Security Council (UNSC) and a food and economic crisis at home, North Korea is forging ahead with its weapons development program. Under a dictatorship, the country says it is its sovereign right to defend itself and has blamed the U.S. and its allies, South Korea and Japan, for being hostile to it.
In 2022, the country carried out unprecedented launches under its ballistic missile program. It appears that 2023 could be no different.