Like I Said Don’t Forget the RV: North Korea Unveils Hwasong-12 IRBM

North Korea, through an official KCNA press release, has unveiled the Hwasong-12 Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile which was successfully tested on May 14.

John Schilling at 38North had good early analysis pinpointing that missile tested had to be the modified KN-08 that was paraded on a Musudan TEL at the Kim Il-sung birthday parade. Schilling suggests that the Hwasong-12 is a modified KN-08 with the third stage removed, and the first and second stages made shorter. Ankit Panda suggests that the modified KN-08 aka the Hwasong 12 has a single stage.

The above image, released by North Korea, is of the modified KN-08.

We can all agree that the Hwasong-12 is liquid fuelled, an important development. This suggests that North Korea is now mastering high energy propellants for high thrust liquid fuelled ballistic missiles. The Musudan, a shorter range liquid fuelled medium range missile, exploded on numerous occasions immediately after launch. The Musudan, did, have one successful high trajectory test it should be noted.

In my very early analysis of the May 14 test I suggested that the launch could have been conducted in support of an ICBM programme. I suggested that the lofted trajectory and subsequent high velocity of reentry could have been developed, in part, with a view to supporting the reentry vehicle programme for an ICBM. The KCNA press release states of the Hwasong 12 test that

The test-fire was conducted at the highest angle in consideration of the security of neighboring countries. The test-fire aimed at verifying the tactical and technological specifications of the newly-developed ballistic rocket capable of carrying a large-size heavy nuclear warhead…

…It also verified the homing feature of the warhead under the worst re-entry situation and accurate performance of detonation system

I suggest that I was right about that.

Schilling also adopts the view that the Hwasong-12 acted, in part, as a kind of test bed for an ICBM programme. He observes

t might be a testbed, demonstrating technologies and systems to be used in future ICBMs like the KN-08 and KN-14. A full three-stage KN-08 would be very unlikely to work the first time it was tested, and the failure would be both expensive and very provocative. This missile would allow North Korea to conduct at least some of the testing necessary to develop an operational ICBM, without actually launching ICBMs, particularly if it includes the same rocket engines

Toward that end, I am interested to know whether the Hwasong-12 test used a twin engine cluster. Nope, I see now the Hwasong-12 has one engine.Testing clustered engines that use high energy liquid propellants helps to pave the road to a working ICBM, but as noted this is a one engine missile.

One more thing.

Those of us in the know we’rent surprised too much by the Kim Il-sung birthday parade until the KN-17 came trundling down. Then came the modified KN-08 (after KN-15, a known quantity). North Korea’s testing programme kinda is like the parade.

Ouch, I think we know what’s next if the pattern continues.

Update If you watch the Hwasong-12 video that North Korea has released, the one without the groovy music you can hear how similar it sounds to the Musudan. When you don’t watch but instead just listen you think its a Musudan.