Joshua PollackNorth Korea’s ICBM Unveiled

[Updates have been transposed to the end of the post. -Ed.]

Tal Inbar points out these photos from today’s military parade in Pyongyang.

More details after the jump.

Those are two three-stage missiles carried on large, eight-axle vehicles. YTN describes them as being about 18 m long and about 2 m in diameter. [Note: based on an examination of the photographs, the 2 m diameter figure does not appear to be accurate if the missile is 18 m long.]  That’s much smaller than the TD-2 — not bigger, as the Chosun Ilbo had claimed. (Really, who could imagine a mobile missile almost half the length of a football field?)

An earlier YTN broadcast, aired before the parade, called the new missile by the name KN-08. That report is summarized in English by AFP here.

Further reading: My article of last week at on the unveiling of North Korea’s ICBM. Here at ACW, a discussion of the implications for missile defense — or, depending on your point of view, lack thereof.

Update | April 15, 10:19 am. An alert reader points out this CCTV broadcast. Going by the serial numbers, there were more than two ICBMs on parade. I see five: 904830216, 901010212, 904830218, 904830215, and 901010418. [See also below. -Ed.]

Update | April 15, 11:10 pm. Here are a couple more views of the new missile.

Update | April 17, 2012, 10:50 pm. Thanks to alert reader “AP,” who found a video of the entire parade as broadcast on Chinese television, we can see that six of the new missiles were displayed at the end of the parade. All appear in the shot simultaneously at 68:39.

Update | April 17, 2012, 11:59 pm. There’s been a fair amount of discussion in the comments of the source of the TEL. It’s pretty clearly a local hybrid built onto an extra-heavy chassis of the sort produced exclusively by the Hubei Sanjiang Space Wanshan Special Vehicle Co., Ltd., part of the China Sanjiang Space group, and a subsidiary of  the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC), a state-owned enterprise. The most likely candidate appears to be Wanshan’s WS51200 chassis, which you can see in this nice illustration:

The CASIC website announced a sale worth 30 million yuan to an unnamed foreign customer in Oct. 2010. In August 2011, the Wanshan website announced a delivery of 122-ton WS51200s to an unnamed customer, dated May 17. “During the inspection of this delivery, the consumer was very satisfied with the vehicle and indicated the possible of the next cooperation.”

Thanks to all the commenters and lurkers who have unraveled this and other threads in this post.


  1. Anon2 (History)

    Is the nose cone large enough in diameter to hold an implosion warhead — or a gun type warhead?

    How much do the lightest gun type warheads weigh?

    Is the exlosive synchronization timing less critical on a U-235 implosion warhead?

    This has implications for the U-235 device test that may occur later this year.

    • Captain Ned (History)

      Well, we (the US) built a linear-implosion warhead that fir in a 155mm artillery shell, so there’s clearly room for an implosion warhead in that nosecone. That said, I doubt NK has figured out linear implosion on its own and I deeply hope no one has given them pointers.

      US lightweight warheads get down to about 50lb or so for the W-54.

      All data from here:

    • MATT (History)

      Unfortunately, the missiles are all odd, even to each other. The components visible on the outside appear to be a mixture of solid AND liquid fueled system parts, which cannot function together. It is also noteworthy to comment on the skin of the missiles, which appear to “vibrate and flex” as their carriers roll. This indicates a thin skin, one that would not survive a launch. Finally, the rockets themselves do not even have external matching components. It is likely that this is a show of force designed to project national and international power. They are however, a likely glimpse of a program in development. After all, there was a mock up of their “satellite launch vehicles” in 1994, 12 years before it launched. I think we can all breather easy for a while.

    • joshua (History)

      These may indeed have been mockups, but I don’t think there’s any merit to the observation about solid- and liquid-fueled components, at least if you’re referring to the cable raceways. Those have appeared on both Soviet and North Korean liquid-fueled missiles before.

      You have a sharper eye than mine if you can detect vibrations in the skin of the missiles during the course of the parade. Interesting, though.

      It was undoubtedly a show of force. As was the entire parade.

      The mockups of the TD-1 and TD-2 were indeed seen in 1994, as reported in Jane’s and elsewhere. The first (and only known) launch of the TD-1 took place in 1998. That came as a bit of a surprise. We shouldn’t be so eager to set ourselves up for future surprises.

  2. David Watson (History)

    Do those dimensions correlate to any Iranian irbm?

    • joshua (History)

      Not that I’m aware of.

    • George William Herbert (History)

      Simorgh, possibly, but we don’t have good sources on it.

      Iran links are useful but not definitive. What we have that’s more solid is this thing.

  3. joshua (History)

    “The days are gone forever when our enemies could blackmail us with nuclear bombs.” — Kim Jong-un, speaking today at the parade.

    The missile is the message.

  4. Tal Inbar (History)

    One MAJOR issue is the propellant – either liquid fuel (and then an IRBM would be more adequate) or Solid fuel – then an ICBM range is plausible.

    Another question – is either NK tested this missile in flight (perhaps the 2006 missile launch?)

    I believe that when Gates spoke about “road mobile ICBM” he meant this beast.

  5. Tal Inbar (History)

    One more interesting thing in this parade, NK also revealed Strategic Rocket Commands, which was also known as “Missile Training Unit”.

  6. Ben10 (History)

    Read that CCTV saying it’s a 3 stage solid – suprising if true – any chinese translators?

    • joshua (History)

      Seems unlikely. There’s some good video at that link, though.

    • David Watson (History)

      Is it really three stage? Looks two stage to me, unless the Triconic warhead counts as a stage.

    • joshua (History)

      Look at the white lines.

    • George William Herbert (History)

      Looking at the Chinese video…

      At 0:48 in you get a good look at the nose and two front white bands. The front bands are external to the main airframe. Clearly.

      No law saying a stage sep ring needs to cleanly fair in. But that’s weird.

      Anyone know of equivalent TD or ND close ups of stage sep areas? I don’t know their usual practice…

    • joshua (History)


      Can you translate this into English for us non-native speakers of missile-ese?


    • George William Herbert (History)

      Into english, for non-missilese-speakers…

      At 0:48 in you get a good look at the nose and two front white bands. The front bands are external to the main airframe. Clearly. No law saying a stage sep ring needs to cleanly fair in. But that’s weird.

      Ok. In english – if you look at the Chinese video, 48 seconds in you are getting a good close-up of the (probably) third stage of the missile, the stepped-in part directly below the warhead. If you look at the white / shiny bands, you can see that they’re not a surface feature of the green underlying airframe. Whatever they are, they are outside the green airframe, and not exactly tightly fitted (you can see some gaps and kinks in the band).

      I am unsure what role this would play in stage separation, with it not being faired cleanly into the airframe. Possibly an outer casing with a light explosive filler (primacord/det cord like) used to blow a ring of the underlying structure lose, possibly with a notch at the separation point. But if so, tight fit-up against the skin would be beneficial or required. It could be part of a clamping band holding two mechanically separate parts together, but again closer fit-up would be beneficial.

      The most likely explanation is still some sort of stage separation mechanism. But it’s details are odd.

      It also might be a hold-down band around the rocket, to hold it down to the launch rail during transport.

      Anyone know of equivalent TD or ND close ups of stage sep areas? I don’t know their usual practice…

      Trying to disambiguate the loose fitting bands described above, I was hoping that someone might have a previous missile close up photo that we could compare, to see if they have similar loose fittings at the stage joints.

    • AbeFroman (History)

      George – To your point, this High-Res photo (with zoom) is illuminating.

      The white bands are indeed external. If you zoom in, the band appears to be linked by a metal bracket… On closer inspection, they may be part of the TEL used to support the missile.

    • Ano N. Ymous (History)

      re AbeFroman – Closer inspection shows there seems to be some black material between the white ring and the missile. You can see a darker spot which could be a slight gap in this material. The presence of said spot speaks against it being just plain shadow, as there is nothing visible in the edge of the ring that would explain such variation in the shadow. If the white ring is indeed intended to keep the missile fastened to the TEL, using some sort of rubbery cushion material between the ring and the missile to prevent damage to the latter would be desirable. Rubbery cushion materials are often black in color too.

    • Gregory Kulacki (History)

      The Chinese commentator says three stages. Announcer asks him if this is their own technology. Commentator says “it can only be” because of the sanctions.

  7. MD (History)

    Is it liquid propellant?
    The side pipe on body of missile looks like the ones on Scud/Shahab/Nodong missiles.

  8. JFC Fuller (History)

    Looks like a continuation, in design/family terms, of the BM-25 Musudan that was first paraded back in late 2010. If this is sold fuelled (which I don’t think it is at the moment) then NK has made a quantum leap in solid fuel technology from the KN-02 that has been around for a decade. However, given the Sejil solid fuelled Shahab replacement, and the very similar NK missile that appeared on a 5 axle TEL at the same parade as the Musudan (which was on a 6 axle TEL that appeared to be too large for it) we can not rule it out. Also, this new missile appears to carry the same style of triconic nose-cone that we first saw at the 2010 parade.

    From a designations point of view I have the following:

    KN-01: Styx derivative, possibly related to the Iranian Ra’ad AShM
    KN-02: Short range solid fuelled tactical ballistic missile
    KN-03: ?
    KN-04: ?
    KN-05: ?
    KN-06: SAM programme, claimed S300 equivalent, is reminiscent of China’s HQ-16
    KN-07: ?
    KN-08: New 2012 missile

    The two missiles from the 2010 parade, Musudan and the other, could fill two of these designations but that still leaves a couple of gaps?

  9. JFC Fuller (History)


    Thank you for clarifying that the 2010 Nodong derivative was liquid fuelled. As far as I can tell, neither it, the Musudan, or the new KN-08 have ever been flown with only component testing having been carried out which has to raise some questions about their credibility as weapons.

    • joshua (History)

      They’ve flight-tested Nodongs. It’s not clear to me whether or not they’ve tested the model shown in 2010.

  10. JFC Fuller (History)

    Based on the footage that Ben10 provided the link to I counted 5 separate KN-08 missiles with the following numbers painted on them:

    Missile 1: A904830216
    Missile 2: A901010212
    Missile 3: A904830218
    Missile 4: A904830215
    Missile 5: A901010418

    Did the Musudan make an appearance in this parade?

    • joshua (History)

      Looks like we read it the same way.

      I haven’t seen the Musudan, but it’s yesterday’s news, ain’t it?

    • joshua (History)

      A group of smaller missiles on four-axle TELs with triconic nose cones can be seen here. So can some long-range, self-propelled tube artillery pieces.

    • joshua (History)
    • JFC Fuller (History)

      The missile on the four axle TEL, assuming that the close up of the nose that follows immediately afterwards is of the same weapon, looks identical to the Nodong derivative that was displayed in 2010 except with a new 4 axle instead of 5 axle TEL that appears to allow the missile the lay flat rather than at an angle. In the same way the TEL for the KN-08 allows its missile to lay flat rather than at an angle as the Musadan TEL did/does. The Musadan TEL always looked too large for its missile, perhaps what we are seeing here is an evolution of both systems towards a more “final” configuration?

      That drone looks like it might be some sort of UAV, it has a curious structure on its underside that suggests maybe its for reconnaissance?

    • Ben10 (History)
    • joshua (History)

      Good catch. They also appear in the KCNA photoset.

    • Strangelove (History)

      At 0.54 to 0:56 the nosecone of a smaller missile appears to have a welding seam. Is that correct?

      Carrying around the bare missiles without a canister as the cold launched Topol M uses indicates that they are supposed for hot launch. Wouldn’t that grill the launcher?

  11. koxinga (History)

    The chassis for the TEL was identified as the WS-51200 by chinese netizens and contract signed in 2010.

    • joshua (History)


      No indication of how many truck chassis are meant, though. Is there an alternative explanation for who the buyer might be?

    • koxinga (History)

      No information on how many. I won’t be surprised if this was done through a third party for plausible deniability purposes.

      This class of ‘super heavy duty off-road chassis’ appears exclusively designed for military purposes. Below shows a similar model (WS2600).

      A few years ago, a photo surfaced of a similar, 16 x 16 TEL in China with a mock missile container. This TEL was never seen on any Chinese ICBMs… on hindsight…

    • joshua (History)

      Terrific photo. The cab is clearly built to accommodate a missile.

      Can you point to this other photo you mentioned?

  12. koxinga (History)

    The ‘cruise missile’ looks more like a Chang Hong-1/WZ-5 drone.

  13. Johan (History)

    It seems like the Chinese have given the North Koreans the Kaituozhe-1, a Dong Feng derived rocket/missile:

  14. AbeFroman (History)

    Wow – this is the greatest “parade of mock-up weapons well beyond the capacity of the host country” I’ve ever seen.

    Color me skeptical…

    • David Watson (History)

      Is an ICBM of this type really much more advanced than the unha/taepodong 2? Admittedly the unha has never successfully flown, but it does definitely exist.

    • Zutroy (History)

      That is dangerously naïve.

    • AbeFroman (History)

      Recently, North Korea has:

      1) Sunk the Cheonan;
      2) Shelled nearby South Korean civilian outposts;
      3) Launched the Unha 2 to unanimous, international outrage;
      4) Detonated 2 known nuclear bombs.

      So why just trot this sexy stuff at parades? If you’re North Korea, why aren’t you announcing a couple of IRBM test launches? (especially if you have at least 16 as shown in the parades). If there’s an international market for these missiles – and you’re as cash strapped as the DPRK – then it make sense to show the world what you have. One reason is that they don’t work.

      The mother of all this alleged missile technology is the R-27. We know that the North Koreans received some R-27 technology in the 90s. The R-27 used NTO as an oxidizer. NTO is extremely sensitive to temperature changes – so it is ill-suited to road-mobile uses. Could the Norks just use Red Fuming Nitric Acid? Sure… But that’s going to reduce the range of the missile and represent an engineering hurdle. And since the propellants are so corrosive, you can’t fuel the rocket and move it. And – by the way – if you have a submerged engine (which I sort of doubt) once you fuel the missile, it’s pretty much ruined if you don’t fire it.

      Its never been clear that the Norks solved the submergence problem of the old R-27 engine. It’s possible the increase in length of the musudan was just to avoid submerging the engine. So they may have had to tack on 2.5 meters to the musudan just to make it work. If so, then this the first attempt we’ve seen by the Norks to expand the range of the old R-27 technology.

      So I think these are mock-ups of future dreams. Maybe the Norks can take a 1960’s Russian rocket and, double the range, re-engineer the airframe/guidance, convert it into a road-mobile ICBM with little testing… but I doubt it. At the end of the day, this is literally rocket science. And, as we’ve seen, the North Koreans are not great at rocket science. They are excellent, however, at deceit.

    • joshua (History)

      Interesting. I suppose it may depend on what you believe the second stage of the TD-2 to be.

  15. Denis (History)

    I see Abe’s point. There is no way to tell whether we’re being punked by NK. I mean, they look empty to me. I have an LED blinking on my dashboard. That doesn’t mean I have an alarm.

    I don’t see how Joshua deduces 3 stages from 3 white lines. Three lines divide the missiles into 4 parts.

    • joshua (History)

      The fourth part is the nosecone.

      It’s possible that it’s just two stages, but that’s how I tend to read it.

    • joshua (History)

      Looking at it again, the giveaway is the set of cable raceways near the top of the missile. There are three, one per stage.

  16. PD (History)

    There is a drain adapter for fuel at the lower end of all stages. Therefore its almost certaily liquid

    • George William Herbert (History)

      PD writes:

      There is a drain adapter for fuel at the lower end of all stages. Therefore its almost certaily liquid

      I know some people who fly liquid fuel rockets a lot, and as far as I can recall none of them put drain adapters in the tank wall side a third of the way up the side. It’s structurally horrible – in the weakest part of the tank for a metal tank – and there would need to be two of them (one on each propellant tank in each stage). I think that in general all the cylindrical tank walls are solid and all ports and probes go in the ends.

      I don’t know what those things are; they seem to be in each stage. In a metal-cased solid, the same structural disadvantages apply for any thru-holes. One can believe having an ignitor or pressure sensor, but those generally go in top or bottom for the same reasons as liquid fuel tank penetrations do.

      My first two impressions of those when I took a close look were “WTF” and “This is an airplane person’s idea of how to make a fake mockup missile”. That was just first impression – I don’t have a good enough overall sense having stared at them for a while longer. But if those are in fact through-wall ports, they’re really odd engineering choices.

    • George William Herbert (History)

      From a mailing list I find that Scud class missiles indeed side port fill:

      Learn something new every day…

    • Doug Richardson (History)

      The R-17 ‘Scud B’ documentation confirms that there was a filling valve positioned about a quarter of the way from the bottom of each tank. If the propellant-system diagram is to be taken literally, there were also tank vent valves located on the opposite side of the missile near the top of each tank.

  17. luke (History)

    Range? Can it reach cali?

    • joshua (History)

      Can’t tell by looking.

      Chosun Ilbo claims over 10,000 km, which would be a “yes.” Of course, the same story described the missile as 40 m long, which it definitely is not. (Probably not even half that long.) That much, you can tell by looking.

    • joshua (History)

      YTN says just 6,000 km range. It’s around 9,000 km to California. So if you’re a YTN viewer in Los Angeles, you’re safe. Chosun Ilbo readers down the block may be in greater peril.

  18. herp_derp (History)
    • joshua (History)

      Not the word that leaps to mind.

  19. Tal Inbar (History)

    This missile is MOST LIKELY liquid fueled, hence ICBM range is not likelly due to the size of it.

    Please see:

    • joshua (History)

      Good eye! But why does liquid fuel preclude ICBM range?

    • Eve (History)

      How is it that the camouflage is on the inside of the first stage port? :0o (hint read between the tipex)

    • joshua (History)

      Please elaborate.

  20. George William Herbert (History)

    I suppose this answers some questions from a couple of weeks ago. This show sort of takes the “looking for rapproachment / space launch was innocent misunderstanding” explanation off the table.

    Not a surprise, but a disappointment.

  21. AP (History)
    • joshua (History)

      Good find! Your comment seems to have been snared by the spam filter. This appears to be the whole parade…

  22. leandro (History)

    I think this missile is a variant of the former R29/ss-n08 the former USSR, and that is the same institute Makyev the SERB Zyb R-27, which North Korea produced the BM25 Musudan, the characteristics as diamenter (1.8 m / 2.0) are similar to the “sawfly”.

    • joshua (History)

      Interesting. I’m finding it difficult to pin down the diameter.

  23. JFC Fuller (History)

    So as far as I can tell there were three big missiles on display:

    1) The new KN-08
    2) 2010s new Nodong derivative but moved to a new 4 axle TEL
    3) Musudan

    Its an interesting collection.

  24. Doug Richardson (History)

    The Chosun Ilbo story about a 40 m long missile is not referring the the KN-08, but to a larger follow-on to the Unha, which would need to full height of the launch tower used for last week’s Unha launch.

    • joshua (History)

      Could be. Or it could be conflating a couple of things. Hard to say. They don’t always get the details right.

  25. SOFI (History)

    What NKs TV showed as the test launch:
    Which seems to lack the second stage of the missile. But diameters seem to be the same.

    • joshua (History)

      Actually, we’ve run into that before here. It’s a South Korean anti-submarine weapon, called KASM or Hongsangeo.

  26. Prior Lancey (History)

    As Johan has pointed out, the TEL is seems to be based on a known chassis – the Wanshan WS2600 (10 × 8 ) heavy-duty off-road vehicle. The cab seems unchanged for its new role on the TEL chassis, so gives us a potential yardstick that can be used to estimate the size of the missile.

    According to data released by the manufacturer, the height from ground level of the cab roof is 2.82 m.

  27. Prior Lancey (History)

    And according to Jane’s, the vehicle uses “1500 x 600-635” tyres. If that first group of digits in the tyre diameter, this is another item from which we can scale the missile size.

  28. zap (History)

    Isn’t this the Chinese KT-1 missile ?
    I think it is meant to be a 3 stage solid motor missile .

  29. zap (History)
  30. John Schilling (History)

    A missile painted in three-tone camoflage has the serial numbers and stage separation bands in bright, broad white paint?

    “LOOK! We have FIVE missiles, and they each have THREE stages! LOOK and SEE!”

    Plywood mockups can have key features painted in bright white just as easily as actual missiles, and as George Herbert has pointed out there are some features here that look like what one might imagine a missile should look like if one hasn’t actually finished the detail design. Uhna-3 obviously was not ready in time for the scheduled festivities, and I am thinking this may be more of the same.

  31. Melissa (History)

    I don’t know about the ICBM, but these skis look fake to me…

    • Pedro (History)

      Those are probably individually crafted by each soldier.
      Its very “Juche” but I bet they work and that every man can shoot straight.

  32. Steve Hildreth (History)

    I often remind myself that very few countries have tested successfully and then deployed ICBMs, especially of the range being discussed here to CONUS. That fact should be sobering, especially as India prepares this month to try and test an ICBM more than 30 years after they became a space launch country. The Norks need to start demonstrating something better than 4 consecutive test failures of a long-range ballistic missile in 13 years.

    Consider me a technical agnostic or realist; show me you can do it, don’t tell me it’s possible.

    All highly interesting photographic and other evidence, but in the end they need to demonstrate a capability to flight test and additionally deploy a warhead that can survive re-entry at ICBM range before they ‘have’ an ICBM, imo.

  33. Andy (History)

    I’m sorry, but I can’t look at this thing and not be reminded of The Big Bus which also sports 16 wheels and is nuclear powered.

  34. George William Herbert (History)

    Does anyone have an AFP account? The high-res images of the new KN-08 would be extremely useful, and they appear to be members-only download.

  35. Andrew Tubbiolo (History)

    Anyone know how big the cobblestons are on the parade ground? They look pretty uniform and provide perspective well beyond the missile.

  36. AbeFroman (History)

    Some slight differences between Missile 904830216 and 904830218 which are modestly interesting:

    #218 is shown at 0:48 on the CCTV video. Check the alignment at 0:48 of the following 1) a vertical, green strip just rear of the first white band; 2) the Stage 3 fuel fill/”drain adapter”, and; 3) a welded, exterior panel marked “7” on the staging skirt. They are roughly aligned.

    Compare #216 at the 1:03 mark in the Telegraph/UK video below. (It’s a bit grainy and difficult to pause). Here, there appears to be less alignment – perhaps by a few inches. In particular, the fuel fill/drain adapter is out of alignment with the “7” exterior panel…. maybe 2-3 inches below from the side camera perspective

    In addition, the “7” panel sits lower on the #216 missile than the #218. On #218, the panel rides much closer to the third stage.



    • George William Herbert (History)

      I’ve been eyeballing some differences, but want to print out all the images and try and make sure I can tell which close-ups are which missile. It’s not always clear.

  37. Dave Steele (History)
  38. JFC Fuller (History)

    For anyone who is interested I managed to pick out two of the serial numbers of the Musudans, they are as follows:

    Missile 1: 708171014
    Missile 2: 708171025

    So KN-08’s seem to carry serial numbers starting 90 whilst Musudans start with 70.

  39. Markus Schiller (History)

    The so-called Nodongs on the 4-axle TEL (see Josh’s video link from April 15 at 0:53) clearly are Scuds that are painted in the same grey scheme as the Musudan and the Nodong. The short glimpse of the triconic warhead right after the Scud scene belongs to a Nodong, and not to the Scuds. It probably is one of the same Nodong mock-ups that they showed at the October 2010 parade. So, nothing new at the Nodong front.

    Robert and I are preparing a brief analysis of the presented “ICBM” right now, and we hope to publish it by tomorrow.

    • joshua (History)

      Well-spotted. I look forward to seeing the analysis.

    • JFC Fuller (History)

      Thanks for the analysis Markus, I look forward to seeing your work. Where will you publish?

  40. musudan (History)

    These are Topol-M.

    • joshua (History)

      Or possibly Minuteman III, right?

  41. Harry (History)

    The high res pictures are revealing: the NORKs probably have hired the best constructor in Rio the Janeiro. He is an artist with canvas, wood and cardboard. Have a close look at the details of the tricone. I personally mis the Salsa girls he is used to be working with to support his work 😉

  42. Harry (History)

    But that was for fun.

    When I look at the hires pictures, what strikes me is the poor quality of the welding on the first and second stage. Also the way the (service?) hatchets are made is questioning. Have you ever looked at a commercial airplane, from Boeing, Airbus? Their service hatchets are reseded, ie they form a flat plane with the part they are located. Never use bolts to fasten, but receded hi tensile torx or hex screws. Everything that can reduce air friction is used. In the pictures of the three stage ICBM, the hatchets seem to have been made a 3-year old: sloppy, badly following the surface they are mounted on, and bolted! All in all a very amateuristic sub-par product.

    • Abefroman (History)

      I totally agree. However, I thought I saw the same shoddy exterior welds on the service panels/hatchets on the Unha-2 prior to launch.

      Maybe that’s why the satellite is broadcasting the DPRK National Anthem from 6000m below sea level.

    • George William Herbert (History)

      I think you’re judging a NK rocket by US rocket standards.

      The NK and Iranian rockets, and a lot of the Russian / Soviet rockets, were a lot more robust and less precise. Access panels were not uncommonly mounted on the outside and bolted rather than recessed and with countersunk flathead screws. Welds were often sloppy.

      There are lots of Scud photos (see for example … oh, ) which show equal levels of workmanship. Those have been flying for 5 decades, more or less.

    • joshua (History)

      Perhaps North Korea’s TD-2 problems owe something to Scud-level workmanship on missiles that are less tolerant of such things.

  43. Harry (History)

    The details regarding the welding:

    The welds are grainy, indicating a manual weld by an inexpericienced welder.
    The small grains indicate it is a steel weld. An Aluminium weld would have larger grains, if at all.
    The folding of the (Steel) parts is sloppy, ie it is not carefully calibrated. It resembles the the image of the ski item 😉

    To summarize: it is a hoax.

  44. Magpie (History)

    Comparing the loaded Korean TEL with the Chinese TEL linked above (Eg: )…

    So it’s a 6-wheeler Chinese WS2600 vs the 8 wheeler Korean likely-WS51200.

    …the cabin proportions seem identical – the proportions for each cabin from the front door foward are very close (probably identical) matches, and given that a human needs about the same amount of door space to be comfortable I reckon it’s fair to assume, then, that the size hasn’t been altered (that is, if they were making the cabin bigger for some reason, they probably wouldn’t make the doors bigger by the same proportion).

    The cabins seem identical, but the undercarriage is not. Quite apart from the extra axle, the wheels on the Korean model are about 15% larger (I’ve compared it to the size of the doors, which seem to match. The Chinese vehicle has a wheel size almost identical to its door size, with the Korean version having a wheel that is about 1.15 door heights).

    The Korean model rides much higher – the distance between axle and cabin roof-top is a good 25% greater (that is, the Chinese vehicle has around 1.39 door heights between axle and rooftop, while the Korean model has a whopping 1.76 door heights).

    Note, though, that the axle-to-roof comparison is for an unloaded WS2600 vs a (nominally) loaded WS51200 – so the Korean version may ride even higher unloaded.

    Has anyone got pictures of either an unloaded WS51200, or a loaded WS2600? I’d be interested to see 1. the change in axle-to-roof height, and 2. any apparent deformation in the tires.

    But here’s an interesting one for you. Check this picture of 216:

    Note well the even load – the wheels are at an even keel (I’m measuring axle-to-body vs diameter of the rim, wheel-by-wheel, and assuming the rims are all the same size). Every wheel, front to back, even height, at about a ratio of 1.33 (axle-to-body divided by rim diameter, ranges from 1.32 to 1.36, average around 1.33).

    Now check THIS baby out (218’s TEL):

    You can actually see it with the naked eye – it’s almost comically back-heavy. Note the front wheels are showing almost no deformation, while the rear wheels are squished (check the treads at the bottom, and the bulge below the rim where the light reflects). But measuring it gives you the goods: the axle-to-body vs wheel-rim ratio for the rear wheel is about 1.25. The same ratio for the front wheel is closer to 1.33. So it’s not just that the real wheels don’t have enough pressure – the axles are riding higher in the back, too.

    And the front, low-load wheel (1.33 ratio) seems to match the standard height on the even-keel 216 TEL (all wheels at 1.33-ish)…

    I’m too lazy to check 212, but it seems (from eye-ballin’) to be back-heavy like 218.

    So there y’are: 216 is something fairly light and evenly balanced.

    218 (and probably 212) is heavy as hell down the back, getting lighter as it approaches the front.

    Wonk on, my droogs.

    • Magpie (History)

      Errr, or they could have just mucked up their load distribution on the 212 and 218. I have no idea how to build a TEL, but if I was was making one I’d have some kind of fulcrum-support near the centre of gravity so I could redistribute the load easier. Could be they’ve just mucked up the tilt by that fraction and put too much weight down the back.

      In any case, I reckon we can say for sure they ‘aint made of balsa-wood.

  45. Magpie (History)

    GAH! Never post in a hurry.

    Above! The picture for 218 is this:

    It’s the one that’s even.

    The pictures for 216 are these:

    That’s the back-heavy one.

    Need coffee. Brain no work.

  46. joshua (History)

    The news section of the Wanshan website — see — includes the following item, dated 2011-08-20:

    The successfully delivery of the largest Self-propelled Overload Special Off-road Transporter in China

    The successfully delivery of WS51200,which is the largest Self-propelled Overload Special Off-road Transporter in China, filled the domestic blank on May 17th. During the inspection of this delivery, the consumer was very satisfied with the vehicle and indicated the possible of the next cooperation.

    According to the requirements of the consumer, WS51200, with the total weight of 122ton, adopted the bran-new overload chassis of WS series which is the largest in China. The successful manufacture of this vehicle fulfilled the practicality of the overload off-road series of WAN SHAN Company.


    As noted by a commenter earlier, the website of Wanshan’s parent company, CASIC, contains this press release dated October 19, 2010, which Google Translate renders thusly:

    Nine homes: for the first time by the large off-highway truck bulk export orders

    Source: China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation October 19, 2010 Fonts: 【large】 【middle】 【small】

      Recently, the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation nine homes with a country users to reach a the WS51200 large off-highway truck export agreement, contract of $ 30 million yuan, has received advance payment of 12 million yuan, creating a China trade WS series of super-heavy off-road vehicles export orders, the first of its kind.
      Nine hospital attaches great importance to the dual-use technology of super-heavy-duty off-road vehicles and the development of the China trade, and actively promote civil military technology and services industries, and strive to explore the international market. Since the beginning of 2008, nine homes with a country users for the project many times communication coordination, organization and technical personnel detailed program of demonstration, the ultimate in advanced special vehicles technology and good service philosophy to win the trust of users, access to export orders. (/ Zhang Fengyi)  (Editor: Hairong)

    Well, here’s hoping they got the other 18 million yuan. If this deal is what we suspect, after all, they probably won’t be seeing quite so much international business in the future…

    • joshua (History)

      For context:

      …The Security Council agrees to adjust the measures imposed by paragraph 8 of resolution 1718 (2006), as modified by resolution 1874 (2009). The Security Council directs the Committee established pursuant to resolution 1718 (2006) to undertake the following tasks and to report to the Security Council within 15 days:
      a) Designate additional entities and items;
      b) Update the information contained on the Committee’s list of individuals, entities, and items (S/2009/205 and INFCIRC/254/Rev.9/Part.1), and update on an annual basis thereafter;
      c) Update the Committee’s annual work plan….

    • joshua (History)
    • rwendland (History)

      Interesting to note how DPRK-China trade is increasing – Chosun Ilbo claims it has increased by US$1 billion every three years since the middle of the last decade, and in 2011 was about $3 billion each way.

      NB After getting annoyed with China supplying these TELs, perhaps we should look at Germany continuing to supply the advanced Dolphin submarines – rather more sophisticated – to Israel, believed to carry nuclear armed Popeye Turbo cruise missiles, possibly launched from the specially wide 650 mm torpedo tubes the Dolphins have.

    • joshua (History)

      Or the U.S. supply of Trident II missiles to the UK, maybe. Come on.

    • rwendland (History)

      Indeed, there is a long history of double standards here.

      As far as the UK goes, the “nuclear weapon parts” transfer for the UK Trident warhead the White House authorised (eg in 1991 in NSD 61) is probably more serious than the missiles:

      Drifting back toward the topic, we could even look way back to the nuclear armed Honest John missiles and Matador cruise missiles introduced into Korea in 1958, requiring the United Nations Command to unilaterally abrogate paragraph 13(d) (no more modern weapons) of the Korean Armistice Agreement, breaking the agreement – so that the US could reduce the size of land forces held in Korea. Arguably this kicked of the Korean nuclear and missile problem.

      But I would suggest a very silent submarine is rather a more serious nuclear weapon carrier than a TEL, and we should address that if we want more credibility.

    • joshua (History)

      The North Korean nuclear and missile problem is more complicated in its origins than any one step in 1958, although introducing tactical NW to the peninsula clearly had their attention. To this day, the NKs do not acknowledge that NW have been removed from South Korea.

      I find Germany’s supply of submarines to Israel irrelevant to this discussion, frankly. It’s a bit of a stretch to believe they have nuclear-armed cruise missiles, and I wonder if the Germans would supply them if they had reason to believe they were intended as nuclear platforms. One never knows, of course. But if Israel had joined the NPT, cheated on it, withdrawn, and been subject to a series of UNSCRs forbidding missile and nuclear developments or sales of related equipment, then the comparison to North Korea would come more naturally. As it is, it doesn’t.

      You seem to make this comparison (North Korea-Israel) often, perhaps more often than makes sense.

    • Gregory Kulacki (History)

      Translation notes:

      1. It isn’t “hospital”, but “institute”
      2. It isn’t “civil military technology” but military/civil denoting dual use.
      3. It isn’t “strive to explore” but “opened” and it isn’t “international market” but “the previously advocated idea of “civil trade export orders”.

      Stop using Google translate.

  47. I.bear (History)

    This Wanshan’s WS51200 chassis photo and probably the whole story are only elaborated mystifications. They photoshopped wheels from the following picture and added a real cabin from one of those 2012 parade photos….
    It wouldn t be the first time.

    • joshua (History)

      That doesn’t work for me. The cab in the photo is not _identical_ to anything in the parade. Neither are the wheels the same image in the two pictures. If they look similar, it’s probably for a reason, though.

    • I.bear (History)

      This picture is definitely a product of poor photoshopping skills.

      Nevertheless the story seems to be true:

  48. Right (History)

    Looks like the Chinese are giving the North Koreans a little help.

    Observe DF-31:

    Wikipedia DF-31:
    see how it says the missile is 40ft long and 13m(subtract 5 from the length of the transport vehicle)

    Read about Congressman’s civil, non-polarized inquiry:

    Also take into account the information that a Chinese company sold the transport vehicles to North Korea. Remember China is a communist nation so every company is either ran by the government or highly regulated by the government. Think about the type of scrutiny that a deal between a US arms maker and a foreign nation attracts from the US government. Now times that by 1000 for a Chinese company, public or private.

    All that being said there is no way to know what level of cooperation they have. It could be anywhere from the Chinese only giving them the “rough draft” blueprints of the df series therefore making these North Korean missiles cheap knock offs with no chance of working in the foreseeable future OR they could have covertly transported df series missiles to North Korea for whatever reason(s)(prepping for war[lol], want a strong ally in the region to counter balance the US’s allies South Korea and Japan, final gift to the illest Kim, etc) making these missiles a legitimate concern. Keep in mind these are the two extremes in the spectrum of cooperation but they are undoubtedly cooperating on a somewhat unprecedented military level(as opposed to diplomatic).

    • joshua (History)

      China is communist? You don’t say.

      Look, it’s not the DF-anything. Any resemblance is superficial. Only the chassis of the TEL appears to be of Chinese origin. Surely that’s bad enough.

    • joshua (History)

      Cab and chassis, I should say.

    • Right (History)

      Have the north koreans built any rockets from scratch by themselves? They always get their ideas or parts or ideas of parts from old soviet or chinese models I am just saying that now they have gotten them from a new Chinese model and I am wondering what implications the ‘new’ part would have. I am not saying that China gave whole missiles to them I am suggesting that the Koreans wear ‘allowed’ to look a newer blueprints.

    • joshua (History)

      Very unlikely. The DF-31 and -31A are very modern solid-fueled missiles, far beyond anything the NKs are known to have worked with before. I don’t see the Chinese sharing their crown jewels with anyone, certainly not the unreliable NKs.

      There are hints in the record, which is unfortunately quite limited, that North Korean missile specialists had some training in China decades ago, and even a brief period of collaboration on a short-range system that was cancelled. But that’s all I can find.

      By contrast, there is evidence of substantial numbers of Russian scientists getting involved in the missile programs of other states, including North Korea, immediately after the collapse of the USSR, when missile and nuclear specialists weren’t getting paid and had to feed their families somehow.

      We don’t know exactly what these missiles consist of (yet), but there is no reason (yet) to believe that they involve any technologies not already seen in North Korea in some other configuration.

    • Right (History)

      Admittedly this is a sketchy news website that I have never used before now but a simple search produced an article that backs me up.

      *I’ve never heard of liveleak before now

    • joshua (History)

      “Someone on the internet agrees with me” is not very persuasive. Besides, it’s basically just an alternative version of the other story you linked. Same people quoted.

      Sorry. A lot of missiles have similar profiles, because they have similar functions. It’s necessary to go beyond that.

    • Stephen Young (History)

      Interesting all the debate about whether China might have helped on the launcher, when it is perhaps more likely that the Soviet Union/Russia provided the second stage of the Unha missiles. See:

    • Pieter (History)

      Though the suspicions are justified based on the available images, before we decide that the use of a chinese vehicle as TEL for a North Korean missile is bad enough and a deliberate and rather incomprehensible violation of the UN sanctions by someone who/an entity that matters in China we will have to be a bit more certain about how and why the vehicles were delivered. The fact that the producer has proudly announced the export of some WS51200 makes me doubt that they talk about a (direct) sale to the North Korean missile programme. That would be rather bold, wouldn’t it?
      Both the WS2600 and the WS51200 are also marketed for civilian use. The former is clearly available in red, not a common color for military purposes, and the latter is marketed as ‘it is can be widely used for oil exploration, mining etc wore environment,’
      This opens the possibility that the vehicles may have been acquired for ostensible civilian use by an entity in North Korea or through a front company elsewhere. True, a decent export control system should have alarm bells ringing and should in principle prevent such deals, but such undesired dual-use transfers happen to the best. As a crude comparison Iran uses Mercedes Benz trucks to pull shahabs around which made the German government decide to ban the sale of certain trucks to Iran in 2009, but the same type of trucks could in principle be procured by Iran via middlemen in other countries with less strict export regulations.,1518,630778,00.html
      Finally, there is still a faint possibility it’s a fake/pirate copy or that technology has been acquired from elsewhere. The Chinese WS series is produced by joint venture involving BelarussianMZTK.

    • joshua (History)

      These strike me as useful cautionary notes.

    • John Schilling (History)

      North Korea has never successfully built a large solid-propellant missile or even motor that we know about – nothing bigger than a battlefield artillery rocket. And they are a bit shaky on staging, for that matter. If the KN-08 is a flight-ready DF-31 derivative, the Chinese have gone far beyond giving the North Koreans “a little help”; the only way that works is if the Chinese are willing to sell the Norks complete missiles.

      North Korea’s missileers specialize in liquid rocketry, and within the limits of North Korea’s industrial base they seem to be pretty good at it. Solid-propellant missiles are a different sort of beast, and the differences are not something you can learn in a month or even a year at this scale – no, not even with a complete set of blueprints and a crew of expert technical advisors.

      Absent a series of North Korean solid-fuel and multi-stage missile tests of increasing capability, either the KN-08 is a liquid-fuel missile, or the KN-08 is a hoax, or the KN-08 is a missile the Chinese sold them outright. And that last case requires the Norks be satisfied with missiles they cannot build for themselves and the Chinese happy to let the world know they are building missiles for North Korea.

      Chinese technical assistance with improved liquid-fuel missiles is more credible. We know the Chinese are willing to sell them missile technology at the barely-plausibly-deniable level, e.g. the TELs themselves. And an indigenous liquid-fueled ICBM is barely plausible for North Korea.

      I lean towards the “hoax” crowd myself, but in the sense that the KN-08 is a mock-up of a missile the DPRK intends to build but couldn’t finish in time for Kim I’s 100th birthday.

    • joshua (History)


      There are reports in the ROK media of static testing late last year and early this year that seem to be associated with this missile. So I don’t think it’s a hoax, regardless of exactly what it was we saw in the parade. I also tend to doubt that Sec’y. Gates or ADM Willard were speaking based on nothing at all.

      Chinese assistance is something we now have to think about, but I find it unlikely, in the absence of any specific evidence. In general, there is no evidence of Chinese military exports to North Korea in a very long time — I can’t think of the last time — unless one counts unarmed vehicles. So help with a long-range missile seems well beyond what the central authorities would consider.

      That is, incidentally, a telling point about Chinese NK policy, but that’s neither here nor there.

      Based on what we’ve seen in parades and in media reports, the most advanced solid-fueled ballistic missile in NK seems to be the KN-02 SRBM, which the NASIC 2009 report flatly calls a Toksa. In other words, like all else (or essentially all else) of this sort in North Korea, it has a Soviet lineage.

      Based on what Schmucker and Schiller have written — see Jeffrey’s new post — it’s actually not so hard to make a guess about what technology the KN-08 involves: same as the Musudan, but in a new configuration. Nevertheless, only time will tell.

  49. krepon (History)

    Award-winning. Comedy. Pathos. Technical detail. Back and forth. Where do I vote?

    • joshua (History)

      Why, at the upcoming online awards show, the Wonkies. Bring out your favorite evening gown…

    • krepon (History)

      plus, I forgot to add, sleuthing.

  50. Gregory Kulacki (History)

    Previously cited CASIC web post
    notes sales were for civilian use and the agreement concluded under a civilian use export contract. Do these chasis have other uses than to carry TEL’s?

    • kme (History)

      I imagine you could make a nice mobile crane out of one.

  51. Doug Richardson (History)

    We seem to be getting bogged down in contemplating the TEL, while ignoring the missile – an in particular its likely throw weight and range.

    I wonder what happened to the preliminary analysis that Markus Schiller mentioned? I suspect that Postol and Wright will also be busy on this one. I’ll have a go myself, but won’t have time for this until the weekend.

    One interesting (non-strategic) feature of the NK parade is that there was little sign of NK’s S-300 look-alike. At one point in the parade – just after the SA-5s – a group of six transporters carrying launch tubes were seen, but they don’t look like S-300 container-launchers.

    • George William Herbert (History)

      There have been some offline email threads about technical stuff. I’m looking into configuration and design approach, Markus said he’s working on a performance estimate.

      There seems to be a lot of suspicion offline that the particular missiles paraded may just be dummy / mockup units, not actual flight units. I think we lack enough info to be sure either way right now, though others are actively suspicious they’re fake. I am operating under an unproven assumption that the TELs – $6 million worth or so – would not have been purchased just to put dummy missiles on parade, and that this matches the road-mobile ICBM that the US defense and intelligence communities are talking quietly about.

      What we do not know and I cannot by any means prove is whether the presumed mockup details match those – in terms of shape, size, component layout etc – of the suspected actual missiles which were static test fired.

  52. Kris (History)

    The total figure of new missile does not match any other rocket than

    It looks like scaled down UR-200 from old Soviet FOBS. Notice that Un-ha 3 has reached at the altitute 151 km before it splits into pieces for 5 mins.

  53. Dave (History)

    Looking at the pictures, 216 is loaded rather poorly, closeups of the clamp shoe’s which hold the rocket show that the they do not contact the rocket on the near side body as in other pics, not to mention the risk if crushing the raceway if not loaded in exactly the same posstion each time. Also, if you look at the back of 216, the stub fin, points almost directly at the pin or support leg for the launcher platform. In 218, the stub fin on the rear is not pointed at this pin or post. This would indicate that the raceways are not in the same location around each rocket and since the raceway which runs the length of the stages has to be alligned with the shoe’s (to prevent them from being crushed), would also lead one to believe they are all different. If you are designing cutting edge rockets, one would think that you’d put the fins and raceways in the same location or risk changing the aerodynamics for each. Another question I have no answer to… Where do the arms of the gantry go when its time to launch? do they fold out of the way? Its going to be a short flight if you try fitting a fat rocket through a narrow gantry

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