February 28, 2012 10:09
North Korea has deployed an improved, longer-range version of its 240 mm multiple rocket launchers, military sources said Monday. It is expected to unveil them during a parade to mark the centennial of regime founder Kim Il-sung's birthday on April 15.
One military source cited intelligence reports saying the North spent several years trying to improve the rocket launchers and has now completed the work. To test the upgraded version, it reportedly imported 300 mm shells from Russia and test-fired them for years off the west coast.
Some experts speculate that the new launchers have a range of over 120 km. That would put the entire Seoul metropolitan area including U.S. bases in Osan and Pyeongtaek as well as Wonju and Gangnuerng in Gangwon Province within their range, given that the old models have a range of 60 km and could reach Seoul or Chuncheon when fired near the Demilitarized Zone.
But others say the range of the new launchers is less than 100 km. Most rocket launchers with a diameter of less 240 mm have a range of between 60 and 70 km. To strike a target more than 100 km away, they need a precision strike system using inertial navigation or GPS, and there is no evidence that the North's rocket launchers have such capabilities yet.
Even the U.S. only completed development of GPS-guided rockets a few years ago. The source said the North "is probably trying to threaten South Korea and the U.S. by making the rocket launchers public and use them as a propaganda material at home and abroad on Kim Il-sung's centennial."
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