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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

North Korean Hwasong-13, KN-14

In the 2017 New Year's address to the nation, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said the country was finalizing preparations for another intercontinental ballistic missile test. On January 8, the North's state-run news agency, KCNA, reported that the country can launch an ICBM “anytime and anywhere,” reiterating the position that the communist state is bolstering nuclear arms capabilities for “self-defense” against the US.

On 19 January 2017, Roh Jae-cheon, South Korea's defense ministry spokesman, said at a Seoul news conference that the ministry believes “North Korea may be able to launch an ICBM anytime, anywhere, if the leadership decides to do so, and thereby we are currently maintaining the military readiness posture.” The South Korean and U.S. governments believe North Korea has built two new prototypes of intercontinental ballistic missile. The United States detected activity in North Korea indicating a possible ballistic missile test, including positioning of two mobile missile launchers. that is, there were two individual missiles, rather than two separate designs.

The KN-08 and KN-14 missiles were revealed during parades in 2013 and 2015, respectively, but neither is 20 meters in length. Perhaps this reflects a misidentification of intermediate range or shorter range missile, placing a small missile on a large TEL.

Composite Design Study

KN-14: The semi-mobile Limited Range ICBM


©By C. P. Vick, 2012-2016

Senior Technical & Space Policy Analyst

3-16-31 thru, 11-18-2015 / 4-9-16 / 8-3-2016

Rev 18

July 25, -August 3, 2016

The KN-14 prototype ICBM design analysis is a derivation on the original KN-08 prototype ICBM design study now discarded in favor of this more advanced design

We have to be aware of the DPRK deception and physiological warfare operations Image projection at the T’aeso’ng (Tae-sung) Machine Factory.

South Korean officials have stated publicly the DPRK has not demonstrated a full range ICBM, cancelled KN-08 now known as the KN-14 prototype semi-road mobile limited range ICBM system of the Soviet SS-11 class, still in development with an RV similar to the No-dong-B warhead design or the new RV design to full range and appears to be some years from accomplishing that milestone requirement. Though this could potentially happen within the present DPRK midterm Five Year Plan or sooner but this remains to be seen. The DPRK is in fact now emphasizing a standard RV design built around the HS-10/No-dong-B RV tested design.

DPRK State Planning Schedule:

Reading the DPRK’s, Five Year Plan suggest that they are aimed for perfection of those technologies within the new 2016-2020 Five year plan to the extent possible but only time will see if this occurs within that Military State. Typically things with in the DPRK mature early in the beginning or middle or near the end of their five year Plan and this year’s events have been no exception to that rule as expected. They are however in the process of accelerating the Science and Technology development for strategic geopolitical purposes with emphasis on strategic ballistic missile delivery systems for their nuclear weapons for regime survival of the authoritarian military state.

Potential Ongoing Technology Transfer

It is very evident that in the past and possible even now that there is continuing technology transfer from the Russian Federation Makeyev OKB as well as the training education provided to the DPRK scientist engineers back during the Gorbachev era well documents under the No-Dong-A, A1 reports on line. This was reconfirmed by South Korean Intelligence statement ruffling the Russian Federation diplomatically.

 Intelligence Find Confirmed:

The Makeyev OKB (SKB-385) in the form of the new version of the cancelled KN-08 now called KN-14. The New KN-14 is literally a stretched airframe tankage version of the R-29 / SS-N-8, Sawfly, RSM-40 Vysota utilizing a No-dong-B/NK-07/SS-N-6, NK-11 warhead inside the top tank of the second and third stages with its highly refined nose maneuvering post boost bus package and guidance system. Instead of utilizing the R-29 propulsion engines it utilizes clusters of two of the Soviet Serb, Zyb, R-27. (RSM-25) sea level thrust RD-4 D 10 engines in the first stage but which engine is utilized in the second stage remains uncertain but is probably a derivative of the RD-4D10V vacuum thrust engine. It indicates that the DPRK got the R-29 airframe and tankage designs but not the full engines that have been substituted by the obtained Soviet Serb, Zyb, R-27, (RSM-30), RD-4D10 engines. This is final proof positive that the total missile program of the DPRK is founded on the Makeyev SKB-385 direct personnel and technology transfer that has been suspected for years. Now there can be no doubt about that fact as exemplified in the hardware displayed recently.

The Soviet era R-29 / SS-N-8, Sawfly, RSM-40 Vysota Planform for the new KN-14 airframe design

KN-08 Block-II now known as the KN-14

The KN-08 has been revised to the KN-14 lengthened the first stage with its two main engine nozzle and four steering Vernier’s now confirmed from imagery from the displays. The second stage has been greatly extended eliminating the Block-I third stage configuration. The warhead is greatly reduced in length and overall dimensions suggesting considerable nuclear device mass and size reduction. The entire design reminds of the former Soviet Union’s UR-100/SS-11 mods in both range performance and design approach. By eliminating the KN-08 Iranian based design third stage revising the stages arrangement length as well as the payload has enhanced the overall performance suggest that this limited range ICBM prototype is much closer to becoming operational versus the previous KN-08 Block-I design with its many revisions observed. It suggests that the Block-1 was merely a R&D model that has now been supplanted by the Block-II, now called KN-14 LRICBM. It certainly reflects why the flight test of this system has been delayed to accommodate the upgraded design and existing in hand rocket engine systems development for completion with in this Five Year Plan 2016-2021.

KN-08 Block-II now known as the KN-14 October 2015 military parade display.


KN-08 Block-II now known as the KN-14 October 2015 military parade display.

KN-08 Block-II, No-dong-C now known as the KN-14, No-dong-D design details

Based on the known warhead actual size and launch vehicle externally observed design details strongly implies it is based on the nearly identical Soviet era R-29 / SS-N-8, Sawfly, RSM-40 Vysota airframe tankage design with a different series of engines. The Block-II, KN-08 now known as the KN-14 utilizes two main thrust chambers in its first stage, from the Soviet era Serb, Zyb, R-27, (RSM-25) cluster of two RD-4D10 engines and a separate group of four steering Vernier’s as one engine for steering in flight and the second stage has a similar main engine arrangement for altitude to vacuum thrust version of a similar engine. The KN-14 has a third stage “Bus” design utilizing packages of multiple thrusters mounted on the outside of the stage for precision delivery of the warhead on target. The bus is still in the R&D stage systems development.

KN-14 first stage closed cycle main engine Soviet heritage Serb, Zyb, R-27. (RSM-30) RD-4D10 design and a closed cycle second stage engine design.

The KN-14 Composite systems design study

DPRK Reentry Technology

Yes the DPRK is aware of the required technologies and materials for the re-entry vehicles RV’s and it may have demonstrated them in rocket engine static test firings but it has not flown them to range under real flight conditions. Utilizing the right material and having them properly supported as well as design properly are very different critical technology demonstration requirements requiring repeated testing success in real flight conditions to become operational.

Yet another example of the DPRK deception and physiological warfare operations image projection operation while carrying out technology development. Knowing as we believe that this so called re-entry heat shield nose cone was in fact nothing more than the KN-14 nose cap for the ballistic ascent trajectory without the actual warhead hanging below it that will do the actual reentry on its ICBM ballistic trajectory suggest that this was not what it was presented to be and intelligence knows this reality.  One can clearly see the extended bolts below the nose cap for the warhead attachment.

The 650 kilogram nuclear warhead mass is documented from Soviet design specifications requirement for the SS-N-6, Soviet Serb, Zyb, R-27. (RSM-25) published the Russian Federation books. It is not a small nuclear weapon being in the 600-650 kilogram range. If it is a two stage nuclear weapon design then it could potentially produce 15 kilotons according to the DPRK Soviet educated, trained nuclear scientists the North Korean Central News Agency reported.

Let’s us remember that it is believed that the DPRK has already demonstrated out of Iran over the Indian ocean the in excess of 3,200-3,860 kilometer range No-dong-B warhead. These kinds of reality have been discussed under the web site on the No-dong-B/KN-07 and KN-11 as well as the KN-08 missile systems.

KN-14 Second Stage Propulsion:

Could the R-27, RD-4D10 Isayev engine in some variant be utilized as the KN-14 second stage engine in a vacuum thrust version with four Vernier thrust chambers?

It is clear that those studying this issue have modeled the KN-14 second stage unknown engine after the Kosberg RD-3D38 optimized engine used in the Sawfly, SS-N-8, RSM-40, Vysota. However that Kosberg engine is unavailable to the DPRK thus the driving design change to the KN-08 for the larger diameter second stage of the KN-14 design to accommodate alternative design approach utilizing what they have in hand. They only have the Isayev RD-4D10 closed cycle engine sea level thrust version not the altitude vacuum thrust version. In all probability they are indeed developing that new RD-4D10V or RD-4D18V of the R-27K variant engine design for second stage vacuum thrust operations. In all cases the RD-4D10 variant engine are derivative versions of the same original first stage engine of the Soviet era R-27, SLBM.

That makes the second stage rocket engine development the controlling driver for the progress in the KN-14 LRICBM program pacing. That is in addition to the KN-14’s BUS third stage thruster package only seen in mock-up form that is still in R&D like its second stage engine variant. This really tells us why the second stage was enlarged to the size seen in the KN-14 from its original smaller diameter seen in the now cancelled KN-08. That is to accommodate the engine change requirements.

Recognizing that the RD-4D10 closed cycle staged combustion engine was developed by the Isayev OKB but was put into production and testing at the Makeyev OKB dedicated production infrastructure and static testing center suggest that the engine variants would be available to the DPRK from the Makeyev OKB only. Following the Soviet design practice the main thrust chamber would have its own closed cycle turbo-machinery while the two or four steering Vernier’s thrust chambers would utilize their own turbomachinery for their operation.

The DPRK in all probability may have adapter the first stage two RD-4D10 engine cluster and four separate steering Vernier thrust chamber with its independent engine pump system in a modified “one” RD-4D10V

or possibly the R-27K vacuum thrust variant of the sea level thrust RD-4D18 engine to which there is no evidence as having had its technology transferred to the DPRK.

This “one” RD-4D10V with one main thrust chamber and a standard four steering Vernier’s engine second stage that is more likely than not is anticipated to be the design approach utilized. This is verses the excessive thrust cluster of “two” RD-4D10V engine, with a standard four Vernier’s installed in what would be a very cramped spacing, vacuum thrust higher expansion area ratio bell of limited optimization utilized for the second stage propulsion system is not anticipated.

This engine‘s main thrust chamber optimized vacuum thrust expansion area ratio bell nozzles would in all probability not be fully sized because of the limiting diameter inter-stage space available cutting into the performance somewhat but the one engine plus four vacuum thrust Vernier’s combination would be close to the Kosberg, RD-3D37 or RD-3D38 single chamber closed cycle vacuum thrust engine approach. The optimization process of utilizing a low thrust longer burn second stage single main engine not two main engines allow the second stage and payload to gain altitude as well as range before adding the needed acceleration part way through the stages burn before the BUS third stage completes the velocity requirement payload deployment operation. Again like the first stage two engine cluster the second stage engine would submerge the main thrust chamber and its two separate turbo-pump machinery systems within the stage propellant tank.

There is no way to confirm or veto this probability except through reverse engineering estimation and imagery from ground level HUMINT or in SIGINT-TELINT received in development testing. The DPRK has released no imagery of the second stage engine that has been identified. Further the DPRK static testing infrastructure mobile covers its hardware as it is being processed for static test firing greatly reducing its capability to define those hardware’s surveillance issues.  



Launch thrust                                

263.3 KN’s x 2=526.6 KN Sea Level

Vacuum Thrust 2 nd. stage    

285.7 KN’s x 1 for a single upper stage engine or x 2=571.4 KN’s Vacuum max or less that optimum excessive thrust option


UDMH/N2O4 so called storable, highly toxic, very corrosive, propellant also utilizes inhibitors to cut down their corrosive impact on the missile systems.

Isp. Sea Level                                

200 seconds

Isp. Vacuum                                  

220 seconds approximately

Note: Iran got the RD-4D10 engine technology around 2005-2006 a derivation of which was applied to the Safir-1, 1A, & 1B launch vehicle and now the second stage of the Simorgh (3) launch vehicle that recently underwent its first test flight.

Known as the KN-14, No-dong-D nose design details

Based on the known standardized warhead design sizes and the KN-14 external upper stages details and its known Soviet R-29/SS-N-8, Sawfly, RSM-40 Vysota heritage it was possible to develop the internal systems design layout. Some of the hardware on display is strictly prototype hardware at the T’aeso’ng (Tae-sung) Machine Factory. The block-II, KN-08 known as the KN-14, warhead is a common design from the KN-11 SLBM SS-N-6 (warhead design) No-dong-B KN-07 design utilizing a forward bus stage from the Makeyev OKB of the extended SLBM Soviet era R-29, D, U, RSM-40, SS-N-8 Vysota.

The KN-14 utilizes a second stage closed cycle main engine of Soviet heritage origin while above the second stage is the Bus third stage for warhead delivery.

This is the opposite side view not normally seen during the military parade displays in North Korea that shows some of the unseen bus stage sub systems

KN-14 warhead separation sequence operation

DPRK nuclear warhead designs as presently understood

KN-11 & HS-10 Launch Failures Reasons Focus on Several Issues That Directly Impacts the KN-14:

Some of the problems the DPRK has experienced in recent missile firings are not easily explained in the face of the same similar systems success in the post flights known. The design bureau may be under such pressure for a full range strategic rocket demonstration as to literally launch for broke as many missiles as possible hoping both to succeed close enough but also get at the vehicles systemic problems defined through accelerated flight testing operational environment observed… All three missiles KN-11, HS-10 & KN-14 are using the same first stage closed cycle RD-4D10 engine variants.

1. It literally blew up on its launch pad destroying the TEL vehicle:

Answer B: The “hard start” is an improper mixing of the propellants at the wrong time or place which is a flow control issue of the propellant manifold issue. That has apparently been resolved by precise presetting programming of the flow control valve system. Typically Soviet era engines are started run and shut off as the only programming required but this has required more homework for the setting parameters.

2. It suggests its single stage main engine fueling apparatus plumbing closed cycle turbo-machinery suffered a catastrophic failure causing the repeated explosions.

Answer D-E: Its single stage main engine fueling apparatus plumbing closed cycle turbo-machinery suffered a catastrophic failure causing the repeated explosions. This kind of failure could occur anywhere in flight but they are systemic of a common issue and failure in design specification requirement. The near max-Q failures seem to relate to the maximum dynamic loading failure of the internal plumbing its single stage main engine fueling apparatus closed cycle turbo-machinery suffered a catastrophic failure causing the repeated explosions.

If the propellant lines whether the main flow line or those associated with the closed cycle turbo-machinery are breached rupture anywhere along the separated flow controlled process the mixing of the propellants cause an instantaneous internal explosion of the hypergolic propellants and launch failure.

This is indicative of a propellant line seal failure possible precipitated by propellant/tankage control stabilization short coming or outright seal/weld stress failures. The propellant slosh baffling or stronger welds of the plumbing are typically required to resolve these hard to identify and resolve issues that require repeated flight testing to resolve.

Alternatively the use of simulated ground static testing of the full systems based on the flight test loading inputs. Additionally the static test firings that do not immerse the full engine turbomachinery in the propellant tanks for the test that if it is breached as suspected will severely damage the test stand from the explosive failure. Careful internal TV imaging during static test firings would be required to identify the failure areas. The DPRK has clearly walked away from this finality test stressing another more tedious approach.

DPRK welding quality does not impress at all from what has been observed.

3 ….. veered off course suggesting steering issues… The flight is stated to have veered deviated from its normal flight trajectory 5-6 seconds after launch liftoff exploding at about 300 feet breaking up in a fiery catastrophic failure collapsing back on the TEL as it disappearing from the radar systems of the South Korean Defense Ministry

Answer C: The veering off course is directly due to the two steering Vernier’s somehow not doing their job properly or outright failure in some element of the proven system.

4. ….the second launched around 7:26 PM seems to have failed midair after flying up several kilometers for about a minute before exploding. This seems to have repeated the April 15 failure mode in the Max-Q region.

Answer D-E. See item”2” answer

5. At least one suffered from a launch hard start of the main engine with the catastrophic results clearly displayed and this may have repeated itself in the land based version this time. Yet static test firings have shown it works correctly in a cluster of two engines seen successfully demonstrated for the KN-14 first stage recently. At least two now have suffered from a launch hard start of the main engine with the catastrophic results clearly displayed.

Answer B: See item “1” answer

6. That hard start if survived through initial launch may leave the lingering turbo machinery damage that soon catches up causing the explosive failures observed.

Answer B: See item “1” answer

7. It suggests its single stage engine fueling apparatus closed cycle turbo-machinery suffered a catastrophic failure causing the inflight explosion. 

Answer D-E: See item”2”

8. ….experimental launch ejection test operations resumed successfully on December 21, 2015 after its failed launch ejection attempt test on November 28, 2015 according to the Bill Gertz, Washington Free Beacon 01-05-2016 information. DPRK engineering technical personnel along with it Russian Federation Makeyev OKB acquired personnel clearly have defined the expected launch problems with the known snubber solutions applied to the external missile skin to assist with a clean launch from it launch tube via its solid motor burn hot gas pressure release and ejection to get the rocket above the ocean surface for rocket engine startup.

A. The first problem was the SLBM “ejection snubbers’ issue” easily resolved already

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Page last modified: 05-07-2017 11:41:38 ZULU