South Korea conducted the first test-firing of a new ballistic missile with a longer range and higher payload capability last month, Yonhap News Agency, citing an official source, reported this week. The test-firing of the Hyunmoo-4 took place at the Anheung test site run by the state-run Agency for Defense Development in Taean on South Korea’s west coast, but one of two projectiles that were tested reportedly misfired. The new missile is presumed to have a range of up to 800 kilometers and be capable of carrying a 2-ton payload. Its development began following the adoption of revised missile guidelines in 2017 to remove payload restrictions on South Korea’s ballistic missiles.
Hyunmoo-4 will likely play an important role in the Korea Massive Punishment and Retaliation (KMPR) plan, which is designed to allow the South Korean armed forces rapid options to decapitate the North Korean leadership. The larger payload (2-ton warhead) of the Hyunmoo-4 may allow for the accommodation of an earth-penetrating conventional warhead, which could hold North Korean leadership targets at risk at several underground facilities around the country. North Korea has scores of military underground facilities scattered across its mountainous terrain. The Hyunmoo-4 has a 500-mile range and capable of carrying a 2-ton warhead.
South Korean missiles with a range of up to 500 miles can now be equipped with more powerful warheads. A warhead weighing at least 1,100 pounds can destroy runways. A warhead weighing at least 2 tons can demolish North Korea core facilities, as well as bunkers built dozens of meters below. The South Korean military currently deploys the Hyunmoo-2A, with a range of 186 miles, and the Hyunmoo-2B, with a range of 311 miles. The Hyunmoo-2A can be equipped with a 2-ton warhead, and the Hyunmoo-2B can carry a 1-ton warhead. The United States and South Korea have slowed the pace of joint exercises and have yet to reach an agreement on defense burden sharing.