What we know about the ‘massive’ new missile on parade

North Korea has unveiled a new ballistic missile whose “colossal” size has surprised even seasoned analysts of the country’s arsenal. Defence expert Melissa Hanham explains what the missile is and why it is a threat to the US and the world.

To mark the 75th anniversary of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party, the country threw an unparalleled military parade at the stroke of midnight.

The heavily choreographed event featured all the pomp and circumstance the world has come to expect from North Korea’s mass human performances. It also contained a surprisingly emotional speech from Chairman Kim Jong-un, who at times wept as he spoke about the country’s struggles.

Last, but certainly not least, it revealed North Korea’s largest intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) to date.

Here are three things we know about the missile.

People take part in a procession to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers' Party
The parade was held to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the ruling Workers’ Party

Kim’s promised ‘strategic weapon’

On 1 January 2020, Mr Kim gave his annual New Year’s address wherein he announced that North Korea was “developing the state-of-the-art weapons system possessed only by advanced countries”.

He specifically referred to a “strategic” – meaning nuclear – weapons system under development.

Mr Kim pointedly tied the weapon to the US, stating “in the future, the more the US stalls for time and hesitates in the settlement of DPRK-US relations, the more helpless it will find itself before the might of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which is growing stronger beyond prediction, and the deeper it will fall into an impasse”.

This new ICBM is Mr Kim’s promised strategic weapon. It absolutely targets the US, and is delivered as a fait accompli in the face of failed negotiations with the Trump administration.

A new threat to US missile defence systems

North Korea already has two tested ICBMs.

SpaceX receives contract to build missile tracking satellites for the Defense Department

Yesterday, SpaceX received a contract worth more than $149 million from the Space Development Agency (SDA), tasking the company with building a new satellite for the US military capable of tracking and providing early warnings of hypersonic missile launches. Another company, L3 Harris out of Florida, was given more than $193 million by the agency to also build tracking satellites.

The satellites are meant to be the first crucial part of the SDA’s Tracking Layer Tranche 0, which is designed to provide missile tracking for the Defense Department from space using infrared sensors. SpaceX and L3 Harris will together build eight satellites to deliver to the DOD for the Tracking Layer — the first satellites in a planned constellation.

The Tracking Layer will work in partnership with the SDA’s proposed Transport Layer, another planned constellation of between 300 and 500 satellites that will provide “low-latency military data and connectivity worldwide” to military assets. Both layers will be able to communicate with one another through intersatellite links. That way, any data that the sensors pick up in the Tracking Layer can quickly be disseminated to personnel on the ground. Lockheed Martin and York Space Systems both received contracts to develop the initial satellites for this Transport Layer.

This is the first time SpaceX has been granted a DOD award to build satellites. The company is quickly growing its own satellite flight with its Starlink constellation — a proposed constellation of nearly 12,000 satellites intended to beam broadband internet connectivity down to users on Earth. To win this SDA award, SpaceX bid a satellite concept based on its Starlink design, Space News reports.

“We are confident these fixed-price awards will help us deliver the initial tranche of the Tracking Layer on schedule,”

AeroVironment Aims To Disrupt Industry With New Loitering Missile

Californian company AeroVironment
AVAV
aims to disrupt the multibillion-dollar tactical missile industry with its new SwitchBlade 600 loitering missile. Such missiles, sometimes termed kamikaze drones, are propeller-driven, and fly slower but with greater endurance than traditional missiles. Unlike traditional missiles, they can cruise over the battlefield for an extended period looking for targets; if a target proves to be invalid when seen at close range, they can be waved off and go hunting for another. AeronVironment’s small SwitchBlade has proved highly effective in Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Now the company is upsizing with a bigger, faster, and more powerful version able to take on a wider set of targets at longer range.

AeroVironment’s existing SwitchBlade loitering missile is one of the U.S. military’s best-kept secrets. It’s a five-pound, tube-launched weapon that can locate, identify, and destroy a target from several miles away while the operator remains securely behind cover, watching via video feed. Thousands have been used, often against “high-value targets” (aka insurgent leadership) but few details have ever been released. The small warhead delivers a focused blast of shrapnel which can take out a group of individuals or a pickup truck; it can dive vertically to hit targets in trenches or foxholes. But the generally secret nature of the operations it is used in means there are more pictures circulating even of the shadowy six-bladed Hellfire R9X ‘Ninja missile’ than SwitchBlade.

The existing SwitchBlade now becomes the SwitchBlade 300, with the unveiling of the bigger SwitchBlade 600. This is a 50-pound weapon, launched from a ground vehicle, drone or helicopter, with a forty-minute flight time and a top speed of 115 mph. It can travel 50