North Korea’s latest missile launch was witnessed by the crews of at least three different passenger jets, and one claimed that the weapon blew up in flight.
The pilots of two Korean Air flights reported flashes of light in North Korea at the time of last Tuesday’s test of the new Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile, a weapon that could theoretically range all of the continental U.S. Cathay Pacific flight CX893 claimed to have seen the weapon explode and break apart, according to the South China Morning Post.
“Be advised, we witnessed the DPRK missile blow up and fall apart near our current location,” the crew reported, according to the airline’s general manager of operations Mark Hoey.
The report from the crew of the Hong Kong-bound flight out of San Francisco suggests that North Korea’s latest missile test may not have been as successful as Pyongyang asserted in its state media reports. The crew of the Cathay Pacific flight appears to have seen failure during the re-entry portion of North Korea’s missile test.
North Korea has developed ballistic missiles powerful enough to reach their intended targets, including those as far away as the continental U.S., and nuclear warheads for those weapons, but the North has struggled with re-entry vehicle technology, which ensures that the warhead survives the flight.
It should be noted though that if the latest test of the Hwasong-15 ICBM failed on re-entry, it did so on a lofted trajectory. The missile soared to a height of 2,800 miles, ten times higher than the international space station, and then came almost straight down. While it has a theoretical range greater than 8,000 miles, the missile only traveled a distance of about 600 miles from the launch point. Were the weapon to be fired on a minimum energy trajectory or standard launch trajectory, there is a possibility the re-entry vehicle would survive. U.S. intelligence believes this to be the case for the Hwasong-14 ICBM tested twice successfully in July.
Regardless of whether or not the test failed on re-entry, the newest missile represents a technological breakthrough for the regime. It is only a matter of time before they can field a reliable nuclear deterrent.
WATCH: North Korea’s Hwasong-15 ICBM Test
JUST IN: North Korean TV has broadcast video of the launch of the Hwasong-15 rocket. pic.twitter.com/9JCSyhX7Bz
— Martyn Williams (@martyn_williams) November 30, 2017
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