Jeffrey LewisChill Out With the Taepo Dong 2

Every time I think about shuttering the blog for good, someone is always kind enough to write or say something that reminds me why I started the infernal thing in the first place. Today’s lesson:

This image shows a North Korea Taepodong 1 (One).

It is not/not a Taepodong 2 (Two), not matter what the BBC, JINSA or anybody else sez.

There are two reasons to conclude this. First, the picture was disseminated by the National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC), which clearly labeled the image as a Taepo Dong 1.

Second—and this is more important—I don’t think the US IC or anyone else has any idea of what a Taepo Dong 2 looks like … because it doesn’t exist, other than as the presumed goal of an alleged North Korean program to develop a larger, follow-on to the Taepo Dong 1.

The name is a placeholder to describe the eventual result of ongoing North Korea’s missile work. (If you think of Kant’s essence of a thing and his objection to the ontological argument for the existence of god, that will help). At some point, North Korea may produce a real artifact of the program.

For now, however, North Koream progress since the TD 1 flight test is a matter of conjecture—from DIA noting “many uncertainties remain” about the program in 1999 to the most recent 721 report which describes the TD 2 as potentially capable of reaching parts of the United States with a nuclear-weapon-sized payload and may be ready for flight testing.

I leave you with the March 2006 testimony of General Burwell Bell, Commander USFK:

I’ve looked at this in some detail. The Taepo Dong II and III missiles, as we call them, are of the kind that, at least in theory, could produce intercontinental capability. Up through the late ‘90s, there was a fairly active program in North Korea to develop that missile technology and potentially to test it. In the years since the late ‘90s, the last six, seven years, we have seen very little activity by the North Koreans to actively continue to develop and test long-range missile systems. There’s no doubt in my mind that they have the capability to begin more technological investigation and to begin a regiment to lead to testing and potentially to lead to fielding. But there’s no evidence of it right now.

On the subject of cool North Korean missile pics, this is my favorite.


  1. Allen Thomson (History)

    “But there’s no evidence of it right now.”

    Hebrews 11:1-2 (KJV, of course.)

  2. Guillaume Payre (History)

    Just to tell you that the link “this is my favorite” towards “” does not seem to work.

  3. Jeffrey Lewis
  4. Yale (History)

    To the right of the NK Scud is an American-made Nike Hercules. SK has about 200, and has experienced terrible reliabilty and performance issues. They were seeking to replace them with US PAC-3’s but to save money and defuse anti-Americanism, they apparently are buying US PAC-2’s 2nd-hand from the Germans.

  5. Yale (History)

    You know, the more I look at the thing, it might be that it is an NHK-1/2 or a Hyonmu. These were reverse engineered from the Nike Hercules and strangely re-born as a surface-to-surface missile, rather than the original surface-to-air.

  6. Allen Thomson (History)

    The US’ Improved Hercules (IOC 1961) had surface-to-surface capability. I don’t know if that’s what South Korea got, or if they designed their own.

    As an aside, some US and Soviet naval SAMs also had a surface-to-surface capability. The US’ (I don’t remember the name) was a beam-rider, so was limited to line of sight.

  7. Yale

    Got this from the Nike-Hercules page at the Astronautix site:

    ” * Model: Korean modification. Year: 2000. Country: Korea South.

    South Korea displayed a modification of the Nike Hercules with a new monolithic single-engine solid propellant stage of South Korean manufacture. The modification was believed to also have guidance changes allowing it to serve as a surface-to-surface missile.

    Total Mass: 4,500 kg. Core Diameter: 0.79 m. Total Length: 12.50 m. Span: 2.30 m. Standard warhead mass: 500 kg. Maximum range: 400 km. ”


  8. A (History)

    come on america,,,
    let do it make more patriot missiles, more MX missiles, more submarine rockets, more SDIs,,,

  9. Paul Robichaux (History)

    So if there’s no such thing as a TD2, what are the North Koreans getting ready to flight test?