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Eki 12, 2017, 11:09 ÖÖ Last Edit: Eki 13, 2017, 06:35 ÖS by Alkyone
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North Korea Has Tested a New Solid-Fuel Missile Engine

North Korean ballistic missile scientists carried out a static test of a new type of solid-fuel engine early last week, a U.S. government source with knowledge of North Korea's ballistic missile programs told The Diplomat. According to the source, the test took place at North Korea's solid-fuel engine testing site in Hamhung, on the country's east coast.

The test is the first reported static solid-fuel test since March 2016, when North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un inspected the test of what North Korean state media described as a "high-powered solid-fuel rocket engine and stage separation." The engine was tested in a horizontal configuration unlike North Korea's vertically configured tests of large liquid-fuel ballistic missile engines.

In September 2017, Japan's Asahi Shimbun had reported a failed test of a new solid-fuel engine for a submarine-launched ballistic missile at Sinpo, but The Diplomat was unable to confirm that such a test had taken place. North Korea is not known to carry out engine tests at Sinpo, which remains largely dedicated to ship and submarine-building.

Where Will the Engine End Up?

To date, large solid-fuel engines have been associated with North Korea's Pukguksong (Polaris) family of ballistic missiles. The March 2016 engine was first seen on the KN11/Pukguksong-1 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), which had started out as a liquid-fueled system and eventually shifted to a solid-fuel design.

In February 2017, North Korea flight-tested another solid-fuel missile: the medium-range KN15/Pukguksong-2, which was effectively a canisterized, ground-launched version of the Pukguksong-1 operating out of an integrated transporter-erector-launcher.

Kim Jong-un declared the Pukguksong-2 operational earlier this year after a second flight test and called for its mass production. U.S. military intelligence has detected signs that the Pukguksong-2 has entered serial production in North Korea, The Diplomat has learned.

It's unclear what missile the engine tested in October 2017 may be associated with. The Diplomat was unable to ascertain if the engine tested was similar in size to the March 2016 test or if it may have been larger. However, U.S. military intelligence has assessed the engine to be different from what was tested in March 2016.

North Korea may be developing a third missile in the Pukguksong series, the Pukguksong-3. So far, only one piece of evidence exists to suggest that such a missile may exist. In late-August, when Kim Jong-un toured the Chemical Material Institute of the Academy of Defense Science, one state media image showed a poster in the facility for a two-stage SLBM under the label "Pukguksong-3."

Such a missile may incorporate an advanced lightweight airframe built out of composite materials, which were also featured in that visit. All else being equal, such a missile should demonstrate greater range for identical payloads than the Pukguksong-1 and Pukguksong-2 given the lower weight of the airframe.

Additionally, North Korea is known to have carried out multiple ejection tests of an SLBM on land this summer. U.S. intelligence recorded ejection tests at North Korea's primary submarine shipyard at Sinpo on May 30, July 18, July 25, and July 30.

However, that Kim Jong-un presumably did not observe last week's solid-fuel engine test may suggest that it involved an iterative design on the existing Pukguksong-1/2 engines. Had Kim observed the test, North Korean state media would likely have announced his visit to the site and even released images.

Solid Propellants and the Future of North Korea's Missile Program

Solid propellants will likely play an important role in the future development of North Korea's ballistic missile program. At an April parade this year, North Korea demonstrated two large intercontinental-range ballistic missile-sized canisters that may suggest a longer-term aspiration for large road-mobile solid-fuel missiles like China's DF-41 or Russia's Topol-M.

Outside of the two flight-tested Pukguksong missiles, North Korea is known to only use solid propellants for its rocket artillery or the KN02/Toksa, a close-range ballistic missile.

Solid propellants, though more difficult to manufacture than their liquid counterparts, can provide a range of important strategic benefits. Unlike liquid-fuel missiles, which mostly have to be fueled prior to use, solid propellants are cast into the missile's casing and can thus be moved into position and launched with less warning.

Another benefit of this property of solid propellents is that missiles using this type of fuel can remain fueled for a much longer duration. Liquid propellants and oxidizers are highly volatile and corrosive and most missiles designed to use them for propulsion are not designed to store them for long periods of time.

Moreover, unlike liquid missiles that may require extensive support equipment like fuel trucks in the field, solid-fuel missiles--especially those on road-mobile launchers--may be both more survivable and less prone to preemptive attack.

Solid propellants do have certain disadvantages as well. For instance, a solid propellant engine, once ignited, cannot be shut off until all the fuel has burned out. Moreover, over years of storage and movement, solid propellants cast into missile bodies can develop cracks, bubbles, and other imperfections that could cause the entire missile to fail shortly after launch. Mesajı Paylaş
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North is destined to launch another ICBM, say experts

North Korea is destined to fire another intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), arms experts in Korea and around the world said Monday.

"North Korea already verified its technology through the first launch," Kwon Yong-soo, former professor of Korea National Defense University, told the JoongAng Ilbo. "It will likely fire another to announce it will operationally deploy the Hwasong-15."

The North fired a new ICBM, the Hwasong-15, on Nov. 29, which puts the whole U.S. mainland in range. The South Korean military later acknowledged that the Hwasong-15 missile was capable of striking targets more than 13,000 kilometers (8,078 miles) away.

"To demonstrate the design resilience of the Hwasong-15 ICBM, NK should test another one soon," Tal Inbar, head of the Space and UAV Research Center at Israel's Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies, wrote in a Twitter post. "Probable preparation time should be around 10-14 days at least. So, second test COULD be conducted around December 15-20."

The North has a history of conducting multiple launches to master a certain technology. It fired its first Hwasong-14 ICBM on July 4, and a second on July 28.

"We suspected that the North conducted the second launch because its first launch failed to demonstrate the expected capability," said a military source. During the first launch, the Hwasong-14 missile flew 933 kilometers for 39 minutes with a maximum altitude of 2,902 kilometers. During the second launch, it flew 998 kilometers for 47 minutes and 12 seconds with a maximum altitude of 3,725 kilometers.

The Hwasong-15 missile traveled 950 kilometers with a maximum altitude of 4,475 kilometers. Its flight time was 53 minutes.

The North may also conduct another launch to test its re-entry technology. U.S. media, including CNN and Fox News, said Friday that the Hwasong-15 missile appeared to have been destroyed during its atmospheric re-entry phase.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies, a U.S. think tank, said the North will likely conduct a provocation concerning a weapon of mass destruction later this month, based on its big data analysis. It said the possibility increases daily after Dec. 15.

Some speculate that the North will conduct a launch around Dec. 17, the anniversary of the former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's death in 2011. Kim was the father of the current leader, Kim Jong-un.

A senior Korean official also told the JoongAng Ilbo on Monday that the North used advanced technology, similar to what is used for one of the best U.S. fighter jets, for the Hwasong-15.

"South Korea, Japan and the United States are conducting in-depth analysis on the technologies used for the missile," said the source. "Photos released by the North showed that the new missile did not use a vernier thruster. The conclusion was drawn that the North used gimbals on the main engine to control the rocket."

A vernier thruster is a rocket engine used to make precise adjustments in altitude or velocity. In gimbaled thrust, a rocket's exhaust nozzle can swivel independently from the rocket itself, allowing for minor changes to the direction of thrust.

The source added, "This technology was applied to F-22s. But we could not confirm how the North acquired this technology."

While the North insisted that it has designed and built the Hwasong-15 with indigenous technologies, intelligence communities believe that technologies from China or the former Soviet Union were used and modified.

Experts said the newest technology will help the North increase the missile's range and accuracy. "Once you secure the technology of gimbaled thrust, it will largely simplify the design of a missile, shortening the production period," said Lee Chun-keun, a researcher at the Science and Technology Policy Institute.

A former military specialist also told the JoongAng Ilbo that the technology will upgrade the threat of North Korea's missiles by improving their success rate.

"When we collected the Eunha-3's first stage rocket, which the North fired in December 2012, we found that the North combined four Rodong missile engines to work as a main engine while a vernier thruster was used to control the direction," he said. "Cables and fuel supply pipes were intricately intertwined inside. But an arms system has a larger possibility of failure when it is built that way. The new technology used in the Hwasong-15 will take the North's missile technology to the next level."

Other experts said the North may fire a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) instead of an ICBM.

A U.S. think tank, 38 North, said last week that the North almost completed an SLBM launch. According to its satellite photo analysis, the North was building a barge for a suspected SLBM launch at a ground facility of Navy Shipyard in Nampo. The barge was moved last month to a nearby port using a floating dry dock, 38 North said.

The North successfully tested the Pukguksong-1 SLBM in November and December 2015. Mesajı Paylaş
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The Hwasong-15: The Anatomy of North Korea's New ICBM

On November 29, at 2:47 a.m. local time, North Korea carried out the first-ever launch of what is to date its largest and most powerful ballistic missile, the Hwasong-15. The launch ended a more than two-month pause in North Korean ballistic missile testing and refocused attention on the country's rapid advances in ballistic missile technology in 2017.

Designated the KN22 by the U.S. intelligence community, the Hwasong-15 is North Korea's second-ever liquid-fueled intercontinental-range ballistic missile (ICBM) design to see flight testing. Prior to its November 29 launch, the missile had never been seen publicly.

The missile, which appears both wider in diameter and longer than the KN20, was delivered to a paved launch pad at a previously unused launch site on a new nine-axle transporter-erector. It appeared to be an indigenously modified version of the eight-axle WS51200 lumber truck that has previously been seen carrying three different North Korean ICBM designs, including the Hwasong-14.

Following the launch, which North Korea claimed was "successfully carried out," Kim Jong-un, the country's supreme leader, was paraphrased by North Korean state media as claiming that the country had "finally realized the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force."

The First Flight of the Hwasong-15

During the November 29 flight test, the missile was flight tested on what is known as a "lofted" trajectory, like the two previous North Korean ICBM launches. The missile flew to a height of nearly 4,500 kilometers on this shortened trajectory while flying to a range of 950 kilometers from a new launch site at Pyongsong.

According to a U.S. government source with knowledge of North Korea's weapons programs who spoke to The Diplomat, the exact flight time of the missile was 53 minutes and 49 seconds. The source added that the missile's first stage engine burned for 128 seconds of flight and the second stage burned for 161 seconds. According to the source, the missile's powered flight ended after its second stage burned out. The KN22 did not feature a post-boost vehicle despite the larger payload fairing, which concealed a single reentry vehicle of an unknown weight.

Following the launch, the KN22 was described by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) as "an intercontinental ballistic rocket tipped with super-large heavy warhead." Critically, the KCNA announcement of the launch claimed that the missile could strike "the whole mainland of the U.S."

The U.S. government does not appear inclined to challenge that technical claim. According to a joint assessment released on Monday by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) described to The Diplomat, the KN22 is already assessed to be capable of ranging the entire U.S. homeland, depending on its payload weight.

The Hwasong-15's Reentry Vehicle Performance

It is unclear what payload weight North Korea used during the November 29 flight test, but on-board camera footage from within the payload fairing visible on a monitor near Kim Jong-un in video footage released by North Korean state media appeared to show a single conical reentry vehicle with extra space within the fairing. The extra space could one day accommodate a larger reentry vehicle, penetration aids, which would help the missile evade U.S. missile defenses, or multiple warheads.

Currently, there is no consensus assessment in the U.S. intelligence community on the performance of the KN22's reentry vehicle. The CIA-NASIC assessment released on Monday suggested that it was more likely than not that the reentry vehicle exhibited satisfactory performance during the November 29 flight test. However, as reported by CNN on Saturday, other assessments in the U.S. intelligence community may vary. Regardless, technical analysis of the missile remains ongoing. (Eyewitness reports from a Cathay Pacific airlines crew of a suspected disintegrating reentry vehicle over the Sea of Japan shortly after launch may have instead involved the missile's second stage fairing.)

The 4,500 kilometer apogee was considerably higher than the observed apogees of the first two KN20 launches, which came in at 2,802 kilometers and 3,725 kilometers respectively. (Based on November 29 missile's flight trajectory and time data alone, some analysts expected North Korea to debut a new ICBM design, even before Pyongyang confirmed this with images a day later.)

"Lofted" trajectories for long-range ballistic missiles shorten the actual flight range while allowing for an extended burn time for the missile's engines, allowing North Korean engineers to gather valuable data on the performance of the missile in boost phase within range of the country's missile telemetry receiver stations.

As The Diplomat has explored before, data on the performance of North Korea's reentry vehicles gleaned from lofted tests may be misleading. For instance, while the U.S. intelligence community assessed that North Korea's highly lofted July 28 ICBM test did not see the reentry vehicle survive, the CIA went on to assess in August that North Korea's reentry vehicle design is already sufficient to credibly threaten the U.S. homeland.

Meanwhile, according to a U.S. government source who spoke to The Diplomat, the two long-range Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile tests in August and September that overflew Japan saw the reentry vehicle tumble during reentry. As The Diplomat explored in August, North Korea's reason for conducting these sorts of long-range tests is to allow the reentry vehicles to experience in-flight stresses and temperatures at magnitudes and durations most similar to what they might see during operational use. Lofted trajectory tests can't match that.

North Korea has already claimed to have a sufficiently robust reentry vehicle design and, while it may seek to demonstrate this with future flight-testing along a minimum energy trajectory, it remains unclear if it has developed the long-range telemetry means necessary to succeed in gathering useful data. (Without space-based receivers, North Korea would have to likely use a ship-based receiver near its intended reentry vehicle splashdown point.)

The Hwasong-15's Engines

One of the most notable features of the KN22, in addition to its sheer size, was the configuration of its first-stage liquid-propellant engine. Unlike the KN20, which used a single thrust chamber along with four smaller vernier engines for steering, the KN22 appeared to use twin-chamber thrusters with no auxiliary engines for steering.

The lack of external steering thrusters may suggest a more efficient gimbaled steering mechanism, whereby the thrust chambers are able to swivel to steer the missile. The relatively simpler gimbaled steering mechanism may allow the missile to exhibit to a lower mass ratio than if it used auxiliary thrusters for steering.

This engine may be the 80-ton-force twin-chambered engine first tested by North Korea in September 2016 or a twin-chambered version of the "March 18 revolution" engine (an indigenously modified variant of the Soviet-origin RD250 family of liquid propellant engines), which was tested earlier this year and is used in a single-engine configuration on board the first stage of both the KN17 IRBM and the KN20 ICBM. U.S. intelligence has not yet assessed which engine North Korea may have included in the first-stage of the KN22.

The missile's second stage, which is considerably larger than the second stage seen on the KN20 and equivalent in diameter to its first stage, remains somewhat of a mystery for now. One source told The Diplomat that the second stage also uses a liquid-propellant engine. It's unclear, however, if North Korea is using a previous engine for this stage of the KN22 or if it has inaugurated a new engine altogether.

Prior to the KN20's first test-flight on July 4, North Korea tested the missile's second-stage engine. In October, leading up to the November flight test of the KN22, North Korea tested both a new and unknown type of solid-fuel engine at Hamhung, which The Diplomat first reported, and an unknown liquid-propellant engine at the Sohae engine test stand. This liquid-propellant engine, if new, may have been the KN22's second stage engine.

The new solid-fuel engine, while not in use on the KN22, may be intended for a new submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) or a new generation of IRBMs and ICBMs based on a fuel type that would confer substantial tactical advantages on North Korea's nuclear forces.

What the US Knew Before Launch

While the appearance of a brand-new North Korean ICBM design this shortly after the introduction of the KN20 was not widely expected, the U.S. intelligence community had anticipated this launch. (Officials may have hinted at the KN22's existence to CNN in early November.) At least 72 hours before the early morning launch in North Korea, U.S. military intelligence had detected preparations for the event.

Usually, one of the most reliable indicators of an upcoming developmental North Korean missile launch is the construction of an observation stand for Kim Jong-un near a known launch site or near a known ballistic missile operating area. In 2017, North Korea has diversified its range of launch sites, adding previously unused sites like Pyongyang's Sunan Airfield, Pukchang Airfield, and Mupyong-ni. The site near Pyongsong used for the Hwasong-15's first test flight was also previously unused.

Instead of a static observation stand, this test featured a new mobile trailer for Kim. The usual telemetry and on-board-camera monitors were included inside this trailer, along with a large, glass observation area. In one photograph released by North Korean state media, Kim is seen standing in this observation area looking up at the presumably just-launched Hwasong-15.

The introduction of this new trailer suggests that North Korea may intend to make it more challenging for foreign intelligence agencies to detect upcoming developmental launches by obviating the need for a static observation stand for Kim Jong-un.

A U.S. government source told The Diplomat that, in addition to the 72 hours of anticipation of some launch activity, the United States was able to observe preparatory work for the paved launch pad where the Hwasong-15's firing table was set up before midnight local time on November 28, nearly three hours before launch. Moreover, the U.S. observed the Hwasong-15 missile erected on the firing table nearly two hours before launch. These observation windows approximately match the warning time U.S. intelligence had during the two previous ICBM launches as well.

As others have observed, North Korea's timing of this launch at nearly 3 a.m. local time was intended to display the Korean Strategic Rocket Force's ability to operate missiles at nighttime, simulating potential operational use. After the July 28 ICBM launch, KCNA noted that the nighttime launch demonstrated "the capability of making surprise launch of ICBM in any region and place any time." This was also the case with the Hwasong-15.

A Moment of Completion or a New Beginning?

Earlier this year, The Diplomat had prognosticated that 2017 would become the "year of the North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile." After three lofted ICBM tests introduced two previously unseen ICBM designs, that appears to have held up.

Kim Jong-un's declaration that North Korea's nuclear force had been completed with the Hwasong-15, too, was unsurprising. North Korean defector and former high-ranking diplomat Thae Yong-ho told the South Korean press earlier this year that North Korea wanted to be able to declare the completion of its nuclear forces this year, based around the successful flight-testing of an ICBM credibly able to threaten the U.S. homeland with a compact nuclear device. The KN22 certainly does that, but so does the KN20.

However, it would be a grave mistake to take Kim's statement of completion at face value. North Korea is unlikely to end its development of ballistic missile technology now and deploy an operational ICBM force based on these two successfully flight-tested liquid-propellant designs.

First, ICBM basing modes remain a challenge for North Korea. The country is thought to possess a handful of the eight-axle trucks (converted to a nine-axle truck for the KN20) for its ICBM force. Road mobility is a valuable commodity and so North Korea may attempt to indigenously produce heavy launch vehicles.

Its introduction of tracked transporter-erector-launchers (TELs) and canisters with other ballistic missile systems this year suggests increased competence in this area, but it remains unclear just how reliably it might be able to produce its own homegrown road-mobile ICBM TELs. Instead, it may look to inaugurate rail-mobile launchers or perhaps explore even more exotic basing modes for its ICBMs.

Second, in addition to the KN22 and KN20, North Korea has two untested ICBM designs: the three-stage Hwasong-13 mod 1 (KN08), first seen publicly at a parade in 2012, and the two-stage Hwasong-13 mod 2 (KN14), first seen publicly at a 2015 military parade. The fate of those designs remains unclear. Neither missile appeared at the April 15 parade this year, but that does not mean that they have been shelved. North Korean engineers may revisit these designs with the experience of the KN20 and KN22 with them.

Third, even if North Korea chooses not to introduce new ICBM designs, the KN22's payload fairing leaves plenty of room for growth. Penetration aids to defeat U.S. homeland missile defense and multiple warheads are all viable development paths for North Korea from here; given its inherently offensive nuclear strategy that depends on a credible ICBM strike capability, Pyongyang is almost certain to invest resources into the development of penetration aids.

Fourth, North Korea's solid-fuel program remains relatively new, with only the Pukguksong-2/KN15 medium-range ballistic missile and Pukguksong-1/KN11 SLBM using this fuel type. At its April 15 parade this year, North Korea displayed two mysterious ICBM-sized canisters that suggested an ambition, at least, for solid-fueled, road-mobile, canisterized ICBMs.

While it may seem far-fetched now to imagine a flexible and responsive North Korean ICBM force comprising missiles akin to Russia's Topol-M or China's DF-41, consider the country's great pace of indigenous innovation in ballistic missile technology thus far.

After joining the exclusive club of countries that possess staged thermonuclear weapons after this September's test of a claimed hydrogen bomb with a yield in excess of 100 kilotons, North Korea has, with the KN22, successfully manufactured and flight tested a ballistic missile that few countries would able to produce. If the KN22 (and the KN20) sends a message, it's that the rest of the world underestimates North Korea's indigenous knowledge base and capabilities at its own peril. Mesajı Paylaş
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Secrets Behind the 'Rocket Men' Tasked With Building Kim Jong Un's Nuclear Missile

In yet another argument over whose "button is bigger," the escalating tensions between President Donald Trump and North Korea's Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un continue to serve as a power struggle between the two arguably impulsive leaders.

However, in the wake of their recent intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) tests, it's important to reflect on how North Korea propelled science to the forefront of their political agenda (page 2), as well as who the men leading these initiatives are

In yet another headline-breaking attempt to challenge Trump, North Korea fired their highest and longest-flying intercontinental ballistic missile last November. "It went higher, frankly than any previous shot they've taken," Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said.

While Kim Jong-un and President Trump's battle of wit (or, at least, words) has been the focal point amidst the "Rocket Man's" nuclear tests, the group of top scientists and officials behind North Korea's launches has emerged from the shadows: Here's what we know about the men behind the missiles

They've made rapid progress

North Korea has fired numerous missiles this year, stepping up its plan to complete a fully functional ICBM. While analysts are still trying to understand how the nation overcame decades of international sanction, The New York Times says it's clear the nation has accumulated a significant scientific foundation.

Each of the country's six nuclear tests has been more powerful than the last. However, reports claim it's still unclear if they've mastered the technology necessary to "keep a nuclear warhead intact as it re-enters the Earth's atmosphere."

They're considered public heroes in North Korea

Known for his ruthless nature and iron-fist ruling (as well as a history of executing people who do him wrong), it comes as a surprise to many that Kim actually celebrates scientists. "By launching rockets and treating scientists like stars, Kim Jong-un gives his people a sense of progress, said Lee Yung-keol, a defector who runs the North Korea Strategic Information Service Center in Seoul. "It's not just a military project but also a political stratagem."

Kim has presented science as an ideal in North Korea, putting his affinity for scientists and engineers on display and emphasizing it as part of the nation's propaganda. He notably displayed this "passion for science" on a propaganda poster depicting North Korean rockets soaring into space and crashing into the United States Capitol.

They're so powerful even Kim Jong Un can't kill them

Kim is believed to have executed 340 people, including his brother, uncle, and allegedly top military officials like former General Hwang Pyong So. However, it's thought that these scientists may be safe from Kim's default ultimate punishment.

Choi Hyun-kyoo, a senior researcher in South Korea who runs NK Tech, a database of North Korean scientific publications, called Kim "someone who understands that trial and error are part of science," and that "we have never heard of him killing scientists." Their high status became evident last July at Kim's annual visit to his grandfather's mausoleum, where they stood in close proximity to the supreme leader.

They're called the 'missile quartet' and 'nuclear duo'

The group of four, referred to as the "missile quartet," consists of an air force commander, an engineer, and two scientists. Jang Chang-ha, the president of the Academy of National Defense Science, and Jong Il-ho, the "official in the field of scientific research," make up the two scientists appointed to the team.

Kim Jong-sik first appeared next to Kim in February 2016. He has an engineering background and while his appearance coincided with the recent test launches, he didn't attend last month's launch. Ri Pyong-chol, a former air force commander, appears t0 be the quartet's highest-ranking member. He's also the first deputy director of the ruling Workers' Party's munitions industry department, NYT states.

The two men who make up the "nuclear duo," Ri Hong-sop and Hong Sung-mu, are the director of North Korea's Nuclear Weapons Institute and a former chief engineer at the Yongbyon nuclear complex, respectively.

North Korea has also recruited scientists from the former Soviet Union

With extreme sanctions from the majority of the Western world in place, questions arose as to how North Korea accessed the information crucial to developing the dangerous weapons. In 1992, a plane carrying 64 rocket scientists from Moscow was stopped before it left for North Korea.

It's still unclear how many (if any) former Soviet scientists made it to the nation since, however, Lee offered some insight into how they may have gained some insight: offering salaries as high as $10,000 per month.  "We think it's because they had rocket motors and designs that were basically Russian designs, and they had the expertise of Russian engineers who knew how to solve the problems," Theodore A. Postol, a professor emeritus of science, technology, and international security at MIT said of the North's record of success with first-time rocket flights.

While Kim awards the scientists with unheard-of honors, in the end, as the NYT stated, he's the real star of the program. While it's traditionally inappropriate for a person of a scientists' caliber to smoke with an elder -- of which Kim is the highest -- Kim allows the quartet, acknowledging their successes.

No matter how important these scientists become, each must still credit Kim for his accomplishments. Mesajı Paylaş
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A mystery missile at North Korea's military parade should make the US worried

-At a military parade on Thursday, North Korea showed off a mystery missile that nobody had seen before.

-Some experts think it looks like a newer Russian missile, which could suggest Moscow is giving covert aid to Pyongyang. Another expert said it looked like a South Korean design.

-The missile poses a big problem for US forces in South Korea and could have devastating effects if used.

North Korea's military parade on Thursday featured much of what we've come to expect from Pyongyang: grandiose speeches, choreographed crowds, and a procession of missiles. But it also featured a mystery missile never before seen.

While many analysts have focused on the big intercontinental ballistic missiles like the Hwasong-14 and the Hwasong-15 -- and the threat they pose to the US mainland -- a smaller missile slipped by relatively unnoticed.

Here are a few shots of the new system:

The author of the Oryx military blog pointed out the system's resemblance to a Russian system, the Iskander.

Justin Bronk, a military expert at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider that North Korea's mystery missiles looked "enormously like Iskander missiles" and were not ones that North Korea had "been seen with before."

Bronk pointed out that Russia has a history of helping North Korea with its missile program. Talented engineers left unemployed after the collapse of the Soviet Union and often found good-paying work in North Korea, Bronk said.

But the Iskander isn't a Cold War design. If Russia collaborated with North Korea as recently as the Iskander, it would have huge geopolitical implications and strain the US's already fraught relationship with Russia.

The new missile, however, is not confirmed to be a Russian design.

Mike Elleman, a missile expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said it was "inconsistent with the Iskander" and was just as likely a clone of South Korea's Hyunmoo-2 missile system. (North Korea has in the past been found to obtain South Korean defense information through hacking.)

Regardless of its origin, the little missile may be a big problem for the US

Regardless of where the information for the mystery missile came from, it poses a major threat to US forces in South Korea and the region.

Bronk said North Korea's existing fleet of ballistic missiles didn't have the accuracy of more-modern systems like the Iskander. If North Korea were to deploy the newer, more accurate ballistic missiles, that could lay the groundwork for an opening salvo of an attack on South Korea that could blindside and cripple the US.

US missile defenses could become overwhelmed with a large number of precise short-range missiles, which the mystery missile appears to be. US military bases, airfields, and depots could fall victim to the missile fire within the first few minutes of a conflict.

Whatever the mystery missile's origin, its appearance is likely to have geopolitical and tactical implications for the US's push to denuclearize Pyongyang.

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South Korea to deploy 'artillery killer' to destroy North Korean bunkers

The South Korean Army plans to deploy surface-to-surface missiles in a newly created counter-artillery brigade by October, with the aim of destroying North Korea's hardened long-range artillery sites near the Demilitarized Zone, should conflict erupt on the Korean Peninsula.

The plan is part of South Korea's defense reform for developing an offensive operations scheme, a defense source said. The tactical missiles are developed locally.
"The Ministry of National Defense has approved a plan to create an artillery brigade under a ground forces operations command to be inaugurated in October. The plan is to be reported to President Moon Jae-in next month as part of the 'Defense Reform 2.0' policy," the source said. "The brigade's mission is fairly focused on destroying North Korea's long-range guns more rapidly and effectively, should conflict arise"

The three-year development of the GPS-guided Korea Tactical Surface-to-Surface Missile was completed last year. Hanwha Corporation, a precision-guided missile maker, led the development in partnership with the state-funded Agency for Defense Development, or ADD. The missile, dubbed "artillery killer," has a range of more than 120 kilometers and can hit targets with a 2-meter accuracy, according to ADD and Hanwha officials.

Four missiles can be launched almost simultaneously from a fixed launch pad. The missiles can penetrate bunkers and hardened, dug-in targets several meters underground.

"North Korea's long-range artillery systems deployed along the border pose significant threats to the security of the capital area of South Korea," said retired Lt. Gen. Shin Won-sik, a former operational director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "The counter-artillery brigade is expected to play a key role in neutralizing the North's long-range artillery fire power, as the new surface-to-surface missile is capable of destroy the hideout of artillery forces."

The artillery brigade is also to operate the Chunmoo Multiple Launch Rocket System, which can fire three types of ammunition: 130mm nonguided rockets; 227mm nonguided rockets; and 239mm guided rockets. The hitting range of the rockets are 36 kilometers, 80 kilometers and 160 kilometers, respectively.

According to the 2016 Defense White Paper, North Korea has some 8,600 towed and self-propelled artillery, as well as 5,500 multiple-launch rockets. Seventy percent of them were deployed near the border.

North Korea has forward-deployed 340 long-range guns that can fire 15,000 rounds per hour at Seoul and the surrounding metropolitan area. Mesajı Paylaş
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North Korea Has Continued Ballistic Missile Launcher Production in 2018, Per US Intelligence

North Korea has continued to produce support equipment and launchers for one of its newer ballistic missiles through the first half of 2018, according to a recent U.S. military intelligence assessment described to The Diplomat by U.S. government officials.

According to a recent assessment released by the U.S. National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC), which analyzes intelligence regarding ballistic missile threats for the U.S. Air Force, North Korea has continued to produce vehicles and support equipment for its Pukguksong-2/KN15 medium-range ballistic missile in 2018.

While production of launch vehicles--known as transporter-erector-launchers, or TELs--and support equipment has continued through the first half of 2018, North Korea has likely not produced additional Pukguksong-2 missiles, the assessment notes. North Korea may have produced as many as ten TELs for the Pukguksong-2.

In June 2017, a public NASIC assessment assessed the Pukguksong-2's range at in excess of 1,000 kilometers. According to that assessment, the missile was not yet deployed then even though North Korean leader Kim Jong Un declared it operational after its second flight test in May 2017.

The missile's range would leave it best suited for use against targets in Japan, including U.S. military installations on Japan's four main islands and Okinawa.

The Pukguksong-2 was the first North Korean ballistic missile to feature an indigenously designed and built integrated transporter-erector-launcher with continuous tracks that allow it to conduct launches from unpaved roads and other rough terrain.

This two-stage, solid-fuel missile--first flight-tested in February 2017 and once again in May 2017--is a land-based version of North Korea's Pukguksong-1/KN11 submarine-launched ballistic missile.

Like the submarine-launched version, the missile is ejected from a canister using pressurized gas--a process known as cold launching--before its main engines ignite in the air. It is North Korea's first land-based, canisterized, long-range solid-fuel missile.

The recent NASIC assessment does not account for the reason behind North Korea's move to produce TELs and support equipment, but not the missiles themselves.

The decision to hold off on producing ballistic missiles may be due to the regime's attempts at pursuing diplomacy with both South Korea and the United States. Alternatively, the nonproduction of missiles may have to do with supply constraints on materials and components.

North Korea has not tested any ballistic missiles in more than seven months, since its test of the Hwasong-15 intercontinental-range ballistic missile on November 28, 2017.

Throughout 2018, U.S. military intelligence has also observed a marked reduction in vehicle movements across known North Korean ballistic missile operating areas, suggesting that the country has put in place restrictions on otherwise normal military movements as it has pursued diplomacy with South Korea and the United States.

Nevertheless, during his New Year's Day address on January 1 this year, Kim Jong Un had directed the continued production of nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles.

"The nuclear weapons research sector and the rocket industry should mass-produce nuclear warheads and ballistic missiles, the power and reliability of which have already been proved to the full, to give a spur to the efforts for deploying them for action," Kim had said.

On April 20, at the third plenary meeting of the Workers' Party of Korea's 7th Central Committee, Kim directed the closure of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site and announced that North Korea would cease testing intercontinental-range ballistic missiles. He, however, did not reverse his order for the production of new missiles and warheads.

Additionally, while Kim did not announce a testing moratorium, he noted that further flight-testing of North Korea's intermediate-range ballistic missiles--most likely the Hwasong-12--would also not be required. Publicly, North Korea has made no concessions related to the testing or production of its medium- and short-range missiles, including the Pukguksong-2, the Nodong, and its several Scud variants.

The United States and North Korea are set to carry out further negotiations on the implementation of the June 12 Singapore joint statement signed by Kim and U.S. President Donald J. Trump. In that statement, North Korea agreed "to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to North Korea on July 6 for continued talks. Mesajı Paylaş
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Sil-li Ballistic Missile Support Facility

Key Findings

  • A new facility is nearing completion near Pyongyang International Airport that is almost certainly related to North Korea's expanding ballistic missile program.
  • A high-bay building within the facility is large enough to accommodate an elevated Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile and, therefore, the entirety of North Korea's known ballistic missile variants.
  • The facility has been constructed next to an underground facility whose likely size is also large enough to easily accommodate all known North Korean ballistic missiles and their associated launchers and support vehicles.

In a joint baseline analysis with Jane's Intelligence Review, the Center for Strategic and International Studies surveys a previously undisclosed facility near Pyongyang  International Airport in North Korea that is likely related to its expanding ballistic missile development program.


Since mid-2016, North Korea has undertaken the construction of a uniquely configured facility on the southwest corner of Pyongyang International Airport and approximately 17 kilometers northwest of the capital city of Pyongyang.1 Among the unique characteristics of this new facility are:

  • Layout, configuration, and large size of the buildings
  • Interconnected buildings designed for drive-through access
  • Raised center section (i.e., a high-bay) on the largest building
  • Large underground facility (UGF) adjacent to the facility
  • Wide-radius road network connecting all the buildings and the UGF
  • Unusually large covered rail terminal and new rail spur line
  • Location relatively close to ballistic missile component manufacturing plants in the Pyongyang area

Taken as a whole, these characteristics suggest that this facility is likely designed to support ballistic missile operations and for the interim is identified as the Sil-li (신리) Ballistic Missile Support Facility. As such, it is another component of the North Korean ballistic missile infrastructure that has been undergoing both modernization and expansion during the past 10 years. While the precise function of the facility is unclear, its configuration and the size of its buildings and UGF indicate that it can be used for, the assembly of ballistic missiles from components delivered by rail from nearby ballistic missile component factories (e.g., Tae-sung Machine Factory, Mangyongdae Light Electric Factory), accommodate all known and anticipated North Korean ballistic missiles and their transporter-erector-launchers (TEL), mobile-erector-launchers (MEL) or transporter-erectors (TE) for depot-level maintenance, storage of ballistic missiles and their transporters, or any combination of these functions.

Overview image of the Sunan-up and Sil-li areas showing the locations of the airport and Sil-li Ballistic Missile Support Facility, April 15, 2020. (Courtesy of the European Space Agency)

Given the unfinished perimeter security wall, the continued presence of temporary construction buildings and storage units within the facility, the upcoming completion of nearby worker housing units, and the incomplete railroad spur line, the facility is undoubtedly not yet complete. If construction continues at its current pace, and barring unforeseen delays, it could be complete and ready for operations sometime during late-2020 or early-2021.


Excluding the new housing units in the village of Sil-li, the facility encompasses approximately 442,300 square meters, including three large drive-through structures, a large adjacent drive-through UGF, and a covered rail terminal--all connected by a 9- to 10-meter-wide surfaced road network with wide radius turns suitable for the movement of large trucks and ballistic missile launchers.2

Overview of Sil-li area and Sil-li Ballistic Missile Support Facility, March 21, 2020.

Topographic map of the Sil-li Ballistic Missile Support Facility.

Sil-li Ballistic Missile Support Facility, March 21, 2020.

The most visually distinctive features of the Sil-li facility are its three large interconnected drive-through buildings. The construction of which was begun around June 2017 with the leveling of the land and excavations in preparation for foundations. The pouring of the concrete foundations would begin the following month and was slowly followed by the erection of walls. By June 2018, all three buildings were externally complete and closed in. By August of 2018, the roads around connecting the buildings, and the UGF were paved and competed. Since that time, work likely has focused upon completion of the interior of the buildings.

Drive-through buildings under construction, November 18, 2017.

The largest drive-through building measures approximately 122-meters-by-43-meters with an approximately 6-meter-wide bay door at either end. This building is connected to the two smaller buildings by two approximately 12-meter-wide passageways--one at each end. The few publicly available satellite images of the buildings during construction shows a predominantly wide-open floorplan with some workshop or office space along some of the longest sides. Although they will likely be installed, no bridge cranes were visible within the interior of the building during construction. Significantly, the building has a 37-meter-by-30-meter elevated center section (i.e., a high-bay) that is high enough to allow for a Hwasong-14 or Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) on a TEL to be easily elevated into the firing position to allow for testing of both, as well as the training of maintenance and ground crews.

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High off-nadir view of the three externally complete drive-through buildings, June 22, 2019.

The two smaller drive-through structures measure approximately 84-meters-by-42.5-meters each with an approximately 6-meter-wide bay door at either end. They are connected to each other by an 8-meter-wide passageway and, as noted above, are connected to the larger building by two large passageways. No bridge cranes were visible within the interior of either of the buildings during construction, although it is likely they will be installed.

Close-up view of the three externally complete drive-through buildings, March 21, 2020.

All the bay doors and passageways on the three buildings are wide enough to accommodate all known North Korean ballistic missiles and their associated TELs, MELs, or TEs. By comparison, the two smaller buildings by themselves and the larger building by itself are larger than the horizontal processing building either at the Sohae Satellite Launch Facility or Tonghae Satellite Launch Facility.

The horizontal processing building at the Sohae Satellite Launch Facility.

The horizontal processing building at the Tonghae Satellite Launch Facility.

As construction of the main buildings commenced, several existing small support buildings directly to the northeast were appropriated and incorporated into the facility. There are no indications as to whether these will remain or be razed when construction is finished. Additionally, as the three main buildings were being closed in, an approximately 33-meter-by-76-meter parking apron was poured immediately to their west, along the main access road.

Construction of the covered rail terminal began during January 2018 and was externally complete by October 2019. The covered rail terminal itself measures approximately 180-meters-by-33-meters and consists of a loading/unloading track, engine runaround track, and 188-meter-by-12-meter platform.3 (The ramp extends out of the covered terminal.) It allows for the concealed loading and unloading of outsized loads. It is unknown whether a bridge crane has been, or will be, installed within the terminal to facilitate loading or unloading operations. This covered rail terminal is similar to those previously constructed at missile-related facilities such as the Sohae Satellite Launch Facility during 2015 and more recently at the Sinpo South Shipyard during 2017.4 Similarly, these terminals were also built to conceal loading and unloading operations for outsized loads. By November 2019, much of the roadbed for the 3.5-kilometer-long railroad spur line connecting to the Sunan Rail Station had been built, and the laying of ballast had begun. As of imagery acquired on March 21, 2020, approximately 2.3 kilometers of the new railroad spur line has had ballast and railroad ties (i.e., sleepers) laid, although no track has been placed.

Covered rail terminal under construction, June 22, 2019.

Externally complete covered rail terminal, March 21, 2009.

The covered rail terminal at the Sohae Satellite Launch Facility.

The covered rail terminal at the Sinpo South Shipyard.

Sometime during late-2019 and early-2020, a small building was erected west of the covered rail terminal. Its size and location suggest that it may serve as offices for a small facility guard force.

Another unique feature of the Sil-li facility is its construction adjacent to an existing UGF to which it is connected by its road network. This facility was built during the 1980s, perhaps earlier, to provide wartime protection for the aircraft and equipment of a fighter air regiment based at the Pyongyang International Airport tasked with the defense of Pyongyang. As the nationwide network of air facilities developed over the years, the air regiment was moved elsewhere, and the UGF was then used for general equipment and vehicle storage. It was then apparently abandoned until reactivated as part of the Sil-li facility. Although specific internal construction details of this UGF are unknown, using the little available information about North Korean UGFs, the topography in which it is located, and the layout of the Sil-li UGF's entrances, it is likely that the primary tunnel is approximately 750-meters-long and 40-meters-wide, with 30-meter-wide entrances at both ends. Once again, large enough to easily accommodate all known North Korean ballistic missiles and their associated launchers and support vehicles.

The north UGF entrance with camouflage netting in place. March 21, 2020.

An April 28, 2017 image of Kim Jong-un standing at the entrance of a UGF at the Pukchang-ni Airbase prior to the test launch of a Hwasong-12 ICBM provides some perspective of how large these aircraft UGFs are and how a TEL fits within them.

The entrance to the underground facility at the Beijing Air and Space Museum is similar in size and design to North Korean aviation UGFs.

Kim Jong-un standing at the entrance of a UGF at the Pukchang-ni Airbase prior to the test launch of a Hwasong-12 ICBM. In the background, inside the UGF, the Hwasong-12 can be seen on its TEL prior to launch, April 28, 2017. (Source: KCTV)

During 2018, the construction of a security wall around the facility was begun. This wall not only encompassed the new buildings but, when finished, will run along the ridgeline above the UGF.5 As this wall was being erected, construction of a new road running along its outside perimeter was begun to allow for movement around the new facility. As of imagery acquired on March 21, 2020, this road was still under construction.

New road under construction running along the outside of the security wall, March 21, 2020.

It was in the small village of Sil-li, during August 2016, that the first indications of the construction of the facility were identified. At this time, much of the eastern section of the village was razed, and construction began on what would become a new housing facility for staff, engineers, and workers at the Sil-li facility. Approximately six months later, an additional section on the south side of the village was razed, and the construction of a second housing facility was begun. As construction of these housing facilities progressed, additional sections of the original village were razed. As of imagery acquired on March 21, 2020, much of the original village has been razed, and a total of 31 new multi-story housing units have been completed or are under construction in the two housing areas.

The east housing facility showing 15 complete three-story housing units and 2 additional units under construction, March 21, 2020.

The west housing facility showing 15 complete three-story housing units and 2 three-story housing units under construction, March 21,

At a macro level, the Sil-li Ballistic Missile Support Facility is served by both paved roads and the national railroad system--through the dedicated rail spur line that connects to the Sunan-up rail station. Aside from the Pyongyang International Airport, the nearest operational military air facility is Sunchon Airbase, 32 kilometers to the northeast. There are at least 17 air defense artillery bases and numerous military and paramilitary barracks within a 5-kilometer radius of the plant. Additionally, the plant is covered by 17 S-75 (SA-2 Guideline), 6 S-125 Pechora (SA-3 Goa), and at least one S-200 (SA-5 Gammon) surface-to-air missile bases.

Research Note

This report, as are the others in this series, is based upon an ongoing study of the Korean People's Army ballistic missile infrastructure by the Korea Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Joseph S. Bermudez Jr. is an internationally recognized analyst, award-winning author, and lecturer on North Korean defense and intelligence affairs and ballistic missile development in developing countries. He is concurrently senior fellow for Imagery Analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Security (CSIS); senior adviser and imagery analyst for the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK); author for IHS Markit (formerly the Jane's Information Group); and publisher and editor of KPA Journal. Formerly, he has served as founder and CEO of KPA Associates, LLC, senior imagery analyst for 38 North at Johns Hopkins SAIS, chief analytics officer and co-founder of AllSource Analysis, Inc., and senior all-source analyst for DigitalGlobe's Analysis Center.
Headline image credit: Copyright 2020 by MAXAR Technologies.


  • The airport is also known as Sunan International Airport or Pyongyang Sunan International Airport.
  • It should be noted that if only the area encircled by the perimeter security fence is counted, this figure would be reduced to 267,000 square meters.
  • An engine runaround track is a second parallel track that allows an engine (i.e., locomotive) to pull a line of rail cars into a dead-end terminal, uncouple from the rail cars and then switch to the second track to "run around" the parked rail cars. This way, it is not "trapped" while the rail cars are loaded/unloaded.
  • Similar, but smaller, covered rail terminals have been long constructed at VIP rail stations and strategic facilities around the nation.
  • It is important to note that the security wall along the ridgeline above the UGF does not define the extent of the tunnels within the UGF. Mesajı Paylaş
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