The Hwasong-15 (Chosŏn'gŭl: 화성 15호; lit. Mars-15) is an intercontinental ballistic missile developed by North Korea. It had its maiden flight on 28 November 2017, around 3 a.m. local time. It is the first ballistic missile developed by North Korea that is theoretically capable of reaching all of the United States mainland (including Washington D.C.).
|Type||Intercontinental ballistic missile|
|Place of origin||North Korea|
|In service||First successful test on 28 November 2017|
|Used by||North Korea|
|Produced||2017 - present|
|Warhead||nuclear weapon, MRV|
|Engine||Liquid fuel rocket engine Paektusan
|Flight altitude||4,475-4,500 km|
|9 axle Transporter Erector vehicle|
North Korea stated that the missile reached an altitude of around 4,475 km and traveled some 950 km downrange with a flight time of 53 minutes. Based on its trajectory and distance, the missile would have a range of more than 13,000 km (8,100 miles) – more than enough to reach Washington D.C. and the rest of the United States, albeit with a reduced payload according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. In addition, the range covers several of the United States’s international allies such as the United Kingdom and France, as well as all of Earth's continents, except South America and most of Antarctica.
However some experts say that the missile is only capable of firing a light warhead. It is difficult to accurately determine the payload of a warhead simply by looking at it, as different warhead casing materials and explosives will have different mass densities. For example, metallic based explosives can weigh several times more than organic explosives for the same volume; however the Union of Concerned Scientists, whom it should be noted have neither seen nor physically examined the missile, concluded that equipping the missile with a normal-sized payload would likely reduce the overall range.
It was the first launch after a 10-week break.
However, the missile’s re-entry vehicle failed to successfully re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere, according to the Japanese defense minister Itsunori Onodera. The missile broke apart into at least three pieces before crashing into the waters within Japan’s exclusive economic zone.[not in citation given]
Many analysts assumed that the missile launched was an improved Hwasong-14, until North Korea released images and video of the missile and launch, which show a different missile than the Hwasong-14.
According to analysts, The Hwasong-15 first stage has a gimbaled two-chambered main engine system, as opposed to the Hwasong-12 and Hwasong-14 which have one fixed main chamber and four gimbaled steering vernier thruster chambers. Its first stage booster design is strikingly similar to the Titan II missile.
According to missile specialist Norbert Brügge, the missile uses the ‘Pektusan’, the first stage of the two stage missile uses an RD-250 clone liquid propulsion system developed by Pyongyang, comprising two combustors fed by common turbopump to increase takeoff thrust. The new propulsion is estimated to have 170 percent increase in thrust, compared to the Hwasong-14.
Senior South Korean official confirmed that the missile is using advanced technology comparable to F-22 as engine uses gimbals.
On November 29th, 2017, Michael Elleman wrote for 38 North that at 13,000 km., the payload would be around 150 kg., based on flight data of the test and conjectured it was a reconfigured Hwasong-14 and on November 30th, after release of the images and video of launch, he wrote a subsequent article on 38th North in which he stated that he first visualized the design of the missile based solely on flight data. After seeing the images and video, Elleman increased the maximum estimate of payload from 150 kg. to 1,000 kg. for a range of 13,000km. He noted major differences in the design of the actual Hwasong-15 and the missile he visualized the day before, from the dimensions to two nozzles/engine instead of one, such as on the Hwasong-14.
The 9 axle Transporter erector launcher (TEL) vehicle is larger compared to the 8 axle TEL vehicle of the Hwasong-14. However, just like the Hwasong-14, the launch footage indicates the missile was fired from a fixed launch pad, not from the vehicle.
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- Majumdar, Dave. "Expert on North Korea's New Hwasong-15 ICBM: "You Cannot Stop This Thing"". The National Interest.
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- Lewis, Jeffrey (29 November 2017). "The missile checkout before the launch was done at the March 16 Factory, which Kim Jong Un visited early in November. This is probably where North Korea manufactures the 9-axle TEL".
- Majumdar, Dave. "Hwasong-15: North Korea's New Missile That Shocked the World". The National Interest.
- Dempsey, Joseph (29 November 2017). "9 axles indicated for Hwasong-15 TEL - #NorthKorea has previous utilised an 8 axle TEL derived from #China origin WS51200 trucks for their tested and untested ICBM designs.pic.twitter.com/SLcuC2T3Tk".