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TypeIntercontinental ballistic missile
Place of originNorth Korea
Service history
Used byNorth Korea
Production history
Produced2017 - present
No. built??
Mass≈72,000 kilograms (159,000 lb) [1]
Length≈22.5 metres (74 ft)[1]
Diameter≈2.4 metres (7.9 ft)[1]
Warheadnuclear weapon, possibly MRV
Warhead weight1,000 kg[2]

Engine1 Paektusan (potentially RD-250) [1]
788 kilonewtons (177,000 lbf)[1][2]
Estimated 13,000 kilometres (7,000 nmi)[3]
Flight altitudeMaximum 4,500 kilometres (2,800 mi)[4][5]
9 axle Transporter Erector vehicle
Korean name
Revised RomanizationHwaseong-15
lit. Mars-15
Lofted trajectories of Hwasong-14 and Hwasong-15

The Hwasong-15 (Korean《화성-15》형; Hanja火星 15型; lit. Mars Type 15) is an intercontinental ballistic missile developed by North Korea. It had its maiden flight on 28 November 2017,[6] 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.[7]

November 2017 test[edit]

Immediately after the launch, many analysts assumed that a Hwasong-14 had been fired; subsequently, however, the North Korean government released video of the launch showing a completely different missile.[8]

North Korea claimed the missile reached an altitude of around 4,475 km and traveled 950 km downrange, flying for a total time of 53 minutes.[9] 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, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists, probably with a reduced payload.[3][9] Several important US allies, including the United Kingdom and France, also lie within the missile's theoretical range, which covers most of Earth's land masses except South America, the Caribbean, and the majority of Antarctica.[10]

The different densities of different casing materials and explosive mechanisms (e.g. metallic-based conventional explosives tend to be several times heavier than a corresponding volume of organic explosives) make accurately estimating warhead payload based on images alone very difficult, if not impossible. Based on the limited information available, the Union of Concerned Scientists did conclude that equipping the missile with a normal-sized payload would likely reduce the overall range.[11][12]

It was the first launch after a 10-week break.[13]

According to a statement by Japanese Minister of Defence Itsunori Onodera, the missile's re-entry vehicle failed to successfully re-enter the Earth's atmosphere, breaking apart and crashing into waters within Japan's exclusive economic zone.[14] Later assessments from the Union of Concerned Scientists, however, raised questions as to whether the object Onodera described may have been the missile's detached first stage, not its re-entry vehicle.[15][16]



According to international weapons analysts,[17] 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.[18]

The second-stage engine for the Hwasong-15 was test-fired on June 23, 2017.[19][20][21]

According to missile specialist Norbert Brügge, the missile uses the ‘Paektusan, 백두산’, 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.[22]


On November 29, 2017, Michael Elleman wrote for 38 North that at 13,000 km, the payload would be around 150 kg (330 lb), based on flight data of the test and conjectured it was a reconfigured Hwasong-14[23] and on November 30, 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 (2,200 lb) at a range of 13,000 km. 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.[2]

Analysts have noted that the re-entry vehicle has a blunter nose than previous designs, which can accommodate a larger diameter warhead and reduces re-entry stress and heating at the cost of accuracy.[12] Some analysts think it may be able to carry additional payloads such as decoys or even multiple warheads.[24]

Launch vehicle[edit]

Hwasong-15 Transporter erector vehicle

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.[25][26][27][28]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Brügge, Norbert (29 November 2017). "North Korea's ultimate nuclear ICBM "Hwasong-15" (HS-15)". www.b14643.de.
  2. ^ a b c "The New Hwasong-15 ICBM: A Significant Improvement That May be Ready as Early as 2018". 38 North: Informed Analysis of North Korea. 30 November 2017. Retrieved 1 December 2017.
  3. ^ a b "N Korea says new missile can hit entire US". BBC News. 29 November 2017.
  4. ^ "[속보] 북 "신형 ICBM 시험발사 성공"…화성-15형 첫 공개". 29 November 2017. (in Korean)
  5. ^ "북, 국가핵무력 완성 선포… "신형 ICBM 화성-15 발사 성공"". 29 November 2017. (in Korean)
  6. ^ Sabur, Rozina; Allen, Nick; Henderson, Barney; Graham, Chris (29 November 2017). "North Korea tests 'new long-range missile' capable of striking anywhere in US as Donald Trump says he will 'take care of it'". The Telegraph.
  7. ^ Mangan, Dan; Chandran, Nyshka (28 November 2017). "Latest North Korean ICBM can hit Washington, DC — and much of rest of US". CNBC.
  8. ^ Newman, Lily Hay. "North Korea's Latest Missile Test Was Even Scarier Than It Seemed". Wired.
  9. ^ a b Smith, Josh; Nichols, Michelle (29 November 2017). "North Korea says new ICBM puts U.S. mainland within range of nuclear weapons". Reuters.
  10. ^ "North Korea's latest ICBM has a new name". Business Insider. Retrieved 2017-11-29.
  11. ^ Wright, David (28 November 2017). "North Korea's Longest Missile Test Yet". allthingsnuclear.org. Union of Concerned Scientists. Retrieved 18 December 2017.
  12. ^ a b Wright, David (7 December 2017). "Reentry of North Korea's Hwasong-15 Missile". allthingsnuclear.org. Union of Concerned Scientists. Retrieved 18 December 2017.
  13. ^ "North Korea ends break in testing with long-range missile launch". Peeblesshire News.
  14. ^ "North Korea announces successful missile test". Australian News Channel. Archived from the original on 1 December 2017.
  15. ^ Ramzy, Austin (5 December 2017). "Jet Pilots Say They Saw North Korean Missile in Flight". New York Times. Retrieved 18 December 2017.
  16. ^ Wright, David (5 December 2017). "Did Pilots See North Korea's Missile Fail during Reentry?". Union of Concerned Scientists. Retrieved 17 December 2017.
  17. ^ Griffiths, James. "North Korea's new Hwasong-15 missile: What the photos show". CNN.
  18. ^ Ashok, India (2017-11-30). "New North Korea ICBM photos show Kim Jong-un celebrating but is the giant missile nuclear capable?". International Business Times UK. Retrieved 2017-11-30.
  19. ^ "Hwasong-15 (KN-22)". Missile Threat. Retrieved 2021-11-03.
  20. ^ Bendix, Aria (2017-06-23). "North Korea Tests Another Rocket Engine". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2021-11-03.
  21. ^ "North Korea tests rocket engine, possibly for ICBM: U.S. officials". Reuters. 2017-06-22. Retrieved 2021-11-03.
  22. ^ "North Korean Deterrence Boosted with HS-15 Success - Defense Update". defense-update.com. December 2017. Retrieved 5 December 2017.
  23. ^ Elleman, Michael (29 November 2017). "North Korea's Third ICBM Launch". 38 North: Informed Analysis of North Korea.
  24. ^ "US missile expert: N. Korean missile larger than thought, could carry decoys". Asia Times. 2 December 2017. Retrieved 18 December 2017.
  25. ^ "Hwasong-15 ICBM November 29, 2017". 2017-11-29.
  26. ^ 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".
  27. ^ Majumdar, Dave (2017-11-29). "Hwasong-15: North Korea's New Missile That Shocked the World". The National Interest.
  28. ^ 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".