The Pukkŭksŏng-1 or Bukgeukseong-1 (Hangul: 북극성1호, Hanja: 北極星1号, literally Polaris-1), alternatively KN-11 in intelligence communities outside North Korea, is a North Korean, submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) that was successfully flight tested on 24 August 2016. As of 2019, there have been no flight tests since.[6]

TypeSubmarine Launched Ballistic Missile
Place of originNorth Korea
Service history
In service2016 / 2017 (South Korea estimates) 2018 (US estimates)
Used byNorth Korea
Production history
ManufacturerNorth Korea
Produced2015 (First known test year)
VariantsLand-based mobile intermediate-range ballistic missile (Pukkŭksŏng-2)[1]

EngineSolid fuel rocket[2]
  • 500 km (Based on tested, lofted trajectory)
  • 1,250 km (Estimated, based on standard minimum energy trajectory by David Wright, A physicist and co-director of the UCS Global Security Program) [3]
  • 2,000-2,500 km (South Korea estimation of the actual deployed range)[4][5]
Sinpo-class submarine
Korean name
Revised RomanizationBukgeukseong-1

Pukkŭksŏng-1 is officially recognized by North Korea, South Korea and the United States as a missile that went through a complete, successful test on 24 August 2016.[7] North Korea has never announced the actual operational range and payload, as this technical information is probably considered classified. Most countries do this: e.g., the United States considers the exact operational range of its current SLBM, UGM-133 Trident II, as classified information as well.[8]

List of testsEdit

Attempt Date Location Pre-launch announcement / detection Outcome Additional Notes
1 Late October 2014 Sinpo None Success Land based static ejection test only.[9]
2 November 2014 Sinpo None Failure Land based static ejection test only.[9]
3 21 December 2014 Sinpo None Failure (United States & South Korea) / Success (North Korea) One report claims that this is the first attempt to eject a missile from a Sinpo class submarine, but the submarine suffers damage as a result of launch failure.[10]

The Washington Free Beacon concludes that the undated footage from KCNA is from this test.[11]

The other report points out that footage from KCNA was manipulated to exaggerate current progress in the Pukkuksong-1, that this launch is done by a submersible barge, not a Sinpo-class submarine, and that the missile did not fly far. [12]

4 23 January 2015 Sinpo None Success Launch from a Sea Based Platform (The Washington Free Beacon & United States) or Test of Vertical Missile Launcher in a Coastal Area Without Involving Sea-Based Platform (South Korea) [13]
5 22 April 2015 Sinpo None Success The Washington Free Beacon reported another test on an underwater test platform.[14]

South Korean officials later stated it was an "ejection test" to evaluate ejecting a submerged ballistic missile, rather than a full test of a new missile system,[15][16] and that the test missile seemed to have been launched from a submerged barge rather than a submarine.[17]

6 9 May 2015 Unknown None Success from submarine (North Korea) / Partial Success ONLY by underwater barge (United States & South Korea - Range is only mere 100 meters) Reported by North Korea's state run television where Kim Jong Un was watching the test. A missile was fired from a submarine with the name[18] Bukkeukseong-1 inscribed on the missile body.[16] Crucial details such as place of test, time of test, and technical details including its range are not reported.[19]

However, U.S. and South Korean officials pointed out that the missile was fired from an underwater barge rather than a submarine, and that it flew only 100 meters above the water.[20][21]

7 28 November 2015 Sea of Japan None Failure Reportedly, the missile was fired from a Sinpo-class submarine and did not successfully eject, resulting in damage to the conning tower of the submarine.[21]

Sources further claimed that the cover of the capsule where the missile was placed has been found (By the South Korea authorities)[22]

Within a month, satellite photos of a shipyard at the east coast site of Sinpo suggested that the submarine used in the test remains seaworthy and that development and testing activity of the SLBM may continue. The imagery also showed construction of facilities that could accommodate the building of larger submarines.[23]

8 21 December 2015 Sinpo None Partial Success (North Korea in terms of ejection of missile from 'submarine' when it is from a launch tube) / Failure (South Korea) Successful ejection was reported, with a video showing Kim Jong Un in attendance.[24]

Further analysis of the published video suggested that while the missile was successfully ejected from the launch tube, it exploded upon ignition.[25]

North Korea released footage of the launch in January 2016, which South Korea claimed was manipulated to show a successful test that didn't occur.[26]

This test was from a submerged barge, likely so as not to risk damaging the launch submarine again. Video showed the 10-ton missile firing directly vertical out of the water, unlike the first test that emerged at a distinct angle. The first stage of the engine ignited, but the rest of the footage was inconsistently spliced to give the appearance of continued flight.[27]

9 23 April 2016 Sinpo None Success (North Korea, in terms of demonstrating Cold Launch capability) / Partial Success (South Korea, due to its range to be less than 'expected of' 300 km or more) "Cold Launch" technology and ability to ignite the rocket engine only after the missile was ejected from a submarine to a certain height. However, the missile flew only for a few minutes and the missile was estimated to have flown for about 30 km instead.

The missile range fell short of the expected 300 km range as SLBM minimum. Worldwide media have quickly reported on this new development.[28][29][30][31]

North Korea media claimed success, citing the fact that "the missile was launched from its maximum underwater depth and that its "cold launch" ejection mechanism and high performance engine using solid fuel worked without a hitch, along with its flight controls and warhead release systems." [32]

South Korea military sources reckoned that North Korea is trying to build a new 3,000 ton submarine capable of arming 3 such missiles.[33] The same source also claims that the current Sinpo-class submarine can only launch at about 10 to 15 meters below water's surface,[33] which is much shallower than other, bigger submarines that can launch at around 50 meters and therefore that the Sinpo-class submarines will face higher risk of detection by anti-submarine forces.[33] The United States sources did not make any acknowledgement of or denies this report's credibility.

10 9 July 2016, about 11:30 am Pyongyang Standard Time Sinpo None Partial Failure (Ejection successfully, but exploded within short flight) South Korea claims that the SLBM confirms the missile ejected from the Sinpo-class submarine successfully, but it appeared to have exploded "at an altitude of some 10 kilometers and a distance of merely a few kilometers" after the missile was fired and hence the initial flight was likely a failure.[34] The same report cited the South Korea military, which has also confirmed that North Korea has made progress with the initial undersea ejection stage of the SLBM technology and the Pukkuksong-1 is currently in the flight test stage.[34] South Korea military believes that North Korea might be able to deploy the Pukkuksong-1 by 2019.[34]

The U.S. Strategic Command concluded that the missile from this test fell onto the Sea of Japan. [35]

North Korea is likely to use this test as a way to protest against the United States for 2 decisions made within the previous day.

The 2 decisions by the United States, on 8 July 2016, are:

However, North Korea was silent about the test.

11 24 August 2016, about 5:30 am Pyongyang Standard Time[38] Sinpo None Success (First full range SLBM test that shows success)[39] The missile flew about 500 km and reached Japan's air defense identification zone.[39]

A report noted that this launch comes the same day as foreign ministers of China, Japan and South Korea are scheduled to meet in Tokyo and also two days after arch-rival South Korea and the United States began Ulchi-Freedom Guardian exercise in the South.[39]

As a sidenote, North Korea routinely condemns the biannual military exercises (specifically the annual Ulchi-Freedom Guardian military exercise held every August and the Foal Eagle / Key Resolve joint military exercise held every February to April) as a preparation for invasion and has threatened retaliation.[39]

The experts acknowledged that North Korea's repeated tests shows considerable progress that has raised the possibility of a missile launched in lofted trajectory.[39] The South Korea military later confirmed the launch was indeed in lofted trajectory, without specifying exact apogee, unlike the recent Musudan success flight test..[40]

12 11 February 2017, about 8:00 am Pyongyang Standard Time[41] North Pyongan None Success (Pukkuksong-2)[1]

The report stated that United States and South Korea military were initially trying to determine whether the missile was a Rodong-1 or a modified Musudan missile, with some analysis by Jeffrey Lewis of the Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies suggesting this test be treated as North Korean's test of an ICBM first stage.[41]

However, North Korea announced less than a day later that this is a successful land-based variant, named Pukkuksong-2, a new Korean's nuclear capable strategic weapon that uses high-angle trajectory with due consideration of the safety of neighboring countries.[1]

KCNA also announced that this test is the upgraded, extended-range version of its submarine-launched ballistic missile (see above), which also uses a solid fuel engine, that this allows them to verify a "feature of evading interception," and that this represents "the mobility and operation of the new type missile launching truck".[1]

Military sources from South Korea note that this missile reached an altitude of 550 km (340 miles) and flew a distance of about 500 km, landing off its east coast, towards Japan.

Kim Jong Un recently announced during his New Year's that his country is in the final stages of testing its ICBM.[42]

This launch occurred during a state visit by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the golf resort of President Trump in Florida and also the first missile test under Trump's administration. The two heads of state presented a united front in response. At the White House on Friday, Shinzo Abe called the test absolutely intolerable and said that Trump 'assured me the United States will always stand with Japan 100 percent.' Donald Trump did not mentioned South Korea at all.

As of 2019, there have been no further flight tests.[6]

Strategic implicationsEdit

The Pukkuksong-1 is the first sign of a North Korean sea-based nuclear deterrent, which complicates the U.S. and South Korean ability to preemptively destroy the country's nuclear capabilities by threatening a second strike. While there is a chance to take out land-based nuclear sites, ballistic missile submarines ensure that a retaliatory strike could still be launched before it can be found and neutralized.

North Korea's unique circumstances limit the ways such a capability could be employed. The Korean People's Navy has no nuclear submarines, and no diesel-electric submarines equipped with air independent propulsion (AIP), so the launch submarine's range (and by extension the missile's) is limited and assuredly prevents it from threatening America's western seaboard.

Given their submarines' insufficient power to outrun U.S. Navy nuclear attack submarines and lack of aerial and surface coverage to protect them out to long distances, they cannot venture far out to sea, although a scenario where a missile-equipped sub travels into the Sea of Japan (East Sea of Korea) on a "suicide mission" to fire the Pukkuksong-1 before it expects to inevitably get destroyed is not implausible given the loyalty of the elite crewmen of the submarine force.[6]

A more likely scenario would be deployment along the Korean coastline within North Korean local air and surface cover and silent movement into or out of various hiding spots like bays, inlets, and outer isles before achievement of a pre-designated position, with quiet submerged operation on battery power; because of its finite power capacity, the sub would have to surface or snorkel for air to recharge its batteries if it remains hiding for an extended period, making it vulnerable to anti-submarine warfare (ASW) efforts.[20]

A land based, mobile derivative of the Pukkuksong-1 would significantly complicate U.S, Japan and South Korean defenses. Unlike the liquid fueled Rodong or SCUD derivatives, the solid fueled Pukkuksong-1 can be fired at a much shorter notification time.[43] The North Korean have since achieved this Pukkuksong-2 land-based, mobile derivative of the Pukkuksong-1 milestone in their 12th test of the missile on 12 February 2017.[1]

First completely successful testEdit

On 24 August 2016 at around 5:30 am (Pyongyang Standard Time), North Korea successfully tested the Pukkuksong-1 as the missile flew 500 km into Japan's ADIZ without issue.[39] Unlike the recent successful Musudan flight,[44] KCNA did not officially announce the test until a day later, calling it a great success on the part of Kim Jong Un. The entire development has since been published worldwide.[45][46][47][48][49]

In light of recent development of the Pukkuksong-1, South Korean military sources concluded that the first successful Pukkuksong-1 test was in fact launched in lofted trajectory. This is without confirmation of the actual apogee, and therefore the range could have been at least 1,000 km or more had the missile launched in normal trajectory and could be operationally deployed as early as 2017.[40] Hawkish forces in South Korea have renewed calls for South Korea to construct nuclear submarines to counter North Korea's 'provocation'.[50]

However, the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University rejected South Korean claims that the Pukkuksong-1 could be operationally deployed before 2017, suggesting its initial operational capability will not be achieved before June 2018.[51] Specifically, North Korea still faces significant technological challenges, including building a new class of submarine to carry 3 such missiles at once.[51]

On 30 August 2016, David Wright, a missile expert and co-director of the Union of Concerned Scientists' Global Security Program, suggested that the apogee achieved by this test was 550 km and the range would have been 1,250 km, assuming the same payload on standard trajectory.[3]

On the same day, the South Korean media reported that Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS), since recommends that South Korea deploy 2 batteries of THAAD instead of 1 in order to counter the possibility of North Korea's firing a Pukkuksong-1 outside its 120-degree field of vision.[52][53]

However, Lewis also stressed that it does little to address the possibility of lofted attack, because the missile's reentry in lofted trajectory will be at very high speeds and at a very steep angle, the ability of THAAD interception depending on the missile range. He also noted that THAAD was never field tested against an intermediate-range target or on an unusual angle of attack.[52][53] With this in mind, he ended by suggesting it is time to use diplomatic measures for dissuading North Korea from enhancing such capabilities and defense measures. This is a very ineffective strategy, since North Korea has the ability to use numerous counter-measures for every measures the US and South Korea have.[52][53]

Suspected Chinese involvement in the proliferation of SLBM technologies of North KoreaEdit

On 3 September 2016, US expert Bruce Bechtol, a North Korea expert at Angelo State University, and another South Korean national security researcher, Shin Jong-woo, claimed that China must have provided North Korea with the relevant SLBM technologies, since it took a mere 4 months from the first successful Cold launch Test (23 April 2016) to the first complete test (24 August 2016) and further claimed that the Pukkuksong-1 is a carbon-copy of first China's first SLBM, JL-1.[54] In comparison, China took 15 years to develop JL-1.[54] Bruce Bechtol also stated his analysis is supported by space program expert Tal Inbar of Israel's Fisher Institute.[54] However, Dave Schmerler of the James Martin Center of Non Proliferation Studies noted that the North Korean missile used a single engine design (the JL-1 used 4 engines) and grid fins for flight stability, features not found on the Chinese JL-1, and urged caution in jumping to conclusions. He added that the single-engine design had more in common with the Iranian Sejjil MRBM than the JL-1.[55]

Response from China to alleged proliferation activitiesEdit

On 5 September 2016, the Chinese media refuted the report by citing that the People's Republic of China as a Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty signatory state and stating that one of the permanent members of United Nations Security Council would never proliferate by providing or selling nuclear and missile-related technologies to North Korea (The actual excerpts are as follows: 作为联合国安理会常任理事国、《核不扩散条约》缔约国,中国绝对不会向朝鲜提供或者出售与核武器和弹道导弹相关的装备和技术。.[56]

This report also states that some US experts and think-tanks have all along been irresponsible in making defamatory statements about China, as they unreasonably link North Korea's nuclear capability to China and have sought to use media influence to pressure China. This report does not contain actual evidence of supposed proliferation on China's part. (The actual excerpts read as follows: 一些美国媒体和智库一向很擅长将朝鲜的涉核问题与中国进行无端挂钩,就是希望通过这种方式向中国施压,而这些说法通常没有任何证据,是很不负责任的。)[56]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e "New nuclear-capable missile test a success, North Korea says". 14 February 2017 – via Reuters.
  2. ^ (LEAD) N. Korea claims successful launch of SLBM - Yonhap, 24 April 2016
  3. ^ a b Range of the North Korean KN-11 Sub-Launched Missile - Union of Concerned Scientists
  4. ^ "S. Korea confirms DPRK's development of new missile - Xinhua - English.news.cn". news.xinhuanet.com.
  5. ^ (News Focus) S. Korea building up anti-submarine defense amid North's SLBM advances - Yonhap, 26 April 2016
  6. ^ a b c Vann H. Van Diepen (6 September 2019). "Cutting Through the Hype About the North Korean Ballistic Missile Submarine Threat". 38 North. The Henry L. Stimson Center. Retrieved 15 September 2019.
  7. ^ "KN-11 (Pukkuksong-1) - Missile Threat".
  8. ^ DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 1996 (Senate - August 11, 1995) - FAS, AMENDMENT NO. 2398
  9. ^ a b North Korea Conducts Ejection Test of Sub-Launched Missile - The Washington Free Beacon, November 21, 2014 5:00 am
  10. ^ North Korea Test-Fired Another Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile In December: Report - International Business Times
  11. ^ North Korean Submarine Launches Missile Test - YouTube
  12. ^ DPRK SLBM TEST - Jeffrey Lewis
  13. ^ N.K. continues saber-rattling over holiday - The Korea Herald, 2015-02-22
  14. ^ Bill Gertz "North Korea Conducts Ejection Test of New Submarine Missile" Washington Free Beacon. 5 May 2015.
  15. ^ Joseph S. Bermudez (13 May 2015). "Underwater Test-fire of Korean-style Powerful Strategic Submarine Ballistic Missile". 38 North. U.S.-Korea Institute, Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. Retrieved 19 May 2015.
  16. ^ a b Ankit Panda (10 May 2015). "A First: North Korea Tests 'Polaris-1' SLBM". The Diplomat. Retrieved 19 May 2015.
  17. ^ Anna Fifield (20 May 2015). "North Korea says it has technology to make mini-nuclear weapons". Washington Post. Retrieved 21 May 2015.
  18. ^ stimmekoreas (4 June 2015). "VIDEO of Kim Jong Un watching submarine missile launch! [North Korea]" – via YouTube.
  19. ^ "N. Korea says it tested submarine-launched ballistic missile".
  20. ^ a b Koh Swee Lean Collin, "How to Demolish the North Korean Submarine Missile Threat", The National Interest, 18 May 2015.
  21. ^ a b Ankit Panda, "North Korea's Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile Test Fails" The Diplomat, 30 November 2015.
  22. ^ North Korea's Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile Test Fails - The Diplomat
  23. ^ Institute: N. Korea continues to develop sub missile despite setback - KoreatimesUS.com, 5 January 2016
  24. ^ Bill Gertz (5 Jan 2016). "North Korea Conducts Successful Submarine Missile Test". Free Beacon. Retrieved 10 Jan 2016.
  25. ^ Catherine Dill (12 Jan 2016). "Video Analysis of North Korean SLBM Footage". Armscontrolwonk. Retrieved 13 Jan 2016.
  26. ^ How Far Along Are North Korea's Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles? - Thediplomat.com, 11 January 2016
  27. ^ North Korea Tests a Submerged-Launch Ballistic Missile, Take 3 - Thediplomat.com, 14 January 2016
  28. ^ YTN NEWS (23 April 2016). "북한 동해서 SLBM 1발 발사..."30km 비행" / YTN" – via YouTube.
  29. ^ "- goo ニュース".
  30. ^ "North Korea 'fires submarine-launched ballistic missile'". 23 April 2016 – via www.bbc.com.
  31. ^ "North Korea SLBM launch successful, South Korean source says".
  32. ^ "(LEAD) N. Korea claims successful launch of SLBM".
  33. ^ a b c "(LEAD) N. Korea aims to build new 3,000-ton sub armed with 3 SLBMs: experts".
  34. ^ a b c (3rd LD) N. Korea's latest submarine-launched ballistic missile test unsuccessful: S. Korea - Yonhap, 9 July 2016 14:27 (GMT+9)
  35. ^ North Korea fires submarine-launched missile - USA Today, 9 July 2016 4:58 am EDT
  36. ^ U.S. sanctions North Korean leader for first time over human rights abuses - CNN, 8 July 2016
  37. ^ South Korea, U.S. to deploy THAAD missile defense, drawing China rebuke - Reuters, 8 July 2016 23:41 EDT
  38. ^ "(LEAD) N. Korea test-fires SLBM in waters off east coast: JCS".
  39. ^ a b c d e f North Korea fires submarine-launched ballistic missile toward Japan - Reuters, Aug 23, 2016 9:02pm EDT
  40. ^ a b (2nd LD) N.K. leader calls SLBM launch success, boasts of nuke attack capacity - Yonhap, 25 August 2016 08:17am
  41. ^ a b "North Korea fires ballistic missile, first since Trump elected in U.S."
  42. ^ Kim Jong Un hints at North Korea test of intercontinental ballistic missile, CBS News - January 1, 2017, 8:06 AM
  43. ^ "KN-11 and THAAD".
  44. ^ Kim Jong Un Guides Strategic Submarine Underwater Ballistic Missile Test-fire - KCNAWatch, A user friendly interface for viewing NK media
  45. ^ North Korea’s latest ballistic missile launch reveals its alarming progress - Business Insider Singapore, 24 Aug 2016 8:50pm
  46. ^ Kim Jong Un declara lançamento de míssil de submarino 'o maior sucesso' - Globo, 24 Aug 2016 8:35pm
  47. ^ Corée du Nord: le tir de missile a été un immense succès, affirme Kim Jong-Un - Romandie, 25 Aug 2016 1:07am
  48. ^ Triều Tiên phóng tên lửa đạn đạo từ tàu ngầm về hướng Nhật - PLO, 24 Aug 2016 7:44pm
  49. ^ North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un says latest missile test was 'greatest success': KCNA - Straits Times, 25 Aug 2016 08:15am
  50. ^ Saenuri hawks renew call for nuclear submarine after NK SLBM launch - The Korea Herald, 29 Aug 2016
  51. ^ a b North Korea submarine missiles not ready until 2018: Experts - The Straits Times, 27 Aug 2016 5:09PM Singapore Standard Time
  52. ^ a b c Two THAAD batteries necessary for S. Korea to better defend against N.K. SLBMs: U.S. expert - Yonhap, 30 Aug 2016 02:01
  53. ^ a b c US expert says THAAD can’t intercept North Korea’s SLBM - The Hankyoreh, 31 Aug 2016 16:08 Korean Standard Time
  54. ^ a b c Experts Suspect Chinese Assistance in N. Korean Submarine Missile Development - KBS World Radio, 3 Sep 2016 14:51:54
  55. ^ https://www.nknews.org/pro/what-did-we-learn-from-north-koreas-latest-kn-11-test/
  56. ^ a b 韩媒妄称朝潜射导弹与巨浪1完全一样 我军专家驳斥 (South Korean media thinking that the North Korean SLBM is the exact carbon copy of Julang-1 China military experts refute) - In Chinese language only - 5 September 2016, 09:01 GMT+8

External linksEdit