By © Charles P. Vick 2006, All Rights Reserved
The opinions and evaluations stated here in are only the authors and cannot be construed to reflect those of any Government agency, company, institute or association. It is based on public information, circumstantial evidence, informed speculation, declassified U.S. intelligence community documents, official Iranian and North Korean government documents and histories, oral histories, interviews and reverse engineering analysis. As with all data regarding the Iranian and North Korean strategic space and ballistic missile programs, this analysis is subject to revision--and represents a work in progress.
No-dong-A also called Shahab-3, 3A, 3B, 3C, & Ghauri-II
The North Korean No-dong-A missile transporter erector launcher TEL system as deployed in the DPRK.
A more extensive redesign of the Scud-B technology may have begun in the same 1988 time-frame as the modification program that resulted in the Scud-C. The No-dong-A heritage appears to in fact go back to the original follow on Scud-B designs developed by the Makeyev OKB of the Former Soviet Union that also produced the Soviet era, Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missiles. No-dong-A’s technologies were transferred to North Korea during the Soviet era years 1987-1988 through 1992. The new missile No-dong-A [variously called No-dong-1, Ro-dong-1, and Scud-D has a potential range/payload capacity of 1,000-1,300 km/700-1,000 kg. The higher range would cover a wide swath of cities from Tokyo to Taipei. At the extremity of the higher range, authoritative analyst estimates the CEP of the No-dong-A to be 2,000-4,000 meters before the INS, GPS input technology was introduced in August 2004 along with other refinements through 2006. The Shahab-3B is a further evolutionary development from the Shahab-3, 3A/No-dong-A's, based Taep'o-dong-1 first stage up-rating with further additions extending its range performance to 2,000 kilometers with a 650 kilogram warhead.
Initial Flight Testing Operations
A prototype No-dong-A was first detected on a launch pad in May 1990. Two preceding launch failures occurred in May 1990 and one in June 1992. Launch preparation operations was also detected in the October, November 1990 time frame but no launch was observed by US or Japanese or South Korean naval operations. This was in spite of the North Korean Coastal Radar tracking support operations preparation and the Korean Peoples Naval (KPN) support operations preparation for tracking the flight test as well as possible recovery of the on-board data package and potential No-dong-A warhead recovery. The Chinese have for years operated this way with recoverable data recorders for their strategic rocket flight tests whose technology for this effort was probably transferred to the North Koreans from the DF-61 cooperative project or other missile collaborative efforts. The KPN deployed one frigate and one minesweeper set thirty kilometers apart along with several smaller KPN vessels. These initial flight tests of the No-dong-A were characterized as emitting no acquirable telemetry with the probable on-board data recorder packages being recovered from the flight test by the KPN. Instead of flying parallel to the North Korean coast as had previously been done with the Scud's this time the North Koreans flew these four missiles out towards Japan into the Sea of Japan. This October, November 1990 operations may have been an attempted launch that was ultimately scrubbed or training for the follow up flight tests such as in June 1992. Iran had observers present at this exercise since they were in part financing the project for their own interest. (1)
The only successful test flights did not take place until May 29-30, 1993, with an apparently successful single launch 500 km into the Sea of Japan. Three other Scud's not flown to full range and not recovered were launched in addition to the No-dong-A's launch. This first successful flight test of the No-dong-A was almost certainly a lofting high altitude flight with warhead separation being demonstrated. All within the 500 kilometer SCUD-C range profile. That is, the No-dong-A rose to a much higher altitude with in a 500 kilometer range because if it had been flown to full range it would have impacted on Japanese territory. A further apparently politically delayed flight activity was observed during May 1994. (1) Subsequently more propulsion tests began in August 1994. Those propulsion static test firings in February and August 1994 may have been more related to the future Taep'o-ding-1 launch vehicle development which used an up-rated No-dong-A propulsion system.
Five Year Plan Program Transition
As early as April, May 1994 work on the new Taep'o-dong-1 launch facility and gantry umbilical tower was started with its large pre-fabricated concrete apron over top of its launch vehicle gas jet tunnel and it's below ground level facilities equipment. The facilities infrastructure work was also committed to development of the large horizontal assembly MIK ready building and range launch control center as well as the near by large launch vehicle static test stand. Typically the No-dong-A like the Scud-B's and Scud-C's had been launch from the near by circular pre-fabricated concrete apron launch site from their mobile TEL associated equipment. All these construction programs were started during the middle period of the then existing North Korean five year plan (Jan. 1, 1991-Jan. 1, 1996) as the No-dong-A finished its flight test and went into production. The Taep'o-dong-1 was expected to be flight tested in the middle of the following five year plan (Jan. 1, 1996-Jan. 1, 2001) as it did August 31, 1998 as required in the State plan requirements. It was clear by early in May 1994 that the testing of the No-dong-A was completed. Taep'-dong-2 was expected to follow in the middle of the follow-up five year plan about 2004 (Jan. 1, 2001-Jan. 1. 2006) but was delayed into the next five year plan (Jan. 1, 2006-Jan. 1, 2011 for several reasons. This massive construction project transformed the site infrastructure into a series of large construction zones heralding the coming new launch vehicle developments first imaged at the R&D facilities of North Korea during February 1994 by US imaging satellites. The uncanny resemblance of the launch facilities of the infrastructure to Chinese and Soviet design approaches did not go unnoticed by the intelligence community. It added more certain credence to the considerable evidence of foreign missile and nuclear contributions to their emerging strategic military programs.
Until July 5, 2006 the flight test program had solely consisted of this May 29-30, 2003 single successful North Korean test to partial range. By the fall of 1993 the No-dong had gone into production in North Korea. As of late 2000 the US Department of Defense reported that North Korea continued to make and field No-dong-A missiles able to strike American forces based in Japan. On July 5, 2006 North Korea conducted at least three or four highly successful operational flights targeting a common predetermined area in the Sea of Japan separate from the twenty two flights conducted through 2006 by Pakistan and Iran. The successful results certainly indicated the end product quality results from the North Korean, Iranian cooperation.
The No-dong-A program has evidently been plagued by numerous technical and financial problems. Some authoritative observers expected that the the first production models of the No-dong-A would be available in 1997, with export shipments soon thereafter. However, the CIA did not expect the No-dong-A to be deployed until the end of 1996. Reflecting the difficulties of assessing the precise status of the program, at a News Briefing on 09 July 1998 Secretary of Defense William Cohen states that "What we can say is that North Korea has completed its development of the No-dong missile, but I am not in a position to comment in terms of when or where or how there has been a deployment of the missile itself."
|SSMs - MRBM||NODONG-A|
|Warhead type||HE, CHEM (thickened VX), Nuclear|
(w/GPS guidance data input INS)
|Reaction time (min)||60|
|Maximum road speed||70 km/h|
|Maximum road range||550 km|
Operational training for crews may have begun in mid-1995. Missile storage facility construction began in July 1995, and as many as four launch sites were reportedly complete by October 1995. Mobile launchers were reportedly deployed in northeast North Korea in March 1997, and seven launchers were also deployed at a facility about 100 kilometers from Pyongyang. Early fielding of new system by the North Koreans is a copy of the Soviet era practice to ring out systems into operational status quicker by identifying its problem issues and resolution. This was done with both the No-dong-A and the No-dong-B missile systems. This makes sense because many of the specialists both North Korean and Soviet’s were trained in the former Soviet Union and would be expected to adapt these practices. This is why U. S. intelligence community failed to realize this early operational deployment operation until years later.
The 1998 Rumsfeld report concluded that the "Commission judges that the No-dong was operationally deployed long before the U.S. Government recognized that fact. There is ample evidence that North Korea has created a sizable missile production infrastructure, and therefore it is highly likely that considerable numbers of No-dong's have been produced." One of the unclassified discussion papers generated in the preparation of the Rumsfeld report indicated that only a small number of the systems (ten mobile launchers with missiles) have been produced by North Korea and fielded with its own forces ["Iran and Iraq" Michael Eisenstadt, Kenneth Katzman, Kenneth Timmerman and Seth Carus - March 23, 1998]. According to an ROK military source, the DPRK had deployed at least nine No-Dong-A missiles by early 1999, in addition to the Scud-B, and Scud-C missiles.
There is also believed to be a Scud-ER series with a range performance between the Scud-C and No-dong-A of 600 - 850 -1,000 kilometers with a 450 kilogram warhead. The Scud-ER development was completed in 2003 but was not identified until 2005.
By the end of 2002 North Korea was believed to have about 100 missiles with a range of 800 miles, enough to cover most of the Japanese archipelago. [SOURCE: Japan Fears North Korea; U.S. Promises Defense Shield, By James Brooke New York Times December 26, 2002]. One report in late 2004 suggested that the DPRK had deployed as many as 200 Nodong missiles ["N.Korea May Be Preparing Missile Launch" by Teruaki Ueno Reuters 23 September 2004]. No-dong-A is believed to have been committed to full production in 1994. It was estimated in the summer of 2006 by the South Korean, National Intelligence Service that North Korea had deployed or produced at least 450 No-dong-A's.
1. Gerardi, Greg, & Bermudez Jr, Joseph, An Analysis of North Korean Ballistic Missile Testing, Jane's Intelligence Review, Vol. 7, No. 4, 1995, pp. 184-190.
2. David C. Wright and Timur Kadyshev, "An Analysis of the North Korean Nodong Missile," Science and Global Security, November 1993.
3. Barbara Starr, "CIA expects Nodong deployment next year," Jane's Defence Weekly, 11 Nov 95, p. 16.
4. "North Korea Shops for Nuclear Technology in Russia," by Warren Strobel, The Washington Times July 5, 1994 p.a1 and a8,
5. Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat 15 July 1998
6. Delivery Systems, and Chemical, Biological, and Nuclear Programs Anthony H. Cordesman, CSIS Middle East Studies Program, 28 April 1998
7. Report: NK Rodong-1 Missile Battalions In Place Jim Lea Pacific Stars and Stripes October 26, 1999 -- North Korea has deployed four Rodong-1 missile battalions - one in North Pyongan Province bordering China and three stationed in North Hwanghae Province near the Demilitarized Zone. Each of the battalions has launch pads for nine Rodong-1 missiles.
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