CBRN Assessment

North Korea releases launch images of Hwaseong-15 ICBM

30 November 2017
North Korea claimed on 29 November that its new Hwaseong-15 ICBM (seen here being test-fired) is capable of striking anywhere in the United States. Source: Via KCNA

North Korea has released images of its 29 November test-launch of a Hwaseong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which Pyongyang claims is capable of striking anywhere in the United States.

The land-based ICBM, which was launched on a high trajectory from the vicinity of Pyongsong in South Pyongan Province at about 02:48 h local time, flew for about 53 minutes before falling into waters within Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the Sea of Japan (also known as the East Sea), according to US, Japanese, and South Korean authorities.

Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) stated that the ICBM reached an altitude of 4,475 km and flew a linear distance of 950 km before coming down, making it the ballistic missile with the potential for the longest range so far tested by Pyongyang.

A day after the launch, North Korean state-run media released images and video footage showing the missile being carried on what appeared to be a new 18-wheeled (9-axle) transport-erector-launcher (TEL) vehicle.

The TEL is thought to be based on the one seen carrying the Hwaseong-13 (known in South Korea as the KN-08 and KN-14 depending on the variant) and the Hwaseong-14 ICBMs in previous occasions (KN-20), but with significant modifications.

For instance, the new TEL has an additional axle, dual hydraulic rams to raise the missile cradle, a new and more massive cradle, a new missile clamping system, and a larger and more massive firing platform.

All of these factors also indicate that the Hwaseong-15 is both longer and heavier than any of North Korea’s previously tested ballistic missiles.

The new TEL was shown in the images carrying the Hwaseong-15, erecting it on a firing platform, and then moving away before the launch.

Even though Pyongyang has claimed that this and other TELs have been manufactured locally, all seems to indicate that they are modifications of, or based on, the 16-wheeled (8-axle) 16×12 Hubei Sanjiang Space Wanshan Special Vehicle WS51200.

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