Yesterday served as an unwanted reminder for many that North Korea is indeed still hurtling headlong toward their strategic endgame. Not only was it another launch of an ICBM by the rogue regime, the third so far, but it also featured a huge increase in range. North Korea can now theoretically hit any target in the United States. What wasn't clear at the time of the launch was if the missile was an evolved variant of the existing Hwasong-14 or some new design. But hours after the launch, North Korea state media said that it was indeed a new design—it's designation being Hwasong-15. Now we have pictures of this new missile and they are terrifying as they are impressive.
There is no denying it, the HS-15 is a huge missile that dwarfs the HS-14 in girth and likely in length as well. Upon quick examination, the HS-15 looks like it uses two main engine nozzles instead of the one found on the HS-14. It also features a full diameter second stage as opposed to the tapered one on the HS-14.
The nose cone design is of special interest. It is much broader than its predecessor and features the blunt nose shape that North Korea has been showing for years but has never test flown—until now. The missile seems large enough to potentially be able to accommodate multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs) or one large nuclear device.
Finally, the transporter-erector-launcher (TEL) is something new as well. This version features nine axles, one more than any other TEL we have ever seen in North Korea's possession. Everything appears up-sized as well, including its hydraulic actuators that raise the massive missile into firing position, its transport collar, and its launch stand.
If anything, I would venture to say that this missile has more performance to give than what we have already seen. Additionally, we still don't know what fuel it is leveraging, especially for its second stage. North Korea has made some big leaps in various missile technologies as of late, including those surrounding the production of solid rocket fuel and light-weight structures.
Many analysts are pouring over these photos as this is being written and surely more revelations as to this new missile design will quickly come to light. In the meantime take a look at the pictures for yourself.
Update 5:15pm PST:
Here are few extra snaps.
Update 9:30am PST:
We have video!
Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com