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N. Korea’s ICBM-class missile includes Chicago within striking range

N. Korea’s ICBM-class missile includes Chicago within striking range

Posted July. 31, 2017 07:40,   

Updated July. 31, 2017 08:13

The Hwawon-14-type ICBM-class missile, which North Korea fired in a surprise move Friday night, has an estimated maximum target range of more than 10,000 kilometers. This is because the maximum flying distance of a ballistic missile is generally estimated to be about three times the missile’s maximum altitude. The maximum flying altitude of the Hwasong-14 type missile, which has been fired this time, is calculated at 3,724.9 kilometers. The missile flew about 900 kilometers higher this time than that of the first provocation (maximum flying attitude of 2,802 kilometers) on July 4. The Hwasong-14 type missiles were fired at high angles both in the first and second rounds. If the missile had been fired at a normal angle of 30 to 45 degrees, the maximum range of the missile used in the first provocation would be 8,000 kilometers. The South Korean military is paying attention to the fact that the maximum range increased by more than 2,000 kilometers in the second provocation, which came only about 20 days after the first.


North Korea claimed that the warhead segment of the Hwasong-14 ballistic missile successfully reentered the atmosphere in the second round launch on Friday again after the first round launch on July 4. However, watchers are suspicious about it, because the technology for the reentry vehicle is difficult to be validated through a high-angle launch. If one fires an ICBM at a normal firing angle, the speed of the missile at the time of reentry into the atmosphere is more than 20 times the speed of sound. The missile must also withstand ultrahigh temperatures of 6,000 – 7,000 degrees Celsius, high pressure and impact. The core element of reentry technology is for the warhead loaded with nuclear materials and detonator to endure extreme conditions and seamlessly reach the ground target. “If one fires an ICBM at a high angle, a significant portion of the engine’s thrust is wasted in overcoming the gravity, and as a result the missile’s descending speed significantly declines,” a source in the South Korean military said. If the speed of reentry into the atmosphere is low, the heat and pressure also decline in tandem, which makes it difficult to validate the technology for the reentry vehicle.

However, other watchers say the world should not underestimate the North’s capability. Considering the technological capability of North Korea that made all-in bet in the development of nuclear weapons and missiles for more than two decades, we cannot rule out the probability that Pyongyang has entered the final phase in the development of reentry technology. Those watchers say that with the North reportedly having achieved the miniaturization of a nuclear warhead already or come very close to this goal, Pyongyang could only have the final ‘1 percent to go before completion’ in its effort to perfect technology for an ICBM’s reentry into the atmosphere. This is evidenced by the fact that the pace of the North’s submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) development has been significantly accelerated in defiance of forecasts by the South Korean and U.S. military authorities. “We have to prepare ourselves for a scenario in which the North completes reentry technology for the Hwasong-14 type missiles through two to three additional launches within one to two years, and declares production and deployment to actual combat mission,” a South Korean military source said.

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