North Korea Unveils New Stealth Ship-Destroyer

North Korea has revealed an official photograph of its new stealth ship-destroyer, a cross between a hovercraft and a catamaran, in a clear warning to its neighbors and the United States that the reclusive nation has the power to launch first strike attacks on other vessels without warning.

The air-cushioned ships possess a faceted hull, which makes them difficult to detect on radar, while allowing the ship-destroyer to glide efficiently across the waves. Though details of the craft’s construction are scarce, the stealth vessel is 131-feet-long, and is thought to be able to achieve speeds of up to 100 mph using a series of propeller fans. The ship-destroyer is understood to have been outfitted with Russian KH-35 Uran missiles, comparable to the U.S. Navy’s Harpoon missile. With a range of 135 nautical miles, the sea-skimming missiles would far extend the striking ability of the stealth ship.

The ship has reportedly been in development for over a decade, according to North Korean state-run media. Outfitted with two North Korean AK-630 30mm Gatling guns, the stealth ship also sports four machine gun turrets and an anti-aircraft missile system, representing the latest in a long line of designs of hovercraft-type ships developed by the North. At least two more hovercraft vessels are also under construction, though North Korea‘s Navy appears to have designed each with different gun configurations.

North Korea isn’t the only nation to operate the hovercraft-hybrid craft, called Surface Effect Ships (SESs), which are constructed with a pair of rigid outer hulls surrounding a central air cushion. The Norwegian Navy possesses the Skjold patrol corvette, which is considered the world’s fastest combat ship, while the Russian Navy sports two Bora class patrol corvettes. The United States cancelled a similar ship in 1980, though the Coast Guard utilized versions of an SES for drug interdiction in that decade.

Reports of the stealth ship come just a few days after North Korea fired five short range missiles off their coast. The missiles were launched from a site near the North Korean capital, and flew 125 miles before landing in the sea. Just a day prior, North Korea test fired an anti-ship missile in the East Sea, which analysts believe was the Russian KH-35, from its stealth ship-destroyer.

[Image: KCNA via Ars Technica]