North Korea’s state media reported Wednesday that a missile it launched into the sea on early Tuesday morning was a new hypersonic missile, known as the Hwasong-8.
Hypersonic missiles travel at least five times the speed of sound or about 3,853 miles per hour. North Korea said the Hwasong-8 is a glide vehicle, which means it has more maneuverability at lower altitudes than a conventional ballistic missile.
“In the first test-launch, national defense scientists confirmed the navigational control and stability of the missile in the active section and also its technical specifications including the guiding maneuverability and the gliding flight characteristics of the detached hypersonic gliding warhead,” Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency said.
Shortly after the missile test, North Korea’s ambassador addressed the UN General Assembly and said Pyongyang has the right to conduct such launches. “We are just building up our national defense in order to defend ourselves and reliably safeguard the security and peace of the country,” said Ambassador Kim Song.
North Korea often accuses the US and South Korea of hypocrisy since both countries also conduct missile tests. Earlier this month, South Korea released footage of several types of new missiles it is developing, including a submarine-launched ballistic missile, making it the first non-nuclear armed state to have such a weapon.
The US also said it tested a hypersonic missile this week. An aircraft launched the missile, which used the velocity of its rocket to switch to an air-powered engine known as a scramjet that brought the projectile to hypersonic speeds. The scramjet is considered an “air-breathing engine” because it uses the collision of onrushing air molecules to combust fuel, but it has to be already moving at high speed to work.