CNS Occasional Papers: #2

A History of Ballistic Missile Development in the DPRK


Reorganization of the Missile Program

The Hwasong 5 provided the DPRK with its first ballistic missile capability, but its modest range did not provide the capability to strike at the entire ROK—a MPAF requirement. To address this limitation, the DPRK initiated development of an extended-range variant of the Hwasong 5 to be known as the Hwasong 6.

By 1989, a number of factors converged and prompted the DPRK leadership to establish comprehensive, long-term requirements for the ballistic missile program. These factors included:

  • the end of the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, which allowed resources previously engaged in Hwasong 5 production to be refocused on other projects;

  • the DPRK’s desire to strike at targets in the southernmost sections of the ROK and at US bases in Japan;

  • the DPRK’s desire to eventually develop a true strategic missile force capable of striking US targets throughout East Asia and the continental United States;

  • the increase in international prestige associated with the acquisition and production of ballistic missiles, which held a strong allure for the DPRK leadership;

  • the legacy of the “War of the Cities” combined with ongoing Iraqi missile developments (e.g., al-Abbas, al-Abid, etc.), which led to Iranian interest in missiles with greater range than the Hwasong 5; and

  • The DPRK’s long-standing involvement with Egypt in an effort to produce an improved R-17E.

As a result of these factors, the DPRK established long-term requirements that called for more ambitious missile systems based, not upon the technical capabilities of the missile infrastructure, but upon targets which the leadership desired to be able to strike (see Table 2).(67)

In this regard, the DPRK followed the PRC’s example of basing missile-development goals on target ranges.(68) Whether the DPRK defined its requirements at once or over a period of several years is unclear, but they were in place by 1990. These range requirements led to the reorganization of the missile program into four distinct, but interrelated, projects.

The easiest project technically, and thus the one that could be brought to completion in the shortest amount of time, was already underway in the form of the Hwasong 6. This effort would entail only minor modifications to the basic Hwasong 5 system. The more complicated and thus longer term projects involved design of completely new missiles based upon experience gained in refining Scud technologies for the Hwasong 5/6 programs. The first “new” missile would become known as the No-dong in the West. The No-dong itself became the basis for the development of two more advanced and more capable systems—the Taep’o-dong 1 and Taep’o-dong 2. A space launch vehicle (SLV) would also be developed from the Taep’o-dong 1. Iran was the primary financial backer for all these projects.

By the early 1990s, the FROG battalions were reorganized into a brigade subordinate to the Artillery Command. Whether this change was related to the reorganization of the ballistic missile program is unclear.

Hwasong 6 (a.k.a., Scud Mod. C, Scud C, Scud PIP)

It is uncertain whether an extended-range variant of the R-17E was an initial goal of the DPRK from the inception of the ballistic missile program. By 1987-1988, however, work on such a system—to be known as the Hwasong 6—had begun. The Hwasong 6 became the first design and production milestone of the DPRK’s reorganized ballistic missile program.(69)

Table 2. Ballistic Missile Range Objectives


Range Required

The entire ROK

500 km

US bases in Japan and major Japanese cities

1,000-1,500 km

US bases in East Asia

1,500-2,500 km

US bases in Alaska and Pacific Ocean

4,000-6,000 km

Continental US

6,000+ km

DPRK engineers quickly achieved their goals by making only minor modifications to the basic Hwasong 5. Chief among these changes were reduction of the warhead weight from 1,000 kg to 770 kg, and lightening of the airframe through use of a special stainless steel imported from the Soviet Union (and later from Russia).(70) A modified inertial guidance system was also used. The resulting missile is almost identical in size to the Hwasong 5, being 11.3-m long, with a .884-m diameter, and a weight of just under 6 tonnes. Yet the Hwasong 6 has a range of 500 km—sufficient to strike any target within the ROK, including the southern island of Cheju-do. The Hwasong 6 benefited from warhead research conducted under the Hwasong 5 program and thus could be armed with HE, chemical, and cluster warheads.(71) Early concerns that the Hwasong 6 would be armed with a nuclear warhead appear to have been premature. Although the DPRK could theoretically have designed and mounted a nuclear warhead on the Hwasong 6 for a contingency capability, it appears that the No-dong discussed below was the first missile intended to carry a nuclear warhead.(72)

Low-rate series production of the Hwasong 6 is believed to have begun in 1989, and the first systems became operational the same year. Full-scale production followed in 1990 or 1991. Production rates for the Hwasong 6 are believed to have averaged four to five missiles per month, with production continuing through the late 1990s. The Hwasong 6 likely superceded the Hwasong 5 on the production lines; in turn, Hwasong 6 production was either reduced or superceded by No-dong production. There appear to be several sub-models of the Hwasong 6, although details of these are unknown. The guidance system is believed to have given the DPRK considerable (though unspecified) difficulties and has undergone several updates. Some Hwasong 5s may have subsequently been remanufactured to Hwasong 6 standards.

It is estimated that by the end of 1999, the DPRK will have produced a total of 600 to 1,000 Hwasong 5/6 missiles. Of these, approximately 300 to 500 were sold to foreign countries; 25 were used for initial operations, tests, and evaluation/training; and approximately 300 to 600 are in current inventory.

Complementing Hwasong 6 missile development were efforts to produce TELs, and to expand the Musudan-ri Launch Facility and missile support infrastructure. DPRK engineers slightly modified the support arms of existing TELs to accommodate the Hwasong 6 (possibly due to a different center of gravity).(73) Many of the original Soviet-produced components in the TELs were replaced by commercially available equivalents (e.g., the auxiliary power units were replaced by commercial Mitsubishi units).

Meanwhile, the DPRK tried to obtain additional MAZ-543 chassis, TELs, and spare parts from the Soviet Union (later Russia), Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and other countries. Apparently, due to the difficulty in obtaining additional complete MAZ-543 TELs, the DPRK decided to produce its own copy of the vehicle. All TEL developments, along with other launch vehicle-related work, were apparently undertaken with the support of the Sungni General Automotive Factory and Second Machine Industry Bureau. The DPRK also produced a small range of missile support vehicles. The Musudan-ri Launch Facility continued to expand with the construction of new launch towers and the development of ground-support equipment.(74) The similarity of some of these developments to PRC designs has sometimes led to erroneous speculation that the equipment and the No-dong missile were based on PRC designs, or were built with PRC assistance. Finally, during the mid-1980s construction of hardened (i.e., underground) missile facilities throughout the country was initiated.

The timing of the Hwasong 6 development is interesting in that it occurred almost simultaneously with Iraq’s development of its extended-range variant of the Scud B—the al-Husayn. It is probable that the Iranians provided the DPRK with technical intelligence concerning the Iraqi systems, including access to wreckage recovered from al-Husayn attacks on Tehran during the 1988 “War of the Cities.” The Hwasong 6 program, however, did not directly benefit from the al-Husayn, and reports suggesting that it was a copy of the al-Husayn are incorrect.(75)

To date there have been five Hwasong 6 test launches, all of them apparently successful. The first test occurred in June 1990 from the Musudan-ri Launch Facility.(76) Given the difficulties encountered in developing new guidance systems, there is a strong possibility that this first test either included a slightly modified Hwasong 5 guidance system (i.e., changes to the Pendulous Integrating Gyro Accelerometer, or PIGA) or engineers simply used a timer to control engine shutoff. In July 1991, a second Hwasong 6 was test launched. This time, however, the missile was fired from an indigenously produced TEL at a forward KPA base in Kangwon-do Province (which encompasses the I and V Corps deployed along the DMZ). The missile flew northeast and impacted in the East Sea.(77) In late May 1993, the DPRK launched three Hwasong 6 missiles and one No-dong missile, its most important missile test event to that date. In addition to Hwasong 6 tests in the DPRK, Syria and Iran have carried out an ongoing series of Hwasong tests focused primarily on operational readiness and troop training. To date, four of these tests have been publicly revealed: three Syrian (July 1992 and mid-1994) and one Iranian (May 1991).(78)

By 1991 the Hwasong missile regiment had been expanded to an estimated 27 to 30 TELs and was equipped with a mixture of Hwasong 5 and 6 missiles. This regiment was under the direct control of the General Staff Department.(79) The regiment is believed to be headquartered in the Chiha-ri area (approximately 85 km southeast of P’yongyang and 50 km north of the DMZ). Individual missile battalions are deployed nearby in separate bases. The regiment’s technical support battalion is also reported to be at Chiha-ri.(80) By the early 1990s, the infrastructure built to support the regiment had two to three times the number of hardened bunkers required to house all the unit’s TELs and support vehicles.(81)

The Hwasong 6 regiment probably consists of a headquarters (staff, rear services company, communications company), missile technical battalion, air defense company, and four to five launch battalions. Each launch battalion has six TELs or mobile-erector-launchers (MELs) and approximately 175 personnel organized into a headquarters and three firing batteries. The headquarters consists of a small staff, technical, communications, and rear services platoons, a meteorological section with a RVS-1 Malakhit (bread bin) meteorological data receiver, and a survey section. Each firing battery consists of two launcher sections, each with one TEL, and an air defense section with SA-7/14 SAMs. Any independent launch battalions are probably configured in a similar manner, but may have larger support units.(82)

Foreign Developments

In late 1990, Iran and the DPRK concluded several new agreements. These provided for an Iranian purchase of the Hwasong 6 and associated TELs, and DPRK assistance with the conversion of a missile-maintenance facility to give Iran the ability to assemble and later to manufacture the Hwasong 6. Beginning in January 1991, US intelligence tracked shipments of Hwasong 6 missiles, TELs, and related equipment on their way to Iran. The exact number of missiles acquired by the Iranians is not known, but a total of 60 has been suggested.(83) Within Iran, the Hwasong 6 is known as the Shehab 2. In May 1991, US satellites observed the test launch of a Shehab 2/Hwasong 6 missile from a DPRK-produced TEL near the city of Qom.(84) It is probable that the test was conducted in conjunction with DPRK advisors or observers. The missile flew 500 km before impacting south of Shahroud in the Dasht-e Kavir (Salt Desert) where Iran has a major missile test facility. Iran likely monitored the test from a tracking station located near the town of Tabas. Both the missile test facility at Shahroud and the tracking station at Tabas were constructed, in part, with DPRK assistance.(85) Deliveries of Hwasong 6 missiles and support equipment are known to have continued through 1995. In late 1994 or early 1995, Iran “received at least four” Hwasong 6 TELs from the DPRK that may have been delivered by air.(86)

The 1990 DPRK-Iran agreements were soon followed by a DPRK-Syria agreement. For several years, Damascus sought to acquire the R-400 Oka (SS-23 spider) from the Soviet Union. These efforts failed, and Syria then turned to the DPRK for Hwasong 6 missiles, TELs, and production technology. The agreement signed between the DPRK and Syria was financially and materially supported by Iran and the PRC. Deliveries of an estimated 60 missiles and 12 TELs began in April 1991 and continued through at least 1995. A number of these deliveries were by air, using private contractors flying An-124 Ruslan heavy transports. The Syrians experienced significant problems with the Hwasong 6 guidance system that were apparently never resolved with the DPRK. Syria therefore turned to the PRC, which provided replacements or upgrades. The DPRK, with assistance from Iran and the PRC, also assisted Syria in the construction of Hwasong 6 production facilities near Aleppo and Hamah.(87)

Syria has conducted a small number of Hwasong 6 launches. The first, at the end of July 1991, consisted of two Hwasong 6s just before the missiles became operational.(88) Syria conducted a second Hwasong 6 test in mid-1994.(89) In November 1994, the DPRK delivered Hwasong 6 cluster warheads to Syria. That same month, Damascus test fired the Hwasong 6, although with a conventional warhead. Three years later, in early 1997, Syria conducted several missile tests. Although most are believed to have been R-17s, it is possible that several were Hwasong 6 launches.(90) It is believed that all these tests were intended to verify missile reliability and to train Syrian missile troops. Missile cooperation between Damascus and P’yongyang has continued throughout the 1990s. For example, in 1996, a group of Syrian missile technicians reportedly traveled to the DPRK for two weeks.(91) In 1999, the DPRK provided Syria with 10 tonnes of powdered aluminum originally purchased from the PRC. This powdered aluminum was reportedly delivered to the Centre des Etudes et de Recherche Scientifique (CERS, Scientific Studies and Research Center)—the agency which oversees Syria’s missile and chemical weapons programs.(92)

Egypt’s participation in the Hwasong 6 effort appears to have been as a purchaser of technology rather than as a co-developer. With the failure of the “Condor II” project (known as Vector in Egypt) in late 1989, the Hwasong 6 assumed a higher level of importance for Cairo. In May 1990, shortly before the first test launch of the Hwasong 6, President Hosni Mubarak visited P’yongyang. While in the DPRK capital, he is believed to have visited the 125 Factory where the Hwasong 6 is assembled. Although Egypt is not known to have received entire Hwasong 6 missiles from the DPRK, it has received Hwasong 6 components and related technologies.(93)

In 1998 or 1999, Vietnam is reported to have obtained a small number of Hwasong 6 missiles as part of an arms agreement with the DPRK that included two sang-o class coastal submarines and DPRK produced 9K310 Igla 1 (SA-16 gimlet) SAMs. The exact number of Hwasong 6s obtained and whether the arms agreement included TELs are presently unknown.(94)

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Libya has both pursued its indigenous al-Fatah missile program and provided varying levels of financing to the DPRK missile program. Although this financing has been primarily in support of the Syrian and Iranian missile programs, Libya has also purchased DPRK missile components and technology. DPRK components and technology have been used to maintain Libya’s existing R-17s and incorporated into the al-Fatah and possibly other missile programs. While there have been numerous reports indicating Libyan interest in purchasing the Hwasong 6, none are known to have been delivered.(95)

During the 1990s, the DPRK’s relations with Sudan have grown steadily closer (probably as a result of growing Iranian-Sudanese relations). During 1998-1999, the DPRK is reported to have offered to sell Sudan a complete production facility for the manufacture of the Hwasong 5/6. The status of this offer is presently unknown.(96)

It is estimated that between 1987 and 1992, the DPRK exported 250 missiles and related technology worth $580 million to Egypt, Iran, Libya, and Syria. Hwasong 5 and Hwasong 6 missiles are estimated to cost $1.5 to $2 million apiece.(97)

No-dong (a.k.a., No-dong 1, Rodong 1, Scud Mod. D, Scud D)(98)

Work on what would eventually become known in the West as the No-dong (the DPRK name is unknown) is believed to have begun in 1988, shortly after the DPRK began its Hwasong 6 efforts. There appear to have been three primary design objectives for the No-dong. The first was to design a ballistic missile that could deliver a 1,000- to 1,500-kg warhead to a range of 1,000 to 1,500 km, enough to strike targets throughout Japan, including US bases on Okinawa. The second goal was to develop a “base” missile system (and related technologies) that could be used as a core, or first stage for even longer range ballistic missiles. The final objective was to design a ballistic missile with the capability to deliver a first-generation nuclear weapon.(99)

To achieve the ambitious range and payload objectives with the technology base available to the DPRK, the decision was made to scale-up the existing Hwasong 6 design by 150 percent. The resulting missile is 16-m long, has a diameter of 1.32 m, and weighs approximately 16 tonnes. It can carry either a 1,200-kg warhead to a range of 1,350 km or a 1,000-kg warhead to a range of 1,500 km.(100) While this scale-up expedient would be sufficient for the airframe and warhead, designing and building a new engine and guidance system provided a greater challenge. To address these difficult issues, the DPRK secured the services of foreign engineers, most notably from Russia, Ukraine, and the PRC. Because No-dong presented new complexities in missile design and manufacture for the DPRK, progress came at a considerably slower rate than was the case for the Hwasong 5/6 programs.

The new No-dong required a more powerful engine than the DPRK-produced version of the Isayev 9D21 found in the Hwasong 5/6. Following the pattern established with the airframe, DPRK engineers scaled up their existing Isayev 9D21 copy. This work was accomplished with the assistance of Russian engineers formerly with the Makeyev design bureau in Miass. Although design of the new engine proceeded relatively quickly, there appear to have been problems with its manufacture, notably in the areas of quality control and the acquisition of special materials. No-dong engines undoubtedly incorporate a number of foreign-produced components. Reports stating that the No-dong engine consists of four clustered Scud B engines are incorrect.(101)

The No-dong’s guidance system is apparently a version of the guidance set used in the Hwasong 5/6. It is believed, however, that the DPRK received foreign assistance in adapting it for use in the No-dong. This guidance system has apparently undergone several development cycles aimed at improving both reliability and accuracy, and later models are probably significantly different, and more accurate, than those produced early in the program. There are concerns that this system may be modified to incorporate Global Positioning Satellites (GPS) to further improve accuracy.(102) At present, there are no reliable CEP estimates for the No-dong.

Estimates concerning the size and nature of the No-dong warhead have varied considerably. Information that became available in 1998 indicates the No-dong is capable of carrying a 1,200-kg warhead. Following the lead of the Hwasong 5/6 program, it is probable that the No-dong can be armed with HE, cluster, chemical, or possibly biological warheads.(103) More significantly, and given what is known about the DPRK’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, it appears that the No-dong was intended to carry a first-generation nuclear warhead.(104)

In May 1990, US intelligence observed what appears to have been the first prototype No-dong on a launch pad at the Musudan-ri Launch Facility, although no missile launch was detected.(105) Subsequent photographs revealed burn marks at the launch site leading to the assumption that there may have been a catastrophic failure of the missile during a test. In November of the same year, the DPRK initiated preparations for a second missile test. These preparations were accompanied by increased Korean People’s Navy (KPN) activity along the east coast and vessels were positioned to track the missile’s flight over the East Sea. US Navy radar tracking ships positioned in the East Sea, however, detected no launch.(106) It was not until June 1992 that any further test activity associated with the No-dong program was detected, when Japanese military sources indicated that a second launch cancellation or failure occurred.

In May 1993, the DPRK launched four missiles—three Hwasong 5/6 and one No-dong—its largest ballistic missile test event to date. US intelligence first detected preparations for a test launch in late April. Activity at the Musudan-ri Launch Facility was far more significant than had been previously observed and included the assembly of loading cranes and TELs (and possibly MELs), and modification of launch towers to accommodate a larger missile. These activities were accompanied by an increased level of KPN activities at Ch’ongjin and other ports along the east coast. On May 29, the test launches began and continued the following day. All four missiles were apparently aimed at target buoys in the East Sea and along an azimuth facing Japan’s Noto Peninsula.

In these tests, the No-dong traveled the farthest—500 km—over-flying the KPN tracking ships. One Hwasong 5/6 traveled 100 km, while the remaining two fell short of the 100-km mark. No telemetry data were detected from any of the missiles.(107) While some analysts have speculated that the missiles’ ranges were intentionally reduced to secrete the No-dong among the Hwasong 5/6s being tested, this does not explain why all the missiles were not launched to a range of 500 km. Although reduced ranges suggest a failure, it is also possible that range was intentionally restricted to test the accuracy of the missiles at shorter ranges, or to test other performance characteristics. Absence of telemetry data is intriguing given the limited number of missile tests conducted throughout the DPRK program.

One final aspect of the May 1993 launches is of interest—the presence of Iranian and Pakistani observers at the tests.(108) In March 1993, an Iranian delegation traveled to P’yongyang to discuss ballistic missile-related cooperation and the No-dong, while Pakistani interest in the No-dong dates to the early 1990s (see below). In August 1992, DPRK Deputy Premier-Foreign Minister Kim Yong-nam had traveled to Pakistan to discuss, among other matters, missile cooperation and the No-dong.(109) These visits had set the stage for observer teams from Iran and Pakistan to be present at the Musudan-ri Launch Facility for the May 1993 test event.(110)

During late April 1994, US intelligence again detected preparations at the Musudan-ri Launch Facility and increased KPN activities for what was believed to be a production series No-dong test. However, all activity ceased without explanation. The cancellation of this test was apparently in response to the very sensitive and intense US-DPRK nuclear negotiations then underway in Geneva. The DPRK has not conducted any further flight testing of the No-dong although another flight test had been planned for October 1996, but was cancelled.(111)

Concurrent with missile system development, the DPRK undertook a number of programs to design and develop support vehicles, and to expand the basing and deployment infrastructure. Due to the No-dong’s large size and greater weight, it could not use Hwasong 5/6 TELs and transport vehicles. This led to the development of a number of system-specific vehicles, including a new MEL and a missile transport vehicle.(112) A decoy launch vehicle was also produced.(113) Vehicle-related work probably has been performed in cooperation with the Sungni General Automotive Factory. Reports suggest that the DPRK currently uses IVECO heavy-duty trucks manufactured by Fiat in Italy for the MEL chassis, and cranes manufactured by the Austrian company Palfinger AG.(114) The increased size of the No-dong required changes to the DPRK’s deployment and support infrastructure: storage tunnels and fuel depots needed to be enlarged, and access roads widened. More significantly, the ambitious construction program for specialized and hardened missile tunnels and launch facilities continued.(115)

Estimates vary considerably both for the No-dong’s operational dates and production numbers. Small numbers of prototypes were apparently built in 1989 and 1990. Low-rate production had begun by January 1991, and a small number of missiles were available for contingency use shortly afterwards (the DPRK apparently accepted a low level of reliability and readiness in order to field the systems more quickly). It probably was not until 1993 or 1994, however, that the system was produced and fielded in sufficient numbers to be considered truly operational.(116) Production rates for the No-dong appear to have averaged two to four per month, and production has occurred concurrently with that of the Hwasong 6. It is likely that Hwasong 6 manufacture will be phased out completely when the Taep’o-dong 1 comes into production. By the end of 1999, the DPRK will have produced an estimated 75 to 150 No-dong missiles. Of these, 24 to 50 were sold to foreign countries; up to five were used for initial operations, test, and evaluation/training; and 50 to 100 are in current inventory.

To facilitate the operational deployment of the No-dong, the DPRK transferred experienced personnel from the Hwasong 5/6 regiment to a newly formed, independent No-dong battalion. The organization of this battalion is probably similar to that of Hwasong 5/6 battalions, although some reports suggest that it is equipped with six to nine TELs. Published reports suggest that a base for an independent No-dong battalion, with six TELs, is now being constructed near Yongo-dong, Yanggang-do.

During the late 1990s, the DPRK undertook a major reorganization of its FROG and ballistic missile forces and established a ballistic missile division directly subordinate to the General Staff Department. The organization of this division is unclear, but it is known to consist of the FROG brigade (previously subordinate to the Artillery Command), Hwasong 5/6 regiment, and the No-dong battalion. Administration and support units probably consist of a headquarters (staff and rear services), communications battalion, missile technical battalion, air defense battalion, engineer battalion, and a nuclear-chemical defense company.(117)

Pakistan’s Ghauri (Hatf V) and Ghauri 2

The Pakistan-DPRK missile relationship dates to the late 1980s. In December 1988, Benazir Bhutto became prime minister of Pakistan and threw her full support behind the acquisition of PRC ballistic missiles and expanded Pakistan-DPRK missile and nuclear cooperation. One example of this was the Pakistani visit to the 125 Factory in P’yongyang (and possibly the Sanum-dong military research-and-development facility) to examine the No-dong. This visit may have been related to the June 1992 failed, or cancelled, No-dong test.(118) The following month, DPRK Deputy Premier-Foreign Minister Kim Yong-nam traveled to Syria (July 27-30), Iran (July 30-August 3), and Pakistan (August 4-7) to discuss a number of issues, including missile cooperation and DPRK sales of Hwasong 6 and possibly No-dong missiles.(119) Pakistani and Iranian specialists are believed to have been present for the DPRK’s May 29-30, 1993 tests.(120)

In December 1993, two months after she was re-elected as prime minister, Benazir Bhutto traveled to the PRC and DPRK. Although she publicly denied it, subsequent events indicate that she was seeking, among other items, increased cooperation in ballistic missile development and, in particular, a system capable of striking strategic Indian targets.(121) Shortly afterwards, Pakistan established a ballistic missile project to purchase and manufacture the No-dong missile—known in Pakistan as the Ghauri (Hatf V). (122)

With the agreement on a missile project came accelerated Pakistan-DPRK political, scientific, and missile cooperation. In April 1994, a DPRK Foreign Ministry delegation headed by Pak Chung-kuk traveled to Iran and Pakistan.(123) In September of the same year, another delegation led by Choe Hui-chong, chairman of the State Commission of Science and Technology, traveled to Pakistan.(124) In late November 1995, a DPRK military delegation led by Marshal Choe Kwang (vice-chairman of the National Defense Commission and minister of the People’s Armed Forces) traveled to Pakistan. There he met with Pakistani President Sardar Leghari, Defense Minister Aftab Shaban Mirani, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Chief of Naval Operations, Commander of the Air Force, and various other military officials. Choe is also believed to have visited the missile-related production facilities in the Faisalabad–Lahore area and possibly even Jhelum (the area from which Ghauri was subsequently launched).(125) Choe is believed to have finalized an agreement to provide Pakistan with key components from either the No-dong or Taep’o-dong programs, about 12 to 25 No-dong missiles, and at least one TEL or MEL.(126)

The agreed items were produced by the Fourth Machine Industry Bureau of the Second Economic Committee and a majority are believed to have been delivered to the Khan Research Laboratories at Kahuta in the spring of 1996 by the Changgwang Sinyong Corporation (a.k.a., North Korea Mining Development Trading Corporation/Bureau).(127) On April 24, 1998, the US State Department imposed sanctions against both the Khan Research Laboratories and Changgwang Sinyong Corporation.(128) This was the second time that the State Department imposed sanctions against the Khan Research Laboratories.(129) The Changgwang Sinyong Corporation was the same organization responsible for supplying Iran with DPRK missile technologies, components, and missiles during the mid-1990s. Changgwang and the Iranian Ministry of Defense Armed Forces Logistics and State Purchasing Office were subsequently placed under US State Department sanctions in June 1996.(130)

On April 6, 1998, Pakistan conducted its first test of the Ghauri, which it claimed had a range of 1,500 km. While Pakistan has stated publicly that the missile was designed and produced indigenously it was, in fact, a DPRK-produced No-dong launched from a MEL. This was the second test of a No-dong, and it is believed that DPRK observers were present. On April 14, 1999, Pakistan tested what it called the Ghauri 2, which it claimed had a range of 2,000 km; again this was a DPRK-produced No-dong, making this Pakistani launch the fourth test of this DPRK missile system.

Since the flight tests of the Ghauri and Ghauri 2, there have been numerous Pakistani statements indicating that it is developing three more-capable ballistic missiles—the Ghaznavi, Abdali, and Shaheen. The status of these programs and the extent of DPRK involvement are unclear.

Iran’s Shehab 3

Iran has participated in the No-dong program since its inception. This participation led directly to Iran’s establishment of the Shehab 3 program, which apparently began in 1988, roughly the same date as the start of the No-dong project.

In March 1993, a 21-member Iranian delegation traveled to P’yongyang.(131) This delegation was led by Brigadier General Hossein Mantequei, then director of the Defense Industries Organization (a body responsible for Iran’s ballistic missile development and production program under a project known as “Department 140”).(132) The purpose of the visit was reportedly to discuss missile-related cooperation, arrangements for Iranian participation in the forthcoming No-dong test, and the purchase of No-dong missiles. In February 1994, KPAF commander General Cho Myong-rok visited Iran with a 29-member delegation of military and nuclear experts and toured the missile test site at Shahroud.(133)

Delivery of either No-dong components or a small number of completed missiles is believed to have occurred in mid- to late-1994. Sometime during late 1994 or early 1995, the DPRK also provided four TELs. While these are believed to have been for the Hwasong 6, it is possible that a No-dong MEL was included with the shipment. Further deliveries continued at a very slow rate for approximately one year, until funding and other problems resulted in their halt. By 1997 low-level deliveries appear to have resumed.(134)

There were a number of quality, technical, and production issues to be resolved with the new missiles and components. These problems slowed shipments of missiles from the DPRK, introduction of the missiles into Iranian service, and the startup of Iranian production. It has been suggested that the Iranians were not pleased with the overall progress of the No-dong program and that the problems they encountered with the newly delivered missiles exacerbated this sentiment. This may have led to a decision to replace a number of the missile’s subsystems with technology acquired from Russian sources and to focus longer range missile projects (e.g., Shehab 4) on Russian technology rather than on the DPRK’s developmental Taep’o-dong.(135) At present, there is no reliable information detailing the type of components and number of No-dong missiles that the DPRK provided to Iran. Some sources suggest that there was an agreement for 150 missiles, but this number seems to be excessive.(136)

On July 22, 1998, Iran conducted its first test of the Shehab 3 (the third test of a No-dong). This missile is believed to have been an Iranian-assembled No-dong with few, if any, local internal modifications. The missile flew for approximately 100 seconds before exploding. If this were an accidental explosion, it would suggest that the problems the Iranians had noted earlier may not have been resolved. Regardless, the Iranians may follow the DPRK lead and deploy the system in spite of problems. Like the earlier test of the Ghauri, DPRK observers are believed to have been present for the Shehab 3 test.(137)

Further development of the No-dong/Shehab 3 system is being undertaken cooperatively by the Iranians and the DPRK. It is believed, however, that production versions of the missile will incorporate increasing levels of Russian, and possibly PRC, technologies or components.(138) If this trend continues, it could result in a missile that is significantly different from the DPRK-produced No-dong.

Iranian-DPRK Shehab 3 cooperation may have also extended into space launch vehicles. In August 1998, Iranian television showed what appeared to be a mock-up of a clam-shell nosecone with a small satellite inside and a model of a space launch vehicle with a bulbous payload section, apparently based upon the Shehab 3.(139)

Egypt, Libya, and Syria

Throughout the 1990s, there have been reports that Egypt, Libya, and Syria have been interested in obtaining or producing the No-dong. To date, there are no known sales of complete missile systems to any of the three countries.

Egypt’s involvement in the No-dong program is believed to be limited to the acquisition of No-dong-related technology or components. It continues to cooperate with the DPRK in a broad range of ballistic missile development activities. For example, in July 1999, the DPRK shipped Egypt specialty steel—with missile applications—through a PRC company in Hong Kong. Meanwhile, missile technicians continue to travel between the two countries.(140)

Although Syria appears to be satisfied with its current Hwasong 6 capabilities, it is believed that Damascus would also like to obtain a small number of No-dong missiles. The 1996 visit to the DPRK by a delegation of Syrian missile technicians, while primarily concerned with the Hwasong 6 program, may also have been related to Syrian interest in the No-dong.(141)

Libya has probably received No-dong components and technology. There have also been reports indicating the development of a joint DPRK-Libyan missile test facility in Libya. This, however, remains to be verified.(142)

Taep’o-dong 1 (a.k.a., No-dong 2, Rodong 2, Scud Mod. E, Scud X), Taep’o-dong 1 SLV, Taep’o-dong 2 (a.k.a., No-dong 3)

During the early 1990s, the DPRK initiated development of two ballistic missile systems that would become known in the West as the Taep’o-dong 1 and Taep’o-dong 2 (the DPRK designators are unknown).(143) Taep’o-dong 1 design objectives were apparently for a system that could deliver a 1,000 to 1,500-kg warhead to a range of 1,500 to 2,500 km; Taep’o-dong 2 is intended to carry the same warhead to 4,000 to 8,000 km.(144)

Table 3. DPRK Ballistic Missile Characteristics [a]


(Alternate names)

Max. Range


















1,000 [d]






Scud B









Hwasong 5 Prototype

(Scud Mod. A)








Hwasong 5

(Scud Mod. B, Scud B)








Hwasong 6

(Scud Mod. C, Scud C, Scud PIP)


770 [e]








(No-dong 1, Rodong 1, Scud Mod. D, Scud D,)

1,350 [f]

1,500 [f]








Taep’o-dong 1

(Daep’o-dong 1, No-dong 2, Scud X, Scud Mod. E, Rodong 2)

2,500 [g]









Taep’o-dong 1 SLV

4,000 [h]









Taep’o-dong 2
(Daep’o-dong 2, No-dong 3)

6,700 [i]










(Three Stage Taep’o-dong 2)
(Taep’o-dong 3)









a. Figures for all DPRK-produced systems are based upon the best “open source” information currently available and should be regarded as provisional.

b. Figures are for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd stages, respectively. The 2nd stage figures include the interstage assembly.

c. DPRK IOC: Initial operational capability. The DPRK places missile systems into service decidedly earlier in their development phase than do most other nations.

d. The PRC planned a domestic version with a 1,000-km range and a 500-kg nuclear warhead.

e. Several sources suggest that the Hwasong 6 warhead weighs 700 kg.

f. The 1,350-km figure is derived from Iranian information for the Shehab 3 which “…can carry at least 1,200 kilos of explosives…;” the 1,500-km figure is based upon Pakistani information which gives the Ghauri this range with a 700-kg warhead.

g. This is the latest ROK Ministry of Defense estimate. Earlier public estimates were 1,500 to 2,000 km.

h. The best information currently available suggests that during the 1998 Taep’o-dong 1 SLV launch the payload, or debris from the payload, traveled approximately 4,000 km. When employed as a ballistic missile, a space launch vehicle capable of placing a 100-kg payload into low earth orbit is theoretically capable of delivering a 200-kg warhead to a range of approximately 10,000 km. This is assuming a launch trajectory due east.

i. This is the latest ROK Ministry of Defense estimate. Earlier public estimates were 4,000 to 6,000 km.

Both systems build upon the experience gained, and technology employed, in the development and production of the Hwasong 5/6 and No-dong. No-dong and Hwasong 6 serve as the basic “building blocks” for the new systems. The two-stage Taep’o-dong 1 appears to utilize a No-dong derivative as the first stage and a Hwasong 6 as the second stage. It is approximately 25.5-m long and weighs 20.7 tonnes and can carry a 700- to 1,000-kg warhead to a distance of 1,500 to 2,500 km.(145) The Taep’o-dong 2 is also a two-stage system, apparently with a newly designed first stage and a No-dong variant as the second stage. Weighing 64.3 tonnes and with an overall length of 32 m, it can carry an estimated 700- to 1,000-kg warhead to a distance of 6,700 km. The first stage appears to be based on either the clustering of three No-dong engines or a new single engine (possibly of Russian or PRC origin) and is approximately 18-m long and 2.4 m in diameter.(146) There have been frequent reports suggesting a linkage between both systems—especially the Taep’o-dong 2—and PRC missiles (i.e., DF-3). These claims, however, remain to be confirmed.(147)

The relatively long developmental period for these systems is a result of delays in the No-dong program; technical difficulties concerning multi-staging, engine clustering, guidance, and airframe design and development; and the economic turmoil that the DPRK has faced in the 1990s. As noted above with the No-dong program, many of these technical issues were, and are being, addressed by the DPRK’s employment of missile designers and engineers from Russia, Ukraine, and other countries. DPRK missile designers and engineers have continued to travel to the PRC for professional training and possible technology exchanges throughout the 1990s.

Estimates concerning the size and type of warheads the Taep’o-dong 1/2 can carry have varied considerably. Following the lead of the No-dong program it is probable that the DPRK has designed HE, cluster, chemical, and nuclear warheads for the Taep’o-dong 1/2.

In February 1994, US intelligence identified mock-ups of the two new systems at the Sanum-dong military research-and-development facility.(148) Since this revelation, the DPRK has expanded camouflage and deception operations to mask its missile development activities, including construction of fake facilities, and manufacture and deployment of numerous decoy vehicles and missiles.(149) These deception activities make it increasingly difficult to determine the progress in Taep’o-dong 1 and 2 development. There are reports that a February 1994 static engine test at the “Taep’o-dong rocket test stand” was directly related to the Taep’o-dong program.(150) The May 1994 modification of the launch towers at the Musudan-ri Launch Facility and the erection of a “giant shelter pad against propellant jets” provided some additional indications of Taep’o-dong progress.(151)

At a late-1993 or early-1994 meeting of the Korean Workers’ Party (KWP) Central Committee, Kim Il-song expressed his desire to place a satellite into orbit.(152) This decision was apparently precipitated by the international recognition Seoul received after the successful launch of its second research satellite, Uribyol II, in September 1993. Kim’s appeal to the Central Committee led to the expansion of the DPRK’s nascent space program and the requirement for a space launch vehicle. The most likely candidate for use as a SLV was the Taep’o-dong 1. Because the timing of this decision and the start of the Taep’o-dong program were so close, it is possible that there were plans for a SLV version from the project’s inception.(153)

The Taep’o-dong 1 SLV is a three-stage rocket that appears to utilize a No-dong derivative as the first stage, Hwasong 6 as the second stage, and a solid-fuel third stage (possibly derived from the HQ-2 booster). It is approximately 26-m long and weighs 18.7 tonnes. Work began on a small satellite named the Kwangmyongsong 1 (“Bright Lodestar”) concurrent with launch vehicle development.(154) In designing the Kwangmyongsong 1, the DPRK is believed to have received considerable assistance from the PRC’s Academy of Launch Technology. This assistance, albeit at varying levels of intensity, has continued with development of the forthcoming Kwangmyongsong 2 satellite project. It may also extend to additional, unnamed satellites—possibly including a crude reconnaissance satellite.(155)

To support the No-dong and Taep’o-dong programs, expansion of the DPRK’s ballistic missile infrastructure has continued. Construction of specialized “underground missile bases” or “missile silos” that began during the mid-1980s has continued through the 1990s. A small number of these facilities are located throughout the country and are now believed capable of handling both the No-dong and Taep’o-dong 1—and possibly the Taep’o-dong 2. In addition, a small number of specialized transport and support vehicles have been manufactured for the Taep’o-dong 1/2 programs, including a MEL for the Taep’o-dong 1 and missile transport vehicles.(156)

Initial prototypes for these systems were probably manufactured in 1995 or 1996. An initial production run for the Taep’o-dong 1 may have begun during 1997 or 1998, and it is estimated that a rate of one per month could possibly be achieved if Hwasong 6 and No-dong production were curtailed. It is estimated that by the end of 1999, the DPRK will have produced a total of one to ten Taep’o-dong 1/SLVs and one to two Taep’o-dong 2 prototypes.

On August 31, 1998, the DPRK conducted its first flight of a Taep’o-dong system—the three-stage Taep’o-dong 1 SLV. The objective of the mission was to place the DPRK’s first satellite—the Kwangmyongsong 1—into orbit. Launch preparations began at the Musudan-ri Launch Facility on August 7. Two weeks later, these preparations were accompanied by the movement of KPN vessels into the East Sea. By August 27, final preparations for a test were detected by US intelligence, and thus surveillance assets were moved into position. Liftoff occurred at 12:07 hours (local time) on August 31 from the Musudan-ri Launch Facility. The three-stage Taep’o-dong 1 SLV flew due east across the East Sea. The first stage separated at T+95 seconds and impacted in the East Sea approximately 253 km east of the Musudan-ri Launch Facility. At T+144 seconds, the payload shroud separated and impacted in the Pacific Ocean approximately 1,090 km from the launch site (east of the main Japanese island of Honshu). The second stage separated at T+266 seconds and impacted in the Pacific Ocean approximately 1,646 km east of the Musudan-ri Launch Facility. The third stage apparently suffered a technical failure and failed to insert the Kwangmyongsong 1 into orbit. Instead it continued east, burning up, with a debris trail that apparently extended to approximately 4,000 km. US aircraft and ships tracked the test. Following the test, Japan’s Self Defense Forces sent three destroyers and patrol aircraft to search the impact areas in the Pacific for wreckage of the missile and its warhead. These efforts may have been in vain since the second stage impacted on the edge of the Japan Trench in waters with a depth of some 5,000 m. (157)

The DPRK has never acknowledged this failure. Instead, on September 4, the Korean Central Broadcasting Network read an announcement signed by Kim Chong-il that, “…our scientists and technicians succeeded in launching its first satellite into orbit with multi-staged delivery rockets.”(158) The DPRK further claimed that the satellite was circling the Earth and transmitting the revolutionary anthems “the Song of the Sun, the Song of General Kim Il-song and General Kim Chong-il.”(159) For “successfully launching Kwangmyongsong 1,” numerous scientists, technicians, workers, and officials were awarded state commendations, titles, and gifts.(160) In December 1998, the DPRK announced that it would launch the Kwangmyongsong 2, but did not set a launch date.(161)

While the timing of the Taep’o-dong 1 SLV launch was correctly predicted by US intelligence, it also demonstrated a number of unanticipated developments. Until August 1998, the DPRK was known to have developed only a two-stage Taep’o-dong 1 ballistic missile. The third stage and satellite capabilities came as a surprise, indicating that the program was further along in developing ICBMs than had previously been estimated. The launch tested a number of important aspects of ICBM development, such as multi-stage separation, guidance, multi-fuel systems, etc. It also validated the two-stage Taep’o-dong 1 and its ability to deliver a 700- to 1,000-kg warhead to about 2,500 km. If the three-stage Taep’o-dong 1 SLV were to be configured as a missile, it could deliver a 200-kg warhead into the central section of the United States, although with poor accuracy. With a 100-kg warhead, it could reach Washington, DC. The larger and more powerful Taep’o-dong 2, which has yet to be tested, is now assessed as being able to deliver a 700- to 1,000-kg warhead to 6,700 km, although the accuracy would also be poor. If the DPRK were willing to settle for a smaller warhead, this system has the potential to strike any large, city-sized target within the continental United States.(162)

Although current estimates suggest that the Taep’o-dong 1 could become operational during 1999 to 2000, two other scenarios are possible. First, the Taep’o-dong 1 may already be deployed or considered “operational” by the KPA, given that the DPRK has apparently established significantly lower levels of reliability and readiness than have most Western nations. Second, only a few (and possibly no) Taep’o-dong 1 systems will become operational with the KPA. Instead, the DPRK will concentrate the majority of its limited resources into developing and fielding the Taep’o-dong 2. When the Taep’o-dong systems do become operational, they will probably not replace the No-dong; rather, the KPA will opt for a mix of ballistic missile systems.

Taep’o-dong development is being aggressively pursued, and improvements are being incorporated into the systems.(163) As of December 1999, the Taep’o-dong program is assessed as being able to:(164)

  • conduct a second Taep’o-dong 1 SLV launch, possibly with the Kwangmyongsong 2 satellite;

  • conduct the first launch of a Taep’o-dong 1 MRBM/IRBM;

  • conduct the first launch of a Taep’o-dong 2 ICBM;

  • conduct the first launch of a Taep’o-dong 2 SLV, possibly with the Kwangmyongsong 2 satellite; and

  • place the Taep’o-dong 2 ICBM in service with the KPA without a flight test.

Excluding either political developments or the collapse of the DPRK, development of the Taep’o-dong family will undoubtedly continue for the foreseeable future. If the program were allowed to proceed unfettered, likely developments within the next 10 years will include:

  • a three stage version of the Taep’o-dong 2 ICBM (sometimes identified as the Taep’o-dong 3 in press reports); such a system could deliver a 500- to 1,000-kg warhead to a distance of 10,000 to 12,000 km (e.g., anywhere within the United States);

  • more sophisticated reentry vehicles, warheads, and penetration aids; and

  • a new and more sophisticated two- or three-stage system incorporating improved guidance (possibly utilizing GPS and/or stellar navigation), engines with gimbaled nozzles, greater throw weight, etc.

The KPA will either integrate the Taep’o-dong within the new ballistic missile division or will deploy the missile as an independent battalion. An independent launch battalion might consist of a headquarters (staff, technical section, rear services section, and communications section), one to two firing batteries (each with one launcher), and an air defense company. The independent launch battalions will likely deploy in the specialized “underground missile bases” or “missile silos” built during the 1980s and 1990s.

Like the No-dong program, it is probable that the Taep’o-dong has benefited from technology exchanges and test flights related to the Pakistani Ghauri and Iranian Shehab 3 programs. It is also believed that both Iranian and Pakistani observers were present for the Taep’o-dong 1 SLV launch.(165) Iran has been involved in the development of the Taep’o-dong family from its inception, including financing and the exchange of information, technology, and personnel. Although Iran was at first deeply interested in the acquisition of Taep’o-dong 1/2 missiles and technology, it appears that Tehran has now committed itself to utilizing Russian technology for its Shehab 4. Iran-DPRK cooperation in the program may extend to the Taep’o-dong 1 SLV and Kwangmyongsong satellites. The export of Taep’o-dong 1/2 missiles or technology to Pakistan is also of great concern. Pakistan announced a 2,000-km range Ghaznavi; this missile may actually be a Taep’o-dong 1.(166) The extent of Egyptian, Libyan, or Syrian interest or involvement in the Taep’o-dong program is currently unknown. The DPRK is reportedly offering the Taep’o-dong 1 to these countries at a cost of $6 million apiece.(167)

Other Missile Systems

During the 1990s a number of events influenced missile-related developments within the DPRK, especially the 1991 Gulf War. Extensive use of BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles, al-Husayn ballistic missiles, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) had a profound effect on the thinking of military planners and missile designers in the DPRK. This led the DPRK to establish cruise missile and UAV programs and spurred the development of the No-dong and Taep’o-dong systems.

In the years following that war, Iran is believed to have provided the DPRK with access to BGM-109 Tomahawk wreckage from missiles that impacted on its territory, or that it acquired from Bosnia.(168) Given the complexity of the system, it is unlikely that the DPRK gained significant design, production, or operational knowledge from the wreckage, although access may have provided some insight into possible counter-measures or served as a design catalyst.

During 1994, and as a result of the expanding Syria–DPRK missile relationship, the DPRK was allowed extensive access to Syria’s missile systems, missile technology, and UAVs. Syria gave the DPRK access to the 9K79 Tochka (SS-21 scarab), P-35 Redut (SSC-1b sepal), and P-20 Rubezh-A (SS-C-3 styx) missiles; solid-fuel motor technology; and the DR-3 Reys UAV. More significantly, it is believed that Syria provided examples of some of these systems to the DPRK. Of these, the possible acquisition of the 9K79 Tochka

is the most interesting. A number of unconfirmed reports from a variety of sources suggest that during the 1990s the DPRK was interested in replacing its aging inventory of Luna-2 (FROG-5) and Luna-M (FROG-7B) artillery rockets and in developing a solid-fuel tactical ballistic missile. During mid-1996, an unknown number of Syrian technicians spent two weeks in the DPRK. This group both studied the production of the Hwasong 6 and reportedly shared information concerning the 9K79 Tochka.(169) Despite this access, it is unlikely that the DPRK has made significant progress in developing a solid-fuel ballistic missile given financial, manpower, technology, and other limitations.

During the late 1980s and through the 1990s, the DPRK acquired the 9M111 Fagot (AT-4 spigot) and 9M113 Udar (AT-5 spandral) ATGMs, and the 9K34 Strela 3 (SA-14 gremlin), and 9K310 Igla-1 (SA-16 gimlet) SAMs from Russia. P’yongyang is believed to have undertaken production of at least the 9M111 Fagot and 9K34 Strela. In addition to these systems, the DPRK has continued development of existing SAMs and air-to-air missiles, although details are lacking.

On March 19, 1991, the DPRK reportedly signed an arms agreement with Cuba. This agreement called for the sale of SAMs (presumably SA-14/16s) and other anti-aircraft weapons to Havana. This agreement came at the end of an official visit to Cuba by a delegation led by MPAF Chief of Staff Choe Kwang.(170)

In the mid-1990s, defectors revealed that the DPRK had earlier obtained examples of both the French Exocet anti-ship cruise missile and US FIM-92 Stinger SAM.(171) These were acquired with the intention of reverse-engineering the systems and deploying them with the KPA. It is unclear how successful the DPRK has been in this effort, although US intelligence believes that the Stinger may be available in limited numbers.(172) It is unclear if these are US-origin missiles or copies.

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