Sinpo South Shipyard Update: Routine Activity

Key Findings

  • A high-resolution satellite image collected on June 16 provides a clear view of the Sinpo South Shipyard and its surroundings, which are crucial to the development of North Korea’s ballistic missile submarine (SSB) and submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) capabilities.
  • Compared to the images in the previous report, the new image shows that the submersible missile test stand barge has once again exchanged positions with the infiltration mothership. Whether this movement directly results from routine maintenance, preparations for an upcoming test, or a strategic deception plan is unknown.
  • Various pieces of equipment are visible on the apron of the pop-up test stand—the purposes of which are unclear.

Satellite image of the Sinpo South Shipyard collected on June 16 shows what has become a somewhat routine activity with no observable indications of a forthcoming launch of the much anticipated first true ballistic missile submarine (SSB), submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) test, or an SLBM pop-up test. Since the June 1 report, the submersible missile test stand barge, accompanied by a harbor tug, has once again exchanged positions with the infiltration mothership, returning to the positions seen in the May 2 report. Whether this movement directly results from routine maintenance, preparations for an upcoming submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) test, a component of a strategic deception plan, or a combination of any these and other reasons is unknown. Although not directly visible, it is presumed that also berthed at the secure boat basin is the 8.24 Yongung (August 24th Hero) experimental ballistic missile submarine (SSBA) under its net canopy.

The shipyard’s floating dry dock, usually berthed along the pier south of the new construction hall, was observed tied up alongside the lunching ways of the hall, with what appears to be a small infiltration mothership onboard.

Elsewhere at the Sinpo South Shipyard

Approximately 700 meters southwest of the new construction hall is the pop-up test stand, used to conduct pop-up tests to validate the construction and operation of the launch tube, ejection system, and ignition system of a submarine-launched ballistic missile. A close-up view of the area shows various pieces of equipment on the apron around the pop-up test stand, the purposes of which are unclear. The high-resolution image provides a view of the test stand strong arm, which is used to raise an SLBM launch tube into the firing position, and the rail-mounted service platform, positioned over the end of the strong arm. 

The L-shaped pier further southwest of the pop-up test stand and the unfinished maintenance hall at the southern end of the Yuktaeso Peninsula show minimal activity. The pier, previously damaged during last year’s typhoon season, is under repair and expansion, as evidenced by the caissons lining the pier waiting to be placed. A barge and several support crafts are observed alongside the pier.

The support area adjacent to the L-shaped pier also does not show significant changes. The lack of activity near the new maintenance hall indicates that construction remains suspended. Concrete caissons are observed lining the launching way, waiting to be placed on the L-shaped pier. Next to the concrete caissons is what was identified in the previous report as a gravel or rock pile for work on the L-shaped pier. The higher resolution of the June 16 image shows that this is more likely to be shipping containers or construction equipment placed under netting.