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What are solid-fuel missiles, and why is North Korea developing them? – Times of India

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NEW DELHI: Solid fuel missiles are rockets that use a pre-packaged propellant mixture, as opposed to liquid-fueled missiles which require separate tanks for fuel and oxidizer. This seemingly simple difference has major implications for both missile capabilities and geopolitical concerns, especially in the context of North Korea‘s ongoing weapons development.
Why solid fuel?
Compared to liquid fuels, solid propellants offer several advantages:
Faster deployment: Solid fuel missiles require minimal preparation time, as fueling is not necessary. This allows for quicker launches, making them harder to pre-empt or target.
Increased survivability: Solid fuel is more stable and less susceptible to damage compared to liquid fuels, making the missiles more resistant to pre-emptive strikes.
Easier storage and maintenance: Solid fuel has a longer shelf life and requires less maintenance compared to liquid fuels, simplifying storage and reducing logistical burdens.
Why is North Korea developing them?
North Korea is developing solid-fuel missiles to enhance its military capabilities and deterrence against potential threats from the United States and its allies. Solid-fuel missiles can increase the range and payload of North Korea’s missiles, as well as improve the accuracy and survivability of its missiles, especially against the US-led missile defence system in the region. Solid-fuel missiles can also enable North Korea to launch surprise attacks or respond quickly in a crisis, as they can be fired more rapidly and with less warning than liquid-fuel missiles.
North Korea has claimed to have tested both short-range and long-range solid-fuel missiles in the past few years.
Hwasong-17: This ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile) successfully test-fired in 2022, showcasing North Korea’s progress in developing long-range solid-fuel missiles.
Hwasong-18: Another ICBM test-fired in 2023, potentially marking a further advancement in their solid-fuel capabilities.
Recent Hypersonic Missile Test: On January 15, 2024, North Korea claimed to have successfully test-fired a new solid-fuel hypersonic missile, indicating continued efforts in developing even more sophisticated weaponry.
North Korea’s solid-fuel missile tests have several implications for its military capabilities and regional security. First, they demonstrate that North Korea is making progress in developing solid-fuel rockets, which are easier to store, transport, and launch than liquid-fuel rockets. Solid-fuel rockets can also increase the range and payload of North Korea’s missiles, as well as reduce the launch preparation time and the warning time for the adversaries.
Second, they indicate that North Korea is seeking to enhance the accuracy and survivability of its missiles, especially against the US-led missile defence system in the region. Solid-fuel missiles can fly at unpredictable trajectories and change direction in flight, making them harder to track and intercept. They can also carry multiple warheads or decoys to confuse the enemy’s radars and sensors.
Third, they signal that North Korea is not willing to give up its nuclear and missile programs, despite the diplomatic efforts and economic sanctions by the international community. North Korea has repeatedly rejected the US’s calls for denuclearization, and has instead demanded security guarantees and sanctions relief. North Korea’s solid-fuel missile tests may be seen as a way of increasing its bargaining power and deterring potential military actions by the US and its allies.





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