Country of origin
~ 2 m
Missile launch weight
40 ~ 50 t
Number of MIRVs
Range (full load)
Range (reduced load)
up to 13 000 km (?)
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
that this missile has inertial guidance system with a satellite
navigation system update.
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
vehicle is operated by a crew of 6 or 7.
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.