Articles

Here's an inside look at North Korea's ballistic missile inventory

North Korea's been carrying out a lot of missile tests. And according to the latest info, April 16's test was another flop. So, what are we looking at with these launches? What is being tested?


The fact is, the North Koreans have been really making a lot of missiles. So, here's a scorecard to tell the Nodongs from the Taepodongs (which sound like the names of villains from an adult film starring Jay Voom).

Map showing the ranges some North Korean ballistic missiles can reach. (Graphic from Wikimedia Commons)

North Korea's missile inventory started out with the Scud – that V-2 knockoff the Soviets produced and then exported to their allies and a lot of the globe's most disreputable citizens, including Saddam Hussein, Moammar Qaddafi, the Hafez al-Assad regime (where they were passed down to Bashir al-Assad), and the Iranians.

North Korea developed advanced versions of the Scud, known as the Hwasong-5, Hwadong-6, and Hwasong-7 missiles. These missiles were widely exported from Cuba to Myanmar. The Center for Strategic and International Studies notes that the Hwasong-5 has a range of 186 miles, and can deliver 2,170 pounds of explosives. The Hwasong-6 and Hwasong-7 are longer-range variants that trade payload for more range.

Syria owns Scud-B, Scud-C, Scud-D, and variants of the Hwasong missile (similar to the North Korean variant pictured here). (Photo: KCNA)

Bad enough, right? Well, the North Koreans didn't leave well enough alone. They made an improved version that South Korean and American media called the Nodong. The Nodong is a modified Scud able to send 2,750 pounds of high explosive warhead almost 1,000 miles away, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

North Korea's been developing other missiles, including the Taepo-dong series. The Taepo-dong 1 is a missile with a range of up to 3,106 miles. The Taepo-dong 2 is an ICBM able to reach over 9,300 miles away.

Center for Strategic and International Studies/Missile Defense Project

The North Koreans are also developing the KN-08, a road-mobile ICBM, with a range of almost 7,150 miles, and the KN-14, a regular ICBM with a range of over 6,200 miles. Shorter-range missiles are also in development, including the KN-15, which blew less than 15 seconds into its launch on April 15 of this year, and the BM-25 Musudan.

Of course, North Korea's had problems getting its Nodongs up recently so, this scorecard could be subject to change. But this should give you a rough roadmap to the North Korean missiles that they may – or may not – get up in the future.