Facts

North Korean/U.S. Designation Hwasong-14/KN-14 (KN-08 Mod 2)
Missile Variants KN-08
Mobility and Role Road Mobile/Surface-to-surface Intercontinental Ballistic Missile
Designer/Producer N/A
Range 5,500 – 10,000 km
Warhead Type and Weight Conventional or Nuclear/400kg[i]
MIRV and Yield N/A
Guidance System/Accuracy N/A
Stages/Propellant Two or three/Liquid
IOC/Retirement Not yet deemed operational
Status/Number of Units N/A

Overview

First unveiled on October 10th, 2015, the KN-14 is considered by many experts to be a variant of North Korea’s KN-08 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) prototype. The KN-14 is speculated to possess two stages – in contrast to the three-staged KN-08 – and thus, to be of shorter range; with an estimated range of approximately 10,000 km (1,500 km less than the speculated range of the KN-08).[ii] In comparison to the KN-08, the KN-14 is noticeably shorter in length. Yet, analysts indicate that the KN-14’s more robust design means it might trade longer range and greater payload capacity for greater reliability. The KN-14 is road-mobile.[iii]

On July 4, 2017, North Korea successfully tested the KN-14, firing the missile at the steepest possible trajectory to avoid overflight of North Korea’s regional neighbors. The test was a milestone as it marked the country’s first successful test of an ICBM. During the test, the KN-14 flew for around 40 minutes, reached an altitude of 2,802 km, and traveled approximately 930 km before landing in the Sea of Japan. Experts speculate that if launched at a normal trajectory, the missile would have flown approximately 6,700 km, allowing it to reach as far as Alaska.

Strategic Implications

If the KN-14 becomes operational, the missile’s increased reliability will give credibility to Pyongyang’s ICBM threat to the United States. However, the missile’s robustness also has drawbacks, as experts speculate that the KN-14’s enhanced design will extend the time required until the missile becomes operational.

Nonetheless, the missile’s successful test on July 4, 2017 mark a significant leap forward for North Korea’s missile program, and North Korea will likely put considerable resources behind the KN-14’s production and deployment. The KN-14’s 6,700 km range, as demonstrated by the test in July, indicate that the missile could be used to strike Alaska. Yet, experts speculate that the missile’s range could be as far as 8,000 – or even 10,000 km – meaning it could reach the U.S. West Coast, or even the U.S. Midwest. If North Korea is able to miniaturize its nuclear weapon capability and pair a nuclear warhead to the KN-14 ballistic missile, Pyongyang would be able to hold large swaths of the U.S. population at risk; providing the Kim regime with substantial strategic leverage.


Sources

[i] http://www.nti.org/analysis/articles/north-korean-ballistic-missile-models/

[ii] http://www.nti.org/analysis/articles/north-korean-ballistic-missile-models/

[iii] http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/09/asia/north-korea-trump-nuclear-missile/

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