North Korea's Newest Missile Is Capable Of Carrying Multiple Warheads

Contrary to the South Korean government’s initial analysis, the missile launched by North Korea into the waters west of Japan yesterday could represent an important advancement in the country’s missile technology that would allow it to carry multiple warheads.

According to a report in Japanese business newspaper Nikkei, photos of the Hwasong-15 published by local North Korean media showcase a newly developed launch system and casing.

Rodong Sinmun, a mouthpiece for the North's ruling Workers' Party of Korea, published photos of the Hwasong-15, the country's latest intercontinental ballistic missile, at liftoff and mounted on what appears to be a newly developed mobile launch system. The missile seems to involve a completely new rocket, judging by its size and shape, South Korea's Ministry of National Defense said Thursday. The ministry's initial analysis Wednesday claimed the Hwasong-15 was merely a retooled version of the Hwasong-14 ICBMs launched in July.

The shape of the rocket’s nose cone suggests that it was designed with an eye toward carrying multiple warheads, which could make it easier for the North to outfit the rocket with a nuclear payload. Also, by possessing the capability to strike multiple sites with one missile, it would make it more difficult for anti-missile defense systems to intercept it.

The latest missile's nose cone is more rounded than that of its predecessor. This could indicate it was designed with an eye toward a multiple-warhead system, Chang Young-keun of the Korea Aerospace University said in response to questions from South Korea's Yonhap News Agency. It was generally agreed that inserting multiple warheads into the Hwasong-14's pointed nose cone would be difficult.

 

A missile capable of striking multiple sites at once would be more difficult for ship- and land-based defense systems to fully neutralize than a single-warhead missile. North Korea, long thought to be seeking this technology, would pose a much greater threat as a result.

To be sure, the rounded nose cone may have been designed solely to protect the missile as it reenters Earth’s atmosphere. Atmospheric re-entry has long been a major obstacle for the North’s missile program.

The missile's shape may also be related to technology intended to protect its payload from the stress of re-entering the Earth's atmosphere, said Kim Jung-bong, a professor at Hanzhong University. Heavy use of high-performance material such as carbon fiber could account for the rounded form, Kim said.

 

Re-entry technology is considered a major hurdle blocking North Korea from deploying a functional ICBM. A warhead must survive the intense heat and pressure of re-entry to be useful as a weapon. The North is thought to have obtained high-performance materials, using them in its quest to clear that barrier.

Finally, the rounded nose might be necessary to allow North Korea to load its rudimentary nuclear warheads on the rocket. US and Japanese officials now believe the North is less than two years away from being able to successfully strike the continental US with nuclear weapon.

A rounder nose cone also allows for a larger payload, perhaps intended to let Pyongyang mount a nuclear warhead on the rocket, a source at Japan's Ministry of Defense said. The North's technology is "certainly advancing," Adm. Katsutoshi Kawano, chief of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces' Joint Staff, told reporters Thursday. Japan will operate under the assumption that "the threat has grown," he said.

Furthermore, the missile’s added girth suggests that it has been outfitted with two engines for the first two stages of flight instead of one.

The Hwasong-15 is 30 centimeters wider than its predecessor at around 2 meters, one expert said. This suggests the missile contains two engines in the first of its two stages, up from one in the Hwasong-14, said Kim Dong-yup, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul. The increased thrust could put the entire U.S. mainland within the missile's range without any reduction in the weight of the payload, the professor said.

 

A Rodong Sinmun editorial posted online Thursday called the launch of the Hwasong-15 a watershed moment for the North. Many think locking down multiple-warhead technology will take some time. But Pyongyang's progress toward a functional ICBM is undeniable.

While there’s still no guarantee the North could pull off a nuclear strike with a high degree of accuracy, a nuclear weapon detonated several hundred miles above the center of the country could destroy the US by causing a giant electromagnetic pulse. Such an attack could kill hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people by wiping out access to electricity across the entire continent.

Comments

IH8OBAMA overbet Thu, 11/30/2017 - 22:54 Permalink

In previous ICBM tests they said the NK missiles wheren't about to re-enter the atmosphere without breaking up.  Now they don't even mention this aspect.  Did the NKs solve this or what?  I've never seen an answer. 

In reply to by overbet

. . . _ _ _ . . . shankster Thu, 11/30/2017 - 23:12 Permalink

Where are they getting the UF6 if they can't even make UF4 anymore?If NorK has nukes, they only have a handful, and every time they test one, it's one less in their arsenal.They can only make about one or two per year, and that since 2010.So 14 minus how many tests? A dozen?Their stockpile is too small to make a multiple warhead.Not to mention that their missile tech is unreliable.They detonate all their supplies in tests in order to intimidate the world and give the impression that they have nukes, but they don't really.Smart strategy though. They know they are no match, so they use their weapons as a deterrant.When the US invades and finds no WMDs (where have we seen that before,) the world will turn against the US even further than it already has.The US should start to elect some smart people to government, but then again, it's prolly too late.

In reply to by shankster

. . . _ _ _ . . . awake283 Thu, 11/30/2017 - 23:35 Permalink

It's about the enrichment, not the materials. LEU is easy to get or make. Buffett's LEU bank in Kazakhstan has a near-global monopoly (not sure they would sell to NorK, though.) HEU is difficult and very strictly controlled. The only country that can operate under the radar is Israel, so maybe they are supplying NorK. Otherwise there is no HEU in NorK, or so little that it is of no consequence.Imagine the embarassment if NorK launched a missile towards the USA and it fell into the sea. They could not follow up (not that they would have much time to.)This whole situation is just an attempt to set up a false flag in Guam or something so that the Chinese won't intervene and so American interests can waltz into NorK to take possession of the $7T worth rare-earth minerals found there by British teams in 2012 (the market for which China holds a near monopoly.)

In reply to by awake283

land_of_the_few awake283 Fri, 12/01/2017 - 05:05 Permalink

The NKs have natural uranium mines and a mill located at Pyongsan to process it, as well as centrifuges to entich uranium at their Yongbyon site - they may be building a second hall of centrifuges.Plutonium on the other hand does not exist in significant amounts in nature - it has to be made in reactors. There is evidence to sugget the have been reprocessing spent uranium fuel rods to extract plutonium but uncertain if the reactors have been making enough for practical purposes, but it is possible.

In reply to by awake283

shankster Thu, 11/30/2017 - 22:54 Permalink

The technical know-how to fit these missiles with Nukes has been around a long time and if you got the money the nuke techies got the time. Just ask Pakistan...

shankster Thu, 11/30/2017 - 23:01 Permalink

Consider that experts agree the US cannot shoot down several incoming ICBMs and one or more would get through..now add in missiles with multiple warheads and well you get the picture..