North Korea is flexing their military muscles again with more missile demonstrations. In the latest test, a Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM) was fired successfully with Kim Jong Un in attendance. Despite only flying about 150m, the rocket launch does demonstrate the ability for North Korea to launch SLBMs properly. Called the Polaris-1, the missile is suggested to be capable of delivering a nuclear warhead. Currently, only the United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom, France and India have SLBM capable submarines.
SLBMs are a greater danger than conventional ballistic missiles due to their flexibility from being mounted on a submarine. By using a submarine platform, the missile itself can be brought much closer to the target, robbing defense systems of critical reaction time. Conventional ICBMs (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile) take about 20 minutes to arrive on target while SLBM can take as little as 6 minutes, far too little time for air defenses to activate. This allows the launcher to strike first to cripple their opponent.
One potential launch platform for the Polaris 1 is a number of Golf II submarines the North Koreans purchased from Russia. While it’s theoretically possible for the Golf II to strike the United States, more likely targets are South Korea and Japan, with the launch coming in from a blind side to surprise defenders. This test will also likely impact South Korea’s decision whether or not to proceed with the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-ballistic missile system or not. It’s not rocket science to tell that the situation between the Koreas is set to escalate even further as each side buys more rockets.