North Korea’s secretive missile program

North Korea is believed to have more than 1,000 missiles of varying capabilities, including long-range missiles, which could one day strike the US. Pyongyang’s programme has progressed over the last few decades from tactical artillery rockets in the 1960s and 70s, to short­-range and medium-range ballistic missiles in the 1980s and 90s. Systems capable of even greater ranges are now understood to be under research and development.

Missile ranges

Short range: 1,000km or less

Medium range: 1,000-3,000km

Intermediate range: 3,000-5,500 km

Intercontinental range: Greater than 5,500km

Source: Federation of American Scientists

Short-range missiles

North Korea’s modern missile programme began with Scuds, with its first batch reportedly coming via Egypt in 1976.

By 1984, it was building its own versions called Hwasongs.

It is believed to have a variety of these short-range missiles which could target neighbouring South Korea. Relations between the two Koreas are fraught and they remain, technically, in a state of war. The Hwasong-5 and Hwasong-6, also known as Scud-B and C, have ranges of 300km and 500km respectively, according to the US Center for Nonproliferation Studies. These missiles can deliver conventional warheads, but may also have biological, chemical and nuclear capabilities. Both these missiles have been tested and deployed, and the Hwasong-6 has also been sold to Iran.

Intercontinental ballistic missiles

North Korea is believed to be developing its longest-range missile, a road-mobile weapon which observers have dubbed the KN-08 or Hwasong-13. One of the first signs of this development was in September 2016, when the country tested a new rocket engine which some said could power an intercontinental ballistic missile. The US Pentagon believes North Korea has at least six KN-08s in its possession, which could be capable of reaching much of the United States. North Korea is believed to have also developed an upgraded version called KN-14. Neither missile has been publicly tested before.
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