Ballistic Missiles, Military

Sinpo South Shipyard Update: New Vehicles Emerge, Still Suggestive of SLBM Test Preparations

A satellite image of the Sinpo South Shipyard acquired on September 9, 2020 — as the remains of typhoon Haishen struck the Korean Peninsula — continues to show activity within, and adjacent to, the secure boat basin. This activity remains suggestive, but not conclusive, of preparations for an upcoming test of a Pukguksong-3 submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM) from the submersible test stand barge based here.

A potential Pukguksong-3 test would support the speculation that North Korea has been making significant advances in both ballistic missile and SLBM development during the past year and plans to demonstrate these new capabilities around the time of its Korean Workers’ Party Foundation Day on October 10th.

The primary activities observed in the September 9, 2020 image include,

  • As noted in our last report from September 4, 2020, a vessel similar in size and layout to the ones previously observed prior to earlier tests remains within the secure boat basin. Vessels such as these were used to tow the submersible test stand barge out to sea for the test launches.
  • An unidentified vehicle is now present on the dock, where the existing SINPO-class experimental ballistic missile submarine (SSBA) and the submersible test stand barge remain berthed. Although the resolution of the current image precludes positive identification it appears to be a crane.
  • An unidentified approximately 12-meter-by-1.75-meter yellow trailer or truck is on the same dock but immediately outside the secure boat basin. Speculation is that this may be a piece of construction equipment (e.g., a crane) or trailer transporting a missile container. We must reiterate that the resolution of the current image precludes positive identification so caution is urged.
View of the secure boat basin at the Sinpo South Shipyard as of September 9, 2020. (Copyright © 2020 by Planet)

While not visible, it is presumed that the North’s existing SINPO-class experimental ballistic missile submarine (SSBA) remains berthed along the dock under the approximately 102-meter-by-13-meter removable canopy—installed to restrict overhead observation. Additionally, there are no visible indications in the imagery that the highly anticipated “newly built submarine”—North Korea’s first true ballistic missile submarine—has been launched.

The activity noted in our last report around the static test stand on the south side of the Sinpo South Shipyard appears to have diminished somewhat as the number of vehicles or equipment positioned around the rail-mounted service stand and launch pad strong arm (used to raise a launch tube or missile into the vertical position for testing) have decreased. Little other activity is noted elsewhere in the area of the Sinpo South Shipyard.

View of the static test stand on the south side of the Sinpo South Shipyard as of September 9, 2020. (Copyright © 2020 by Planet)