Test launch of the Polaris-2. Feb. 12, 2017

Polaris-2 (Pukguksong-2/KN-15)

February 2017 by Collin Meisel


DPRK/U.S. Designation Pukguksong-2/KN-15
Missile Variants KN-11/Polaris-1 (submarine-launched)
Mobility and Role Road-mobile/Medium- or Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missile
Designer/Producer Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
Range 1,200km+ (est.)
Warhead Type and Weight Conventional/Nuclear
MIRV and Yield No MIRV capabilities/Unknown
Guidance System/Accuracy Inertial[i]/Unknown
Stages/Propellant Two/Solid
IOC/Retirement In development (reportedly being mass produced)/N.A.
Status/Number of Units In development/Unknown


A modification of the KN-11 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM),[ii] also known as the Pukguksong-1 (Polaris-1), the Polaris-2 is a road-mobile, solid-fuel, medium- or intermediate-range ballistic missile (M/IRBM) first tested by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) on February 12, 2017. It was again tested on May 21, 2017. Cold-launched from a tracked Transporter Erector Launcher (TEL), the Polaris-2 can be launched from various terrain in as little as five minutes and has an estimated range of 1,200km.[iii]  While the Polaris-2 is deemed nuclear-capable,[iv] the missile’s potential yield is unknown. The approximate yield of the nuclear warhead tested by the DPRK in September 2016, which DPRK spokesmen asserted could be fixed to a ballistic missile, was 10kT.[v]

Click here to watch the first test launch of the Polaris-2 ballistic missile.

Strategic Implications

The Polaris-2 marks a significant advancement of the DPRK’s ballistic missile launch capabilities. As the DPRK’s longest-range solid fuel missile,[vi] the Polaris-2 could likely encroach upon Japan’s exclusive economic zone when fired at full range.[vii] Additionally, the tracked TEL from which the Polaris-2 is launched marks a technological milestone. Rather than being limited to the DPRK’s estimated 724km of paved roads, the tracks expand the Polaris-2’s mobility to more than 24,000km of unpaved roads, as well as off-road terrain.[viii] This mobility greatly enhances the concealability of the Polaris-2, and, in combination with its nuclear capability and extended range, demonstrates an ever more lethal ballistic missile program.


[i] The DPRK’s state-owned news organization, Korean Central News Agency, claims the Polaris-2 possesses “position control and guidance” capabilities. See https://www.nknews.org/2017/02/n-korea-successfully-test-fired-medium-long-range-missile-kcna/.

[ii] John Schilling, “The Pukguksong-2: A Higher Degree of Mobility, Survivability and Responsiveness,” 38North, January 13, 2016, http://38north.org/2017/02/jschilling021317/.

[iii] Schilling, “The Pukguksong-2.”

[iv] Choe Sang-Hun and David E. Sanger, “North Korea Claims Progress on Long-Range Goal With Missile Test,” New York Times, February 13, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/13/world/asia/north-korea-missile-launch-success.html?_r=1.

[v] Norman Friedman, “What Would Deter North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons?” United States Naval Institute, Proceedings 142.11 (November 2016): 90-91.

[vi] Tara Copp, “Pentagon: North Korean missiles pose ‘clear, grave threat’ to US,” Stars and Stripes, February 13, 2017, https://www.stripes.com/news/pacific/pentagon-north-korean-missiles-pose-clear-grave-threat-to-us-1.453833.

[vii] Ankit Panda, “It Wasn’t an ICBM, But North Korea’s First Missile Test of 2017 Is a Big Deal,” The Diplomat, February 14, 2017, http://thediplomat.com/2017/02/it-wasnt-an-icbm-but-north-koreas-first-2017-missile-test-is-a-big-deal/.

[viii] Ibid.

Missile Threat and Proliferation