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Hwasong 15

Intercontinental ballistic missile

Hwasong 15 ICBM

The North Korean Hwasong 15 ballistic missile can reach all areas of the United States

 
 
Country of origin North Korea
Entered service 2017-2018 (?)
Basing Road-mobile
Missile
Missile length 21.5 m
Missile diameter ~ 2 m
Missile launch weight 40 ~ 50 t
Throw weight ?
Number of MIRVs ?
Range (full load) ?
Range (reduced load) up to 13 000 km (?)
CEP ?

 

   The Hwasong 15 (Mars 15) is a new North Korean Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM). It made its test flight in 2017. As far as the test flight was successful, it is possible that this missile was declared operational. The Hwasong 15 was first publicly revealed during a military parade in 2018. A total of 4 launcher vehicles with missiles were demonstrated during the parade. The Hwasong 15 is a road-mobile missile, based on a special wheeled chassis with 18x12 configuration. So far the Hwasong 15 is the most capable North Korean ballistic missile. It has the longest range and can carry multiple warheads.

   North Korea is developing its nuclear arsenal at unprecedented pace. New types of ballistic missiles emerge at alarming rate. Development of the Hwasong 15 ballistic missile was assisted by Russia, China and possibly Ukraine. This explains the rapid progress of North Korea in the development of its new ICBMs. Due to complexity of technology involved North Korea could not develop such missiles on its own. Russia reportedly supplied Ukrainian-built engines for these missiles via a state space agency. China supplied Transport Erector Launcher (TEL) vehicles to carry these missiles and, possibly, contributed to warhead technology. Russia and China aid North Korea in the design of nuclear weapons in order to distract world's attention from their own missile programs and aggressive behavior.

   The Hwasong 15 is a 2-stage solid-fuel missile. This feature allowed to mount the missile on a wheeled TEL vehicle. The missile is around 21.5 m long. It is significantly larger than a Hwasong 14 ICBM that was first publicly revealed in 2017. Its first stage uses engine with 2 nozzles. It is a modified Soviet RD-250 series engine, used on an R-36 ICBM (Western reporting name SS-9 Scarp). In 2017 Space Agency of Ukraine confirmed that these engines of the North Korean ICBMs were built in Ukraine, but were originally supplied to Russia for use on Tsyklon space rockets. According to South Korean intelligence around 20-40 RD-251 engines were obtained from Russian in 2016. Due to complexity of the technology North Korea could not reverse-engineer or locally modify these engines. Furthermore it appears that North Korea can not produce even fuel for the RD-250 series engine. The fuel had to be obtained from China or Russia.

   It is estimated that with reduced load the Hwasong 15 could potentially have a range of up to 13 000 km. This range is sufficient to reach all areas of the United States.

   A large cone of the missile indicated that the Hwasong 15 can carry multiple warheads, or alternatively a single but more powerful warhead. Though there is no reliable information regarding throw weight of the missiles, re-entry vehicles or their blast capacity.

   Most likely that this missile has inertial guidance system with a satellite navigation system update.

   The Hwasong 15 missile is carried by a Chinese Wanshan 9-axle TEL vehicle with 18x12 configuration. It is a product of Wanshan Special Vehicle company. It is a modified version of a Wanshan WS51200, used to carry the North Korean Hwasong 14 missile, but with an added non-driving axle and a different cab. North Korea has got no capabilities to produce these multi-axle vehicles on its own. Furthermore since 2006 sanctions imposed on North Korea by the United Nations have banned export of military hardware to North Korea. Essentially these vehicles were imported violating these arms control regulations. Previously there was a similar case with 8 Wanshan WS51200 vehicles that are used to carry the Hwasong 14 missiles. These were imported from China in 2011. These vehicles were officially referred as "logging transport" for civilian applications. North Koreans locally converted these vehicles into missile launchers by installing hydraulic gear and controls to erect a missile.

   TEL of the Hwasong 15 has got no launching container, that would protect the vehicle from rocket exhaust. Though North Korea solved this problem by using a special launch pad on base of the missile. Once in launch position the launcher vehicle just erects the missile on the launch pad. After that the vehicle leaves the launch site in order to avoid damage from rocket exhaust. However once the missile is launched the TEL can be reloaded with another missile. Reloading is performed by a crane.

   The TEL vehicle is operated by a crew of 6 or 7.

   Road mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles are harder to detect and hit. These have a high probability of surviving the first strike, once the country has been attacked. Once on high alert, the Hwasong 15 missiles can leave their bases and operate in remote areas in order to increase their survivability. Most likely that Hwasong 15 TELs with missiles are based in underground facilities, excavated in hillsides. Though mobile missiles a more costly to maintain and operate, comparing with silo-based missiles, and require more personnel. The Hwasong 15 can launch its missile from prepared sites or from unprepared positions during field deployment.

 

 

Hwasong 15 ICBM

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Hwasong 15 ICBM

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Hwasong 15 ICBM

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Hwasong 15 ICBM

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Hwasong 15 ICBM

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