Hwasong-15 ICBM: An Analysis of North Korea’s Photos by South Korean Experts


SEOUL, Nov. 30 (Yonhap) — North Korea released photos of its new long-range ballistic missile Thursday, which features a different warhead shape from the previous version.

The front part of the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) is round and relatively blunt, while that of the Hwasong-14 ICBM is sharp, according to a photograph published by the Rodong Sinmun, a newspaper of the Workers’ Party of Korea, and monitored online here. It was shown on a transporter erector launcher (TEL) with nine wheels on each side, indicating the new one is longer than the Hwasong-14, which is carried by a 16-wheel TEL.

The newspaper also made public dozens of other photos of the new ICBM launch early Wednesday morning, including those of leader Kim Jong-un giving a “field guidance” at the launch site north of Pyongyang.

He pumped his fist, monitoring flight data on a screen and celebrating the successful launch with his aides. The missile reportedly flew 950 kilometers at an apogee of 4,475 km to splash into the East Sea.

The North announced that it has completed its “nuclear force” and claimed the ICBM is capable of hitting all areas of the United States and delivering a “super-sized heavy” nuclear warhead.

The newspaper used four front pages to hype up the communist nation’s first ballistic missile firing in 2 1/2 months.

Experts said the round warhead tip may reflect the North’s pursuit of a multiple reentry vehicle.

“North Korea seems to have designed the protection cover of the reentry vehicle in consideration of a possible multiple warhead system,” said Chang Young-keun, a missile expert at Korea Aerospace University in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province.

He added it appears to have replaced the engine system for the second-stage rocket.

“There’s a possibility that it has a bigger fuel tank and more vernier thrusters,” Chang said. “But it remains unconfirmed whether it’s a solid-fuel engine.”

Shin Jong Woo, a senior analyst at the Korea Defense Security Forum (KODEF) based in Seoul, said the North seems to have used a cluster engine for the first stage of the Hwasong-15 as well.

“The Hwasong-14 type was equipped with one Paektusan rocket engine but the Hwasong-15 appears to have two,” he said.

Pyongyang fired two Hwasong-14 ICBMs in July.

It remains uncertain whether the isolated communist nation has developed a brand-new ICBM in just a few months.

Chronology of North Korea’s missile, rocket launches

Photo Courtesy Yonhap News Agency.


SEOUL, Nov. 29 (Yonhap) — North Korea fired what appears to be a long-range ballistic missile on Wednesday. The following is a chronology of the North’s major missile provocations.

— Aug. 31, 1998: North Korea fires off its first ballistic missile, the Unha-1, also known as the Taepodong-1, from the launch site of Musudan-ri in North Hamgyong Province.

— July 5, 2006: North Korea test-fires an advanced version of the Taepodong-2 missile at the Musudan-ri launch site.

— April 5, 2009: North Korea launches the Unha-2 rocket at the Musudan-ri launch site with the attendance of leader Kim Jong-il and his son, Kim Jong-un.

— April 13, 2012: North Korea fires off a long-range rocket, the Unha-3, from the Dongchang-ri launch site in North Pyongan Province. But the rocket crashes in pieces into the sea shortly after takeoff.

— Dec. 1, 2012: North Korea says it will launch a working satellite, the Kwangmyongsong-3, on the carrier rocket Unha-3, between Dec. 10 and 22.

— Dec. 10, 2012: North Korea extends the rocket launch window until Dec. 29, citing technical problems in the first-stage control engine module.

— Dec. 12, 2012: North Korea launches a long-range rocket from the Dongchang-ri launch site in North Pyongan Province.

— May 8, 2015: North Korea for the first time tests a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), dubbed KN-11. Seoul said that it was more of a test for the ejection rather than firing.

— Nov. 28, 2015: North Korea fires off an SLBM in the East Sea, but Seoul views the test as a failure.

— Dec. 21, 2015: South Korea’s military says North Korea conducted another SLBM test in December, but the test ended in failure. The Washington Free Beacon reported that North Korea succeeded in the underwater test of a KN-11 missile near the eastern port of Sinpo on Dec. 21, citing unidentified U.S. defense officials.

— Feb. 2, 2016: North Korea notifies U.N. agencies of its plan to launch a satellite between Feb. 8 and 25.

— Feb. 6, 2016: North Korea informs the International Maritime Organization of its plan to move up the launch date to Feb. 7-14.

— Feb. 7, 2016: North Korea fires a long-range rocket from the Dongchang-ri launch site at around 9:30 a.m. The North claims it has successfully placed a satellite, named Kwangmyongsong-4, into orbit.

— March 18, 2016: North Korea launches what appears to be two mid-range Rodong ballistic missiles from its western province.

— April 15, 2016: North Korea conducts its first test-launch of an intermediate-range Musudan ballistic missile, also known as the BM-25, but the launch ends in failure.

— April 23, 2016: North Korea test-fires an SLBM in the East Sea, which flies only about 30 km

— April 28, 2016: North Korea launches two intermediate-range Musudan ballistic missiles, but the launches end in failure.

— May 31, 2016: North Korea test-fires an intermediate-range Musudan, but the launch ends in failure.

— June 22, 2016: North Korea fires off two intermediate-range Musudan missiles. One missile flies about 400 km, which experts widely view as a success.

— July 9, 2016: North Korea launches an SLBM off its east coast, but Seoul says the missile appears to have exploded at an altitude of some 10 kilometers.

— July 19, 2016: North Korea test-fires two mid-range Rodong missiles and a shorter-range Scud missile.

— Aug. 3, 2016: North Korea fires off two mid-range Rodong ballistic missiles from near the southwestern area. One missile flies about 1,000 km before falling into Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

— Aug. 24, 2016: North Korea test-fires an SLBM in waters off its east coast towards Japan. The missile flies about 500 km, making it the longest flight by such a missile.

— Oct. 15, 2016: North Korea fires off an intermediate-range Musudan ballistic missile, but it explodes after launch.

— Oct. 20, 2016: North Korea launches what appears to be an intermediate-range Musudan, but the test ends in failure.

— Feb. 12, 2017: North Korea launches a new intermediate-range ballistic missile, Pukguksong-2, into the East Sea. Experts say the country appears to apply technology used in the SLBM to have developed a new missile.

— March 6, 2017: North Korea fires four ballistic missiles from its the Dongchang-ri launch site toward the East Sea.

— March 22, 2017: North Korea launches a missile from its east coast that is presumed to have failed. The type of the missile is not confirmed.

— April 5, 2017: North Korea fires what appears to be a type of KN-15 intermediate-range ballistic missile.

— May 14, 2017: North Korea fires a new mid-to-long-range ballistic missile, the Hwasong-12, from a northwest site. It flies about 700 km before landing in the East Sea.

— May 21, 2017: North Korea fires the ground-to-ground Pukguksong-2 missile, also known as a KN-15. It flies more than 500 km.

— May 27, 2017: North Korea is presumed to have launched a surface-to-air guided missile, believed to be a KN-06, from the eastern region.

— May 29, 2017: North Korea fires what is presumed to be a Scud-type ballistic missile. It flies about 450 km.

— June 8, 2017: North Korea test-fires multiple surface-to-ship cruise missiles.

— July 4, 2017: North Korea launches a ballistic missile from a northwestern province into waters off its east coast. Pyongyang claims that it successfully test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile and that it reached an altitude of 2,802 kilometers and flew 933 km.

— July 28, 2017: North Korea launches a ballistic missile from the northern province of Jagang into the East Sea.

— Aug. 26, 2017: North Korea fires three short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea.

— Aug. 29, 2017: North Korea launches a ballistic missile over Japan from a region near Pyongyang. It flies more than 2,700 kmat a maximum altitude of around 550 km.

— Sept. 15, 2017: North Korea fires a ballistic missile over Japan from Pyongyang. It reaches as high as some 770 km and flies around 3,700 km. It marked the first missile launch after the U.N. Security Council implemented fresh sanctions over its sixth nuclear test.

— Nov. 29, 2017: North Korea launches what appears to be an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). It flies some 960 km, reaching an apogee of around 4,500 km.

Radio signals suggest N. Korea possibly preparing for missile launch


The Japanese government has been on alert after catching radio signals suggesting North Korea might be preparing for a ballistic missile launch, government sources said Monday, November 27, 2017.

“North Korea might launch a missile within the next few days,” one of the sources said.

But as satellite images have not shown a missile or a movable launch pad, the signals may only be related to winter training for the North Korean military, the sources said.

The reclusive state has been relatively quiet recently, not conducting a nuclear or missile test since Sept. 15 when it launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile over northern Japan into the Pacific Ocean.

Analysts say, however, the North may resort to more military provocations after U.S. President Donald Trump put Pyongyang back on the list of state sponsors of terrorism on Nov. 20.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un warned in a statement on Sept. 21 that he could take the “highest-level” of retaliatory action against the United States after Trump threatened to “totally destroy” the country if it moves against the United States or its allies, in a speech at the United Nations earlier that month.