Submarine missile test 'an explosive failure'

An image from North Korean TV footage showing a missile being launched and igniting in midair, purportedly on Dec 21.
An image from North Korean TV footage showing a missile being launched and igniting in midair, purportedly on Dec 21.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

SEOUL • North Korea's "successful" submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) test last month was an explosive failure that was not even launched from a submarine, expert analyses have concluded.

The North released footage last Saturday of the purported Dec 21 test, showing leader Kim Jong Un, dressed in a winter coat and fedora hat, looking on as a missile was launched vertically from underwater and ignited in midair.

The video then cut to a rocket flying through the clouds.

The footage was almost immediately dismissed as a fake - modified footage of the actual launch and spliced footage from other missile tests to give the impression of a successful outcome.

Analysts at the California- based James Martin Centre for Nonproliferation Studies said the missile almost certainly blew up after a successful pop-up.

"Although (it) appears to eject successfully... we think that a catastrophic failure occurred at ignition," research associate Catherine Dill said yesterday.

North Korea "manipulated the footage in an attempt to obscure this result, but one clip plays for two frames too long. The rocket appears to explode," she said.

In a separate analysis on the 38 North monitoring website, Mr John Schilling, a specialist in satellite and launch vehicle propulsion systems, said it appeared that the launch was conducted from a submerged barge rather than a submarine. He added that a fully operational SLBM system is not expected before 2020.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 14, 2016, with the headline 'Submarine missile test 'an explosive failure''. Print Edition | Subscribe