North Korean state newspaper Rodong Sinmun released images on 7 February showing a new type of surface-to-surface missile (SSM) being fired from a surface-effects ship (SES) from the Korean People's Navy (KPN) Eastern Fleet.
The images, which showed North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in attendance, were accompanied by an article translated by the English-language website KCNA Watch. The article noted that the test-firing proved in a "scientific" way that the capabilities of the long-rumoured vessel and its weapons system had reached design and engineering specifications.
The article said that the missile will be deployed on other naval vessels in due course, adding that the weapon's arrival had precipitated a change in operational tactics. "The new-type anti-ship rocket to be deployed for action at naval units of KPA before long made it possible to bring a great change in the navy's defence of territorial waters and strongly react to any attempt of the enemy's fleets of warships for military attack, through contact combat or non-contact combat," it stated.
The new SSM looks remarkably similar to the Russian Kh-35 3M24 Uran (SS-N-25 'Switchblade') anti-ship missile, although it has a minor modification - a tube - to the solid propellant rocket booster section. The existence of a North Korean variant of the Kh-35 was first noted in June 2014 when a very brief, single-second clip of the missile being fired from a small platform was embedded at the end of a 50-minute North Korean military propaganda video.
The stealthy missile boat - believed to be an SES ship - has a faceted superstructure with several air intakes on the sides just above the main deck. The vessel appears to be about 17 m long with a beam of approximately 8-9 m. A single lattice mast is fitted with what appears to be two surface search and navigational radars. One of these radars may operate as a target-acquisition radar. A smaller radar is also fitted, but there does not appear to be a fire-control radar.
The vessel is fitted with two groups of SSM tubes amidships on short sponsons. These tubes are normally lowered to the deck in transit, being raised only for firing. Located between the SSM launchers is another smaller, trainable launcher with two box-like devices. Videos of similar equipment fitted on Myanmar's home-built frigate UMS King Aung Zeya suggest this may be a manportable air defence system (MANPADS) launcher.
Gun armament comprises two groupings of six-barrelled Gatling-type guns located fore and aft, comprising one AK 630 clone flanked by two manned 14.5 mm Gatling-type guns for a total six-gun mounts. The 30 mm gun appears to use a modified AK 230 mount with a six barrelled AO-18 type cannon.
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