Ballistic missiles are a crucial aspect of strategic defence. These missiles, developed by North Korea and China, are integral to Myanmar’s defence capabilities. This article provides a comprehensive overview of Myanmar’s top ballistic missiles, Hwasong-6 and SY-400 including their technical specifications and strategic implications.
Myanmar’s Top Ballistic Missiles
Myanmar’s Short Range Ballistic Missile, The Hwasong-6, a tactical ballistic missile developed in North Korea, plays a crucial role in Myanmar’s ballistic missile arsenal. Its development began in 1988 intending to enhance the Scud-B missile’s range by reducing the payload and extending the rocket body’s length to increase the propellant by 25%. The Hwasong-6 underwent three successful test firings, with the first one completed in June 1990. By 1999, North Korea had produced an estimated 600 to 1,000 Hwasong-6 missiles, conducting 25 test launches, exporting 300 to 500 missiles, and having 300 to 600 in service with their army. Additionally, the missile was exported to Iran, known as the Shahab-2, and manufactured under license in Syria with Chinese assistance.
The Hwasong-6 is a road-mobile, short-range ballistic missile. It measures 10.94 m in length, 0.88 m in diameter, and has a launch weight of 6,095 kg. Equipped with a single warhead weighing between 700 – and 770 kg, it can be armed with various materials such as high explosives, chemical, biological, or nuclear substances. The missile utilizes a single-stage, liquid propellant, and an inertial guidance system, providing it with an accuracy of 700 CEP. Its effective range spans from 500 to 600 km.
Transported on an 8×8 truck resembling the Russian-made MAZ-543, the Hwasong-6 is raised to a vertical position at the rear of the Transporter Erector Launcher (TEL) before launch. Capable of targeting any area in South Korea, this missile remains a significant component of the strategic defence capabilities of nations like North Korea and Iran. It is important to note that the possession and development of ballistic missiles by these countries are governed by international laws and treaties.
Another Ballistic Missile in Myanmar’s arsenal, The SY-400, developed by China, is a revolutionary ballistic missile system that sets itself apart with its utilization of a vertical launch system, a groundbreaking advancement in rocket launcher technology. This system offers the distinct advantage of being capable of launching attacks in any direction at any given time, eliminating the need for a conventional tilting directional mechanism. Consequently, this simplifies the structure of the rocket launcher by eliminating the requirement for height and direction control devices. However, this innovation also introduces complexities in rocket design, necessitating the incorporation of a relay inertial navigation system and thrust vectoring to ensure swift post-launch manoeuvring toward the intended target.
The SY-400 rocket boasts dimensions of approximately 6 meters in length and 0.4 meters in diameter. Each launch vehicle is equipped with eight launch containers. With a 300 kg warhead, the rocket can achieve a maximum range of 150 km, while a 200 kg warhead enables a range of 200 km. This impressive specification enables the SY-400 to effectively counter the US ATACMS tactical ballistic missile, which has a maximum range of approximately 150 kilometres. Moreover, the SY-400 rocket employs relay inertial guidance and can be optionally equipped with a final guidance system, ensuring exceptional accuracy in hitting targets.
A notable feature of the SY-400 is its modular design, allowing for seamless integration with various missiles and rockets based on specific requirements. The most commonly integrated missile is the BP12A short-range tactical ballistic missile, which measures 6 meters in length, 0.6 meters in diameter, carries a 480 kg warhead, and possesses a range of 280 kilometres.
The acquisition of the SY-400 short-range ballistic missile system by Myanmar is widely perceived as a defensive measure against the long-range rockets of neighbouring countries, primarily Bangladesh and Thailand. It is important to note that the possession and development of ballistic missiles are subject to international laws and treaties, emphasizing the need for responsible and lawful utilization of such weaponry.