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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

North Korean, Iranian, & Pakistani Common Russian, Chinese Nuclear Weapons Heritage & Tests, What Does it Reveal About the Missile-Borne Warhead Development Status?


By © C. P Vick, 2002-7 All Rights Reserved

By Charles P. Vick

December 12, 2002 / March 30, 2007


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


In December of 2001 the National Intelligence Council released the “Foreign Ballistic Missile Threat Through 2015”, National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) report which examined the capabilities and likely development of ballistic missiles in Russia, China, Iran, Iraq, and North Korea. The NIE report concluded that by 2015 the United States will likely face an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) threat from North Korea, Iran and possibly Iraq. In addition, the report claims that North Korea may be ready to test the Taep’o-dong-2 which is a multistage missile capable of reaching the United States with a potential several hundred kilograms size, nuclear weapon payload. The NIE reported that Iran is pursuing a duel purpose ICBM/Space Launch Vehicle (SLV) capability, which could be tested within the decade. Though the scope of the NIE is admittedly limited in what it made available to Congress and the public, its conclusions about the capabilities and likely development of ballistic missiles in North Korea and Iran appear to be a worst case analysis estimation based on the most optimal conditions for advanced development which is highly questionable.

This report will evaluate the conclusions reached concerning the North Korean and Iranian ballistic missiles. The analysis will use publicly available information to show that the core components and design of the North Korean and Iranian missile inherently prohibit full range intercontinental flight of 10,000 -12,000 kilometers much less the suggested 15,000 kilometers range performance unless the warhead mass is reduced. This is based on a preliminary engineering analysis with some real surprise revelations invalidating previous assumptions, based on and tied to the known systems performance specifications as has been used by U.S. intelligence sources and methods analysis. Those threat countries’ missiles are apparently confined to a capability class known as Limited Range Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (LRICBM) with a range on the order of 3,500 to less than 8,000 -10,000 kilometers to deliver a viable nuclear payload. The term LRICBM was used in the open literature during the 1970s and 1980s and only in the 1990s did it become obscured as a class for unknown reasons. LRICBM's are derived from the existing Medium Range Ballistic Missile (MRBMs) and Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM's) and are not based on designs specifically developed to create a Full Range Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (FRICBM). The primary example of this class of missile is the Chinese two stage CSS-3, 3A/DF-4, 4A soon to be replaced by the solid propellant LRICBM, DF-31, which will also be offered as a commercial space booster KT-1. A derivation of the CSS-3 with an added solid propellant spin stabilized third stage was in fact used to launch China’s first unmanned satellite. The three stage variant of the CSS-3/3A was never deployed by China as a strategic ballistic missile.

Ballistic Missiles:

Recently, more detailed technical information about the characteristics of North Korean and Iranian ballistic missiles was made publicly available that has in turn allowed for a more complete examination of their capabilities. Combining this new information and engineering analysis on the knowledge of the existing ballistic missile system with what is already known about them shows that the intelligence estimates presented in the “Foreign Ballistic Missile Threat Through 2015”, NIE report should be carefully reviewed and studied for it revelations among several reasons. These missiles do have the engines and vehicle design that would permit full range intercontinental flight but are only designed for limited range ICBM flight, if that is their purpose at all. There is no doubt that Taep’o-dong-1 was strictly designed as a space booster based on its operational performance details. The North Korean Taep’o‑dong-2, 2A and the Iranian potential equivalent Shahab-5 are capable of striking targets on the order of 4,300 kilometers away with two stages but no greater than 5,500 kilometers, with a similar payload of first generation warhead known mass1,150-850 kilograms derived from the data available like that suggested in the NIE and the CSS-3,3A design.

Suggestion of a longer range three stage Taep’o-dong-2B/Shahab-5B performance on the order of 6,000 to 6,700 kilometers utilizing the existing same No-dong-A derived altitude start second stage with the addition of the almost certain liquid propellant and or solid motor third stage option approaches the performance of the postulated Shahab-6/Taep’o-dong-2C/3 range of 5,632-6,700-8,000 km. class conceptual capability but armed with a fifth generation nuclear weapon with a warhead mass of 450-200 kg would give those missiles a 12,000-15,000 kilometer range capability.

Indeed the postulated warhead mass is on the order of 300-250-200 kilograms total mass or represents a multigenerational nuclear weapon design far from being perfected today by North Korea or Iran in 2007 unless foreign assistance has accelerated that development. At present the lowest mass is a total of 650 kilograms. Iran and North Korea introduced the Icononic warhead design on the Shahab-3B and the No-dong-B addressing the ICBM warhead design requirements addressed as problems illuminated in this study.

That may ultimately become one and the same Shahab-6/Taep’o-dong-2C/3, SLV that would incorporate the redesigned upgraded of the upper stages from the existing design. Yet the engineering study suggests that revising the upper stage of the Taep’o-dong-2 design would in fact gain almost nothing for the performance for all practical purposes but a lengthened first stage would add to the existing known February 1994 design performance which may have already occurred. This would make the Taep’o-dong-2 first stage similar to the CSS-3, 3A design. The public NIE even goes further to postulate that North Korea and Iran have a further concept in mind that can best be described as the NIE postulated threat Taep’o-dong-4/Shahab-7 all new dedicated ICBM/SLV design with a maximum range of 15,000 km.

Subsequently in 2003 North Korea introduced and deployed the No-dong-B. It was later flown as the Shahab-4 on January 17, 2006 from Iran and on July 4/5, 2006 North Korea flew the Taep’o-dong-2C/3 that addressed all the North Korean and Iranian strategic ballistic missile design short comings illuminated in this study.

The only thing North Korea and Iran have not resolved is the nuclear weapon reduction from 650 to 200 kilogram and fuel supply requirements which they are known to have been working on for years now. That is being resolved ever so systematically but testing will only resolve it in spite of having nuclear experts from Russia that have helped. However it is clear they have the design in hand pending fuel acquisition and testing results.

In the final analysis this may turn out to be one and the same vehicle design or only two somewhat different designs for the Taep’o-dong-2 after all there is just so much funding to develop a very few of the most optional designs. The NIE states it as follows:

Missile Systems Nomenclature


North Korea Iran Pakistan

Liquid Propellant Launch Vehicles

1. Scud-B =Shahab-1  
2. Scud-C =Shahab-2  
3. No-dong-A =Shahab-3,3A &3B, =Ghauri-II
4. No-dong-B =? Shahab-4 n/a
5. Taep’o-dong-1 =Taep’o-dong-1A? n/a?
6. n/a =Shahab-3D/IRIS n/a
7. Taep’o-dong-2,2A =Kosar-Shahab-5 n/a
8. Taep’o-dong-2B? =? n/a
9. Taep’o-dong-2C/3 =Shahab-6 n/a

Solid Propellant Motor Launch Vehicles

1. n/a Ghadr-101 =Shaheen-1?
2. n/a Ghadr-110 =Shaheen-2?
3. n/a Ghadr-110A =Shaheen-3?
4. n/a Space L. V./ICBM Space L. V./ICBM

North Korea,

The Taep’o-dong-2 in a two-stage ballistic missile configuration could deliver a several -hundred-kg payload up to 10,000 km- sufficient to strike Alaska, Hawaii, and parts of the continental United States. If the North uses a third stage similar to the one used on the Taep’o-dong-1 in 1998 in a ballistic missile configuration, then the Taep’o-dong-2 could deliver a several hundred-kilogram payload up to 15,000 km - sufficient to strike all of North America. A Taep’o-dong-2 flight test probably would be conducted as an SLV with a third stage to place a small payload into the same orbit the North Koreans tried to achieve in 1998.”.... (1)


....” Iran is likely to test these vehicles initially as SLV’s and not as ballistic missiles to demonstrate an inherent IRBM/ICBM capability without risking the potential political and economic costs of a long-range missile test.”.....

 Iranian acquisition of complete systems or major subsystems- such as North Korea TD-2 or Russian engines - could accelerate its capability to flight-test an ICBM/SLV.

 If Iran were to acquire complete TD-2 system from North Korea, it could conduct a flight test within a year of delivery, allowing time to construct a launch facility.”..... (2)

In effect Iran does not now have the facilities to accommodate a Taep’o-dong-1 or a Taep’o-dong-2 class missile/SLV.

The Intelligence communities suggested15,000 kilometers range was based strictly on the required range performance to cover all of the continental United States from Iran but not North Korea range requirements.

As noted by Mr. Ronald H. Siegel of IDDS this is based on two assumptions that are highly questionable quoted as follows: Afirst, --- an ICBM may be considered operational immediately after its first successful test, even though typical development programs involve 20 or more tests…… second, --- an ICBM capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the US mainland can be derived from missiles currently under development.” (3)

What is really going on here is covered through the following testimony:

North Korea

...”.The multiple-stage Taep’o-dong-2, which is capable of reaching the United States with a nuclear weapon-size payload, may be ready for flight-testing. The North probably also is working on improvements to its current design.

 The Taep’o-dong-2 in a two-stage configuration could deliver a several-hundred-kilogram payload up to 10,000 km-sufficient to strike Alaska, Hawaii, and parts of the continental United States.

If the North uses a third stage similar to the one used on the Taep’o-dong-1 in 1998, the Taep’o-dong-2 could deliver a several-hundred-kg payload up to 15,000 km-sufficient to strike all of North America.

A Taep’o-dong-2 flight test probably would be conducted as a space launch vehicle with a third stage to place a small payload into the same orbit attempted in 1998....


...” Iran is likely to test these vehicles initially as space launch vehicles to demonstrate an inherent IRBM/ICBM capability without risking the potential political and economic costs of a long-range ballistic missile test”........

.....” If Iran were to acquire complete TD-2 system from North Korea, it could conduct a flight test within a year of delivery, allowing time to construct a launch facility.”...

....”Sen. Cochran: One other significant change that we have noted is that, in connection with the range of the North Korean missile capability, the 1999 estimate suggested that the Taep’o-dong II, the two-stage missile, was capable of delivering a large payload to Alaska and Hawaii, which is a range of from 4,000 to 6,000 kilometers.

Now that missile is assessed as having a 10,000-kilometer range with the same-size payload, which would not only put them in position to strike Alaska and Hawaii but much of the western United States. Is that, in your estimate, a significant change?

Mr. Walpole: That’s significant as well. That takes into account - - as I said before, even though a flight-test moratorium is in place, development of a moratorium is not. And so it takes account for different things they could do to structure, materials and even payload lightening to give it an increased range for the system.

Sen. Cochran: Is this change in your assessment the result of things that North Korea has done to improve its missile or because you have a better understanding of the performance of the missile?

Mr. Walpole: I know the answer to that. I am trying to think of what to do in open session. Lets just say both.

Sen. Cochran: In assessing the Taep’o-dong II, is this meant to suggest that if Iran would acquire that missile, would it be able to strike the United States with a nuclear-weapon-size payload? So how does this change the new assessment of Iran’s ability, if any, to strike the United States if it were to acquire a Taep’o-dong II?

Mr. Walpole; definitely with a three-stage, it could strike the United States; maybe with a two-stage. I don’t know if I mentioned to this committee two years ago, but North Korea has the advantage. You mean, we all know the Earth rotates. But because of the rotation of the Earth, North Korea is launching in the direction that they get the benefit of that rotation to strike the United States. Iran would be launching over the poles and they don’t get the benefit. So a 10,000 kilometer range missile would though it sounds silly but it will go longer launched from North Korea to the United States than it would from Iran.”.....

.....Sen. AKAKA: One agency participating in the estimate judges that Iran is unlikely to Achieve a successful test of an ICBM before the year 2015. Does this agency base its conclusion on technical capabilities or political conditions?

Mr. Walpole: It’s both. It’s both.”...... (4)

The NIE postulated threat concept of a Taep’o-dong-4/Shahab-7 is an all new dedicated ICBM/SLV design that is a concept totally outside the existing Taep’o-dong-2 know design development envelop considered by the U. S. Intelligence community to meet a perceived range threat requirement to cover the total continental United States whether based in reality or not, it is an estimate that is their best guess. It would require an entirely new missile/launch vehicle design with a body diameter of 2.2-3.3 meters and a design similar to the U. S. retired Titan-II, Titan-IIIA or the Soviet field retired R-36/SS-9, or operational R-36M/SS-18 or the Chinese CSS-4/DF-5 FRICBM’s. This would also require some new launch and ground testing infrastructure sites.

That is unless the design chosen uses a fifth generation warhead mass which would make the Taep’o-dong-2 variants equivalent to the Taep’o-dong-4/Shahab-7 concept.

The Analysis Process Fraught with Errors in Process

Many of the range performance suggestions by the intelligence community for the yet-to-fly missile systems are based on mathematical models relying on what little data has been acquired. Typically and historically, these studies put out by the intelligence community overestimate the performance of the actual missile systems. In addition, none of the here in noted strategic systems achieve true FRICBM capability with out a greatly reduced warhead mass not believed to today be in their inventory. They fall far short of that kind of performance. Those strategic systems are based on MRBM & IRBM technology.

In order to achieve FRICBM capability, clustering these systems would be required with the first through fourth generation warhead masses (in a method similar to that used by the Soviets with the R‑7/SS-6 ICBM) or an entirely new ballistic missile launch vehicle design would have to be developed. Clustering these systems would be very difficult compounding the existing systems design problems and or making it impossible to combine them because of their design characteristics. In any case such a clustered design would be even more unwieldy than the present known designs for military application making them more closely resemble a commercial space booster of China which is the heritage design of the North Korean systems. As of this writing, there is no indication that such new long term development exists, but this does not mean that it will not appear in the future in a way similar to what Iraq did for its Al Tammuz-1, Al Tammuz-2 and Al Abid missile systems. Only the United States, Russia and China have missiles with this range capability. China never did improve the CSS-3, 3A design to that level of optimization to make it a full range ICBM. The CSS-3, 3A flight failure rate record to date has been much less than would be acceptable for a deployed combat system which is why it will be replaced soon.

Worst case analysis tends to be judged on guessing from our own experience not theirs on what they are doing. It is one of the many lessons and failures of the Cold War Intelligence experience being repeated. There are many other questions that come to mind such as have we played into the foreign propagandist’s lies hands by making a mountain out of a mole hill with these foreign ballistic missile programs? Are we reading more into it than is justified now or in the future? So have we become like the former Soviet Union believing our own lies never recognizing the truth what ever that is for the greed of internal political and economic gain?

Limiting Characteristics

Several characteristics of these existing known missiles’ designs fundamentally prohibit them traveling the suggested range of 15,000km using first, second or third generation warheads believed to exist or be in development the North Korea and perhaps having undergone test by Pakistan with their own indigenous revisions as the trends indicate. First, the Taep’o-dong-2 mass is greater than that utilized by the CSS-3. Thus, it has been suggested that its performance is directly penalized as a result of these design characteristics. This is not born out by the engineering analysis. Secondly, the missiles are too narrow in diameter, which prohibits an adequate amount of propellants from being stored in the missile body to permit a range performance approaching 8,000km. The engineering analysis indicates that this is not necessarily so. When compared to U.S., Chinese and Russian ICBM’s the North Korean and Iranian missiles are significantly smaller in diameter but comparable in height than is normally utilized. It would appear that the performance of the Taep’o-dong-2 with two stages and the Taep’o-dong-2 with three-stages will be less than or equivalent to the Chinese CSS-3, 3A/DF-4, 4A with two or three stages with a given warhead launch mass simply because of their differences in their aspect ratio and their mass fraction which compares the propellant load to the dry mass of the missile. Their Aspect Ratio’s, the length and diameter of the North Korean and Iranian missiles suggest their structures are too small and weak to withstand the rigorous stresses associated with FRICBM flight. Again this is not necessarily so based on the engineering analysis because of the effect on the performance based on which generation 1-5 of warhead mass is used.

Ultimately both North Korea and Iran will have to redesign the first and upper stages of the Taep'o-dong-2/Shahab-5 booster in order to improve its performance and accuracy to meet the Taep’o-dong-3/Shahab-6, postulated requirements. This is because of its design aspect ratio, the length to the diameter of each stage and the total vehicle length to diameter design and its upper stage mass fractions, the upper stages total structural mass should be minimized. They will also have to develop more powerful storable liquid propellant rocket engines beyond those they are now working with for Taep’o-dong-4/Shahab-7. This will take Tehran two or three five to seven years engineering cycles under the most optimum of conditions which do not exist in Iran today. With the introduction of No-dong-B that changed. At this point it is far from being a credible threat to the United States. Presently the Taep’o-dong-3/Shahab-6 is a design study concept under development by Iran, North Korea and being analyzed by the U.S. Intelligence Community with a better mass fraction and aspect ratio than that of the Shahab-5. That is its first stage will be longer and its upper stages will be shorter and definitely larger in diameter similar to the Chinese CSS-3, 3A, LRICBM. The second stage will probably be similar or the same diameter as the first stage but only time will clarify this design issue with the addition of a liquid and or solid motor third stage. Iran does not have the technology industrial infrastructure capability that North Korea utilizes in its missile programs to support this research and development effort at this time. The basis of these ballistic missile threats concepts developed by the U. S. Intelligence Community own ballistic missile threat reverse engineering design bureau analysis is based on admittedly fragmented questionable intelligence data on the rocket engines technology available and the Shahab-6 implied concept. The community has also considered the kinds of missile design revisions that would have to be carried out on the Shahab-5/Taep’o-dong-2 class booster design first imaged by the U. S. in February 1994 to allow its performance to be greatly enhanced to equal the Taep’o-dong-3/Shahab-6 suggested requirements. The very engineering design chosen by North Korea for the Taep’o-dong-2 has made the possibility of increasing the range of the missile much beyond the suggested 6,700 kilometers to 10,000 –15,000 kilometers to be payload dependent because of those design decisions. The design approaches would have to be dramatically revised in order to possibly increase the ranges of those missiles perhaps approaching beyond 8,000-10,000 kilometers. Some of these design changes are possible but some are a major redesign undertaking leaving them open to question and practicality given North Korea’s science fiction economic reality.

Design Change Improvement Considerations

On February 9, 2000, The Washington Times, disclosed the following information, that the North Koreans continue to prepare to flight test the Taep'o-dong-2 launch vehicle. The article went on to describe several design alternative uses for the No-dong-A engines Iran purchased from North Korea to create a Taep'o-dong-2/Shahab-5 class booster. When considering the Shahab-5, 6 class boosters they could utilize a new first stage equipped with multiple No-dong-A engines and a second stage equipped with one or more No-Dong-A engines with a liquid propellant and or solid motor third stage and warhead. The final concept presented suggested an all new first stage equipped with a Russian engine or an engine cluster topped with a single or multiple No-Dong-A engines for a second stage with a liquid propellant and or solid motor third stage with a warhead. Some of these alternative concepts would certainly address the Taep'o-dong-2 mass fraction and stage aspect ratio design deficiency problems but such improvements may have to wait for the introduction of the Shahab-6 launch vehicle since the Taep’o-dong-2/Shahab-5 design is essentially a committed design as it is presently understood. (5)

Last Stage Accuracy Problem

By using a solid propellant third stage similar to that used on the Taep’o-dong-1 presents particularly major problem for accuracy control over a liquid propellant and or solid propellant stage as the warhead final delivery propulsion Bus stage. This is because of the notorious performance problems associated with the use of solid propellant verses liquid propellant. Using solid propellant to place a satellite in Earth orbit is ok but leaves a great deal to be desired for delicate warhead accuracy operations. Using strictly solid propellants in the last stage would essentially through out any accuracy potential threat capability.

More Limiting Factors

The next limiting factor is the propulsion characteristic of the liquid propellant rocket engines used on the Iranian and North Korean ballistic missiles. They are derived from the less efficient open cycle Scud-B and No-dong-A, Russian rocket engines based on the state of the technology in the former Soviet Union during the late1950's and early 1960's. The engines do have the performance to provide the necessary energy to deliver the missiles to the ranges suggested by the U.S. Intelligence Community. Furthermore, the Iranians and North Koreans use engines, which are less efficient than those used by United States, China and Russia today. Iran today is having considerable trouble duplicating these 1950s engines which they purchased without buying the production line technology and License that North Korea had apparently bought from the Russia Makayev OKB for the No-dong-A back in the1987-1988 time frame. (6) Certainly that will take them years beyond their intended design development cycle for those launch vehicles in order for them to assimilate that rocket engine technology which they so far have failed to fully master. Any attempt to assimilate more advanced high performance liquid rocket engine technology will take them many years with several generations on missiles beyond where they are now. However this assumes the Iranian’s can or desire to duplicate that technology for hostile purposes. Certainly this production technology could take several engineering cycles

of five to seven years under the most optimal of conditions to duplicate assuming it has the political will, economic vitality, facilities, infrastructure, and materials, in addition to the trained, educated and experienced personnel to support such an expensive effort of this magnitude.

They all require a considerable level of strong national state expenditures investment as well as a highly developed technological, scientific base with a constant flow of funding available in order for them to succeed. The programs utilize the building block design approach with sustained strong central figure leading the management of the programs. More recently Iran apparently lost its lead Designer General for its ballistic missile program under most unusually circumstances.

In many cases the WMD are a part of the political, military based system of Government used to justify and legitimize a authoritarian regimes existence at the expense of a nations peoples. (7) In all cases these programs are developed with duel use in mind to cover their actual potential intent.

Other Limiting Requirements

Once these ballistic missile programs exceed the surface to surface range of 1,000-1,300-1,500 kilometers range the technological requirements grow enormous. This intern demand a considerable level of foreign experienced know-how to be brought to bear on the program in order to quickly achieved success or alternatively it requires an extensive testing program only seen in the U.S., Soviet Union, China and European programs. This has yet to fully manifest itself in the Iranian or North Korean programs. In point of fact Iran and Pakistan have become the testing ground for North Korea as the trends clearly show.

The rigorous requirement to transition from a Scud type strap-down guidance system to a radio inertial or all inertial guidance system and GPS supported system is a critical and exceptional difficult technological transition when the surface to surface missile exceeds 1,000-1,500 kilometers range. Any missile flying beyond these noted ranges must transition to the more advanced warhead and guidance systems. Iran is already facing this accuracy problem with its Shahab-3, 3A based on recent statements. It has already admitted that it will take another five years of R & D to finish the programs development.

Shahab-4 and the Taep’o-dong-1

There is also the possibility that Iran may simply forgo the Shahab-4/Taep’o-dong-1 since it is ultimately only a test bed pathfinder program for the larger launch vehicle the Shahab-5 and Shahab-6 programs. Could this reflect that the Iranian military had begun to have second thoughts when they assess the technological limits of the Taep'o-dong-1 design and its serious limitations for military applications as a strategic system? Clearly this was North Korea's assessment since it was only designed as a space booster technological pathfinder launch vehicle for a higher performance Taep'o-dong-2 class system which would carry out the assigned tasks with greater certainty of successful results verses the marginal performance of the Taep'o-dong-1 system. But it must also be stated here that like the Taep’o-dong-1 the Taep'o-dong-2,3/Shahab-5/6 class system is even less viable as a strategic deploy-able ballistic missile but it is better suited to be a space booster than the marginal performance Taep'o-dong-1 booster. This confirms that the Taep'o-dong-1 class booster was purely a flight test bed pathfinder launch vehicle program for the follow-on Taep’o-dong-2, 2A/Shahab-5, 6 class launches vehicle design being developed. In the final analysis I believe that Iran will fly the Taep’o-dong-1A class/Shahab-4 booster to aid its own development efforts in the not to distant future in spite of its many previous problems because they have not been able to surmount the technological problems associated with a previous design development attempt.

Launch Support Infrastructure Limiting the Military Utility

This certainly indicates, with relative certainty, that the Taep'o-dong-1 launch was not merely carried out for a propaganda statement opportunity to place a satellite in Earth orbit. It was also used as a pathfinder to prove the launch vehicle "building block approach" for the future follow-on larger launch vehicle Taep'o-dong-2. This could also indicate that the Taep'o-dong-1 program was only intended to be a short lived limited proof of principal program from which some limited economic benefit from third world countries may have been envisioned by the North Korean military-defense industrial leadership. The engineering analysis of the Taep’o-dong-1 missile SLV bears out that it was strictly designed as a space booster and is not intended to be operated as a ballistic missile simply because of the way it was designed and how it is operated. Nonetheless, the real strategic threat, verses the theoretical threat, posed by Iranian missiles is a matter of debate because of the technical characteristics of the actual missiles. It is said that it would take two days to assemble the missile on the launch pad before checking it out and then load highly toxic corrosive liquid propellants in the launch vehicle propellant tanks from tanker trucks which is then finally checked out and launched. The Taep’o-dong-1/Shahab-4 and the Taep’o-dong-2/Shahab-5 are large liquid and solid propellant missiles, which require three to five days to assemble and prepare for a launch once perfected but much longer with new unfamiliar first time vehicles. These missiles are not designed to be deployed in missile silos or on road mobile launchers greatly reducing their strategic military utility, but increasing their political fear psychological utility. In addition, the launch pads for these missiles are not hardened target, which makes the detection of the assembly and fueling relatively easy. Because of the technological design of these missiles it is relatively easy to detect their launch preparation and eliminate the sites through military means. It is technically possible to construct a Coffin or hardened shelter for the launch pads of the Taep’o-dong-2, 2A/Shahab-5, 6 but it is not clearly evident that North Korea or Iran is pursuing this limited strategic value option. It is interesting to note that North Korea only produced a few Taep’o-dong-1 class missiles one or two samples of which may have been sold to Iran and Pakistan based on circumstantial evidence. North Korea also has never deployed the Taep’o-dong-1class missile in silos or on a land mobile Transporter-Erector Launcher (TEL) which says volumes about its strategic value verses its overblown psychological propaganda value to them.

No Iranian Launch Infrastructure Developed So Far

Iran as of this December 2002 writing has apparently not built a launch site with its own gantry umbilical tower for either its Shahab-4 or Shahab-5 class booster which says where they are in those programs according to the publicly released NIE “If Iran were to acquire complete TD-2 system from North Korea, it could conduct a flight test within a year of delivery, allowing time to construct a launch facility.”..... . (8) In effect Iran does not now have the facilities to accommodate a Taep’o-dong-1 or a Taep’o-dong-2 class missile/SLV as of December 2001. That may have since changed. Thanks to these public CIA NIE reports we now know that Iran has yet to build the above ground test launch facilities infrastructure for the Shahab-4/Taep’o-dong-1 much less the Shahab-5/Taep’o-dong-2 class launch vehicles. This means that all the stacking and de-stacking activity observed for the Shahab-4/Taep’o-dong-1 back during April through June 1999 in Iran used simple brick layers scaffolding camouflaged curtained and erecting cranes to examine the technology limitations of the Taep’o-dong-1 design. That means the Iranians may be much further behind than realized before. The fact that they did not parade the Shahab-3, 3A in 2002 says that they have some real problems with that program. (9) Earlier this year in 2002 they had a lunch platform Shahab-3 pre-launch fueling explosion probably due to containment’s that temporally set them back in that Shahab-3 flight testing program. (10) Although a new flight test is expected soon. Apparently up to five missiles were flown in 2002 in its R & D program. That flight test which was apparently successful flown in early May 2002 apparently a May 8 th, or 9 th and or 26 th. (11). Thus as previously written the Shahab-4 appears to have nearly disappeared off the radar screen for all practical purposes. The Iranians have simply not perfected or mastered the technology of the Shahab-3 much less the Shahab-4. The Shahab-4 is said to have a range of 1,250 Statue Miles or 2,011.25 Kilometers in its initial form under development. (12) In 2002 it became clear than Iran is pursuing the Taep’o-dong-1 option for the Shahab-4 after abandoning other design approaches.

North Korea agreed to a moratorium on missile testing in exchange for aid from the United States and other nations. That moratorium is now over in early 2003 and a flight test of the Taep’o-dong-2 final design variant can be expected soon. In the meanwhile, modifications to the Taep’o-dong-1 launch facility were completed in the fall of 1998 and spring 1999 to make it capable of accommodating flight testing of the Taep'o-dong-2. These modifications are the primary reason why the U.S. intelligence community stated in the spring of 1999 that North Korea was ready to flight test the Taep'o-dong-2 in addition to the subsequent first stage pad static test firing.

Limits to Launch Vehicle Improvements

In addition, the foundation of the North Korean and Iranian missile design will not permit significant modification that would allow for a range performance of 15,000km without greatly reducing the existing warhead mass which is in the 200-300 kilogram range. Under ideal conditions, modification of the existing systems could extend the range to less than 8,000km. These modifications include using a lighter weight aluminum alloy or titanium airframe instead of the low grade stainless steel they are apparently now using, switching to a different fuel, and changing the second and third stage aspect ratio and different rocket engine combination configuration. That is a larger diameter and shorter length second stage utilizing less or equivalent structural mass to improve performance of the booster. The missile industry’s favorite material is Aluminum alloy or steel over Titanium that is expensive and difficult to work with. The materials upgrades from stainless steel to aluminum that would have to be made to increase the range of the Taepo-dong-2/Shahab-5 would lighten the mass or weight of the missile airframe some what more therefore lightening the dead mass that must be pushed to the desired higher terminal velocity.

This is a total missile airframe redesign process not easily undertaken. But this also entails use of certain tank liner inhibitors to control propellant corrosion. This propellant corrosive aspect can severely limit deployment and military operations capability by not permitting the missile to be loaded with propellants until just prior to launch with out cutting the liner and inhibitor technologies required. It took several generations of missile for the former Soviet Union to do this successfully. It remains a problem even today. Changing the liquid propellants to [UDMH] Unsymmetrical-Dimethylhydrazine and N204 (NTO) Nitrogen Tetroxide, which is highly toxic and very corrosive used by both the US, USSR/Russia and China and changing the second and third stage aspect ratio would change the stages total metal mass by making the upper stages larger in diameter and shorter in length than they are today with the same amount of propellant therefore lightening the dead mass that must be pushed to the desired terminal velocity to approach a range of 8,000-15,000km. The Shahab-6 discussions have revealed different number of engines and launch vehicle stage design configurations for all the stages of the Taep’o-dong-2/Shahab-5 to meet the Shahab-6/Taep’o-dong-3 postulated requirements.

Therefore the Shahab-5, 6/Taep’o-dong-2, 2A does not exceed 6,700 -10,000km by very much whether two or three stages based on it present suggested design. However if they have redesign the first stage to be longer and the upper stages for creating Shahab-6/Taep’o-dong-3 then they may be able to approach 10,000-15,000 kilometers range with out building an entirely new launch vehicle the Shahab-7/Taep’o-dong-4 with the intelligence community suggested 15,000 kilometer range performance. But that represents one more R&D cycles of five to seven years piled one on top of the other under the most optimum of conditions which does exist in Iran or North Korea. Industrially Base wise North Korea is still far better off than is Iran to accomplish this technological feat from a technological stand point but not an economically by Western standards, over many years and many generations of missiles. That 15,000 kilometer range performance is based strictly on what Iran requires to cover the continental United States and not a bit of real credible indeed questionable evidence of real hardware (R&D&T) Research and Development and Testing except for the Taep’o-dong-2 advanced development ground testing and the perhaps second or third generation nuclear weapons development by North Korea presumed to be in progress today.

Credible Threat

The credible threat presented by the North Korea and Iran is embodied in their silo deploy-able or land mobile pre-surveyed launch site No-dong-A/Shahab-3, 3A & 3B ballistic missile with a range of 1,350 to 1,500 km carrying a 1,158 to 760 kg warhead. However, the Shahab-3, 3A & 3B does require large and identifiable logistic support apparatus, subjecting it to identification and elimination. In the case of the Shahab-4/Taep’o-dong-1, Shahab-5/Taep’o-dong 2 that supports equipment would be doubled in size making it totally impractical as a military system. It would be like looking for all the support vehicles for the IRBM’s the former Soviet Union deployed in Cuba in 1962 and much more besides.

Final Conclusions

The final conclusion is that the existing North Korean and Iranian missiles can be modified in a practical militarily viable ballistic missile design to achieve a range of 9,000 - 15,000km suggested by “Foreign Ballistic Missile Threat Through 2015” report. Under ideal conditions it could be possible for North Korea and Iran to modify their missiles to extend the range from 4,300 Kilometers too greater than 8,000 Kilometers. A comparison of American, Chinese and Russian ICBM’s to the ones that North Korea and Iran may eventually posses shows that they do not resemble each in design characteristics, have different engines, and propellants. Any ICBM would have to have its foundation in Russian, Chinese or American design to achieve a range of 15,000km or less as would be the case for North Korea.

Although the U.S. Intelligence community has provided the U.S. political leadership and policy makers with a realistic worst case analysis of the potential threat from Iran and North Korea, with rare exception this level of a threat has rarely turned out to be the historical reality. Furthermore, in most cases the military intelligence community overestimates the security threat posed by Iranian and North Korean ballistic missiles. These WMD are first and foremost psychological weapons but never the less they must be taken seriously in a realistic way.

North Korea’s Taep’o-dong-2, 2A the Iranian Shahab-5, 6 as defined today will be lucky if it can achieve the suggested 15,000 km range attributed to it regardless of how many improvements are introduced into the design and regardless of weather it carries a first, second or even a third or fifth generation nuclear device. The suggested threat is therefore somewhat questionable at this point based on what is understood. That unless North Korea and Iran introduce ballistic missile technology into the mix and then all bets are off as the U. S Intelligence community report implies.

Six Years Later Perspective

With all these missile and nuclear weapons short coming what was North Korea and Iran doing to address them in 2002 that became clear in 2003-2007. However with the three separate programs having replaced the original Shahab-4/Taep’o-dong-1 program launch vehicle with the successful flights of the Shahab-3B on August 11, 2004 and the No-dong-B on January 17, 2006 as well as the new Ghadr-101. The subsequently July 5, 2006 flight test of the Taep’o-dong-2C/3 replaced the original design Taep’o-dong-2, 2A and 2B the Shahab-5, 6 launch vehicle design with an all new design launch vehicle in development for over seven years. No-dong-B had in fact been introduced into the North Korean inventory in 2003-2004 which was the precursor to the replacement Taep’o-dong-2C/3 design utilizing it airframe and propulsion design technology with a much higher performance system over the previous designs. One would think that with the less effective Taep’o-dong-1 design relegated to uselessness by the greater performance strategic and future satellite launch vehicle programs would have totally disappeared. That may be so but the only launch vehicle available for Iran today is the reworked up-rated Taep’o-dong-1A design to launch a less than 50 kilogram satellite into earth orbit since the Taep’o-dong-2C/3 is not nearly as ready as they would like it to be. The bottom line is that the propulsion system totally changed for the North Koreans and Iranians with the introduction of the No-dong-B, 3,218 - 4,000 kilometer range IRBM development completion and deployment which directly impacting the Shahab-4, 5, 6 programs back during the years 1998-2001. Taep’odong-2C/3 took over two and a part of a third North Korean five year plans to finally fly in the summer of 2006 when it was expected soon after the Taep’o-dong-1 launch on August 31, 1998 some time in the follow on five year plan during the middle years 2003-2004. There is only one reason for this and that is a total redesign and development of a new advance higher performance launch vehicle requiring an additional 5-7 years. In this particular case it would appear that the Taep’o-dong-2, 2A and 2B designs served as technology precursors developers for the follow Taep’o-dong-2C/3 final design launch vehicle. So, yes both Iran and North Korea did redirect its launch vehicle development.

Finally on January 29, 2007 the US government acknowledged for the first time the existence of several new Iranian and North Korean missiles under development through a speech by the deputy director of the Missile Defense Agency of the Pentagon Army Brig. General Patrick O’Reilly before the George C. Marshall Institute. In that speech and slide presentation he described the Iranian two stage Ghadr-110 solid propellant missile with a range of (1,324 miles) 1,995.16 or close to 2,000 kilometers. It has been known that the Iranians are working on the Ghadr-101 as well as the Ghadr-110 solid propellant missiles. The Ghadr-101 solid motor development was completed in 2005. He also described the two stage Taep’o-dong-2C/3 as having a range of (6,200 Miles) 9,975.8 kilometers and the three stage version with a range of (9,300 miles) 14,963.7 kilometers with a 300- 250-200 kilogram warhead. He went further in his slides presentation to show that the No-dong-B has a demonstrated range of 2,000 miles or 3,218 kilometers (3,000 kilometers which is known) when it is capable of flying (2,485 miles) or about 4,000 kilometers. (23) The No-dong-B was described as “a qualitative improvement in the performance” from earlier North Korean missile systems. The Iranian Ghadr-101, 110, 110A will in fact also provides Iran with an ASAT capability besides its operational MRBM and IRBM capability. The initial design of the Shahab-3D would have also provided an ASAT capability but appears to have been abandoned some years ago.

North Korean, Iranian Missile systems Historic Evolution


Names Stages Range
Kilometers (km)
Type Body Diameter
Meters (m)
Scud-A 1 180-270 SRBM 0.885
Scud-B 1 180-300 SRBM 0.885
Scud-B, Hwasong-5, 1 180-300 SRBM 0.885
Scud-C, Hwasong-6 1 500-700 SRBM 0.885
No-dong, Shahab-3, 3A Ghauri II, 1 1,000-1,350 MRBM 1.3
Shahab-3B 1 2,000 MRBM 1.3
SS-4, Shehab-4? (9) < 1/2 1,800-2,000 MRBM 1.65
Taep’o-dong-1, Shahab-4? 2 2,000-2,200 MRBM (1) 1.3
No-dong-B/Shahab-4 1 3,000-4,000 IRBM 1.5
NKSL-1, Shahab-4/Kosar? 3 2,200-2,672-2,896(8) M/IRBM orbital 1.3
CSS-2/DF-3, 3A 1 2,650-2,800 IRBM (4) 2.25
Taep’o-dong-2,2A Shahab-5? 2 3,500-3,750 LRICBM 2.2
NKSL-X-2, 2A Shahab-6 3 4,000-4,300 LRICBM (2)orbital 2.2
CSS-3/DF-4, 2 4,500-4,750 LRICBM (3) 2.25
SS-5, Shahab-5? (10) 1, 2/3 4,500 I/LRICBM 2.4
Shahab-6 (5) 3 5,471-5,500-5,632-6,200 LRICBM(8) 2.2
Taep’o-dong-2, 2A, 2B (6) 3 6,400-6,700 LRICBM 2.2
Taep’o-dong-2A 2 7,000 LRICBM (7) 2.2
Taep’o-dong-2A 3 8,000-12,000 FRICBM (7) 2.2
Taep’o-dong-2C/3 2/3 9,976-14,964 FRICBM 2.2


SRBM - Short Range Ballistic Missile < 1,000 km.

MRBM - Medium Range Ballistic Missile 1,000-2,500 km.

IRBM - Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile 2,500-3,500 km.

LRICBM - Limited Range Intercontinental Ballistic Missile 3,500-8,000 km,

FRICBM - Full Range Intercontinental Ballistic Missile 8,000-12,000 km

(1) Similar performance to SS-4.

(2) Similar performance to SS-5.

(3) Performance exceeds SS-5.

(4) Performance considerably less than the SS-5,

(5) The suggested range performance for this system seems to far exceeds what is technically feasible.

(6) The suggested range performance for this system seems to far exceed what is technically feasible.

(7) None of the above listed strategic system achieve the FRICBM capability except the Taep’o-dong-2C/3. They in fact fall far short of that kind of performance. It also indicates that all those strategic systems are based on MRBM & IRBM technology. In order to achieve FRICBM capability clustering of these systems would be required in a method similar to that used by the Soviet on the R-7/SS-6 ICBM or an entirely new system design would have to be developed. Clustering these systems because of their design characteristics would be very difficult to impossible. There is on this writing no indication of such a new long term development but this does not mean that it will not appear in the future. Only the United States , Russia and China (PRC) have deployed FRICBM’s.

(8) Many of the suggested ranges for the yet to fly missile systems is based on mathematical modeling of the systems relying on what little data is known. Typically these paper studies in the intelligence community over estimate the performance of the actual missile systems. It does however give a range of potential possibilities as to what to look for once they are flown. They however reflect the best and more conservative realistic figures available.

(9) Almost certainly not the same strategic system.

(10) Almost certainly not the same strategic system.

(?) The question here is the systems essentially one and the same?

*NKSL-1 is an unofficial designation created by Charles Vick. The NKSL-1 is a Taep’o-dong-1 missile with a third stage and satellite added.

**NKSL-X-2 is an unofficial designation created by Charles Vick. NKSL-X-2 is a Taep’o-dong-2 missile with a third stage and satellite added.

Nuclear Weapons Assessment of What Really Counts December 2002


Another aspect of the NIE that must be critiqued is the estimate that Iran or North Korea could be capable of producing a nuclear payload that is several hundred kilograms. There is generally considered a three step process for a non-nuclear weapon state to develop a nuclear weapon; first there is the research and design of the weapon; second, there is the process of acquiring enough fissile material; third there is the integration of the weapon with its delivery system, or the integration of the nuclear device. For the purpose of this examination, we will focus exclusively on nuclear arming of ballistic missiles.

In the process of nuclear arming it is critical for states to develop a warhead that will be able to physically fit on the ballistic missile and that the weight of the warhead will not adversely affect the range of the ballistic missile by being too heavy. Regarding the size of weapon, the primary factor that must be addressed is the diameter of the warhead. It must be similar in size or smaller than the diameter of the missile body which it is to be mated to. Although a few hammer head design warheads with diameters greater than the missile diameter have been developed for tactical nuclear weapons it has never been applied to long range nuclear warhead design and was only utilized on the 1 st and 2 nd generation warheads as a rule. The weight of the warhead will have an effect on the size of the warhead; the heavier the warhead the larger the diameter and vice versa. Another important aspect of the weight of the warhead is its effect on the range of the missile. The heavier the payload being loaded onto the delivery system, the shorter distance that the missile will be able to deliver the weapon.

In evaluating the validity of the NIE claim that North Korea or Iran could develop a nuclear weapon that is several hundred kilograms it would be useful to use a historical analysis of the development process for preparing nuclear weapons for ballistic missiles in the United States and Russia. The United States was first able to integrate a nuclear warhead on a ballistic missile in 1952; seven years after the United States started developing nuclear devices. This warhead was the MK-5, which weighed 1,400 kg. The Soviet Union’s first warhead to be fixed on ballistic missile was the one for the SS-3, which was completed in 1955. Through the weight of the warhead for the SS-3 was 1,350 kg, the follow-on warhead for the SS-4 weighed approximately the same as the United States, 1,400kg.

Several trends emerge after looking at the history of the development of nuclear weapon devices for ballistic missiles. First, it took several years for the United States and the Soviet Union to build a device that would fit the parameters for deployment on a ballistic missile. Second, the countries that developed these nuclear devices had significant technological and industrial resources available to them and they were able to conduct nuclear tests to validate their weapon design. These are two trends that are not likely to be possessed by either Iran or North Korea. Clearly, neither of these countries possess the nuclear technology or industrial base that could compare to the United States or Russia from 1945-1955. In addition, these countries have not conducted nuclear tests, which would provide important information for the development of nuclear weapons for deployment on a ballistic missile. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that it is very unlikely that Iran or North Korea could develop, as their first generation nuclear weapon, a warhead that took the United States and Russia seven and six years, respectively.

Another aspect of the preparation of a nuclear device is the type of nuclear weapon that would be used. There are two basic types of nuclear weapons designs, the implosion and gun types.

The gun-type weapon brings together two or more pieces of Uranium together to form a critical mass that will yield a nuclear explosion. The implosion device uses explosives to compress a piece of plutonium or uranium into a higher density mass where it becomes critical and produces a nuclear explosion. According to Li Bin, in an article titled “Nuclear Missile Delivery Capability in Emerging Nuclear States” from Science and Global Security, “based on the experiences of the nuclear weapons states [US, Great Britain, France, Russia, and China], both gun-type and implosion-type devices can be made small enough to be delivered by missiles.” However, there are three factors that still must be overcome in order to produce a nuclear warhead. First there is the weight of the device. Second, enough fissile material must be acquired to build the bomb. Lastly, there is the nuclear know-how to construct a nuclear device, particularly an implosion device.

The nuclear know-how for an implosion device is considerably more complex than that for a gun-type device. Implosion weapons require the proper use of explosives, shielding, and other technologies. In addition, all the components of an implosion device add weight to the system, which is a factor that must be overcome by the weapon designers. Though implosion devices are difficult to manufacture, it could be possible that with the assistance of publicly available literature and other sources that a designer could address the weight problem associated with an implosion device. Another issue related to an implosion device is its ability to use both highly enriched uranium and plutonium as its fissile material, which increases the avenues that a producer can acquire the necessary material. However, it is still a challenge to have a high degree of confidence that the design will yield a nuclear explosion without testing the device. Some of the factors that play into this are directly related to addressing the problem of weight, such as the amount of explosives used, the shielding, and materials used to construct the device and its warhead airframe. Therefore, it is possible to design an implosion device that could be deployed on a ballistic missile, but there are many technological hurdles that must be overcome and it is unlikely that a state like Iran or North Korea would be capable of overcoming the aforementioned challenges in 2002.

The other option for a nuclear or thermo-nuclear weapon design is the gun-type device. This option is generally considered to be technically less challenging than designing an implosion device. In addition, it is relatively easier to verify that the design will yield a nuclear explosion without testing the device. In this type of design the amount of explosives used and the size of the “gun-barrel”, which effects the nuclear explosion, are primary determinants of its suitability for deployment on a ballistic missile warhead. Another problem with a gun-type device is that it can only use highly enriched uranium as its fissile material. This creates problems of acquiring the necessary amount of highly enriched uranium to achieve a critical mass. Like an implosion device, it must be questioned whether Iran especially or North Korea possess the necessary materials, technology, and industrial base that would give them the opportunity to construct a gun-type device that could fit on a ballistic missile and be light enough to permit the missile to achieve the necessary range to strike the United States. They certainly will not be able to achieve it with a first or second generation nuclear weapon payload.

There are many challenges in developing nuclear warheads. There are challenges of acquiring the necessary know-how to construct a weapon that would be suitable for deployment on a ballistic missile. In addition, there is the challenge of gaining access to the appropriate materials for constructing a nuclear weapon. Lastly, there is the problem of achieving a certain degree of reliability that the nuclear design will work without testing it in some manner presumably without being detected. Based on the challenge of developing nuclear devices for ballistic missiles, the history of their development, and the poor technological and industrial base of Iran especially and North Korea to a degree, it is the conclusion of this study that it is unlikely that Iran or North Korea could develop a several hundred kilogram first or second generation nuclear weapon that could fit on a ballistic missile. However, it is important to note that this conclusion is based on limited data and assumes to a certain extent that Iran or North Korea will not receive more assistance from Russia or China in the area of nuclear weapons technology. Certainly the proliferation of such information could accelerate the Iranian and North Korean nuclear weapons development programs.

The Warhead Bottom Line

“The Taep’o-dong-2 in a two-stage ballistic missile configuration could deliver a several -hundred-kg payload up to 10,000 km- sufficient to strike Alaska, Hawaii, and parts of the continental United States. If the North uses a third stage similar to the one used on the Taep’o-dong-1 in 1998 in a ballistic missile configuration, then the Taep’o-dong-2 could deliver a several hundred-kg payload up to 15,000 km - sufficient to strike all of North America. (1) What ever the “several hundred kilograms size, nuclear weapon payload” arbitrarily means is certainly a very poorly defined guest mate by the US government entities that begs to be challenged. Mr. Ronald H. Seigel of IDDS, states it as follows “…..US National Intelligence Estimate claimed that a three‑stage ….Taep’o-dong-2 could deliver a payload of "several hundred kilograms" to the United States. What this means depends on what is meant by "payload" and what is meant by "several hundred." (13) He goes on to explain that a 6,000 km range three stage Taep’o-dong -2 missile extended to 10,000 km could only deliver a 300 kg payload to the target and that a 4,000 km range two stage Taep’o-dong-2 missile extended to 10,000 km could only deliver 200 kg to the target. “These payloads are both too small to accommodate first‑generation uranium based nuclear warheads.” (13)

Typically it will take several generations to develop a nuclear warhead compatible with the existing missile type’s payload range capacity. At the same time these first or subsequent generations nuclear explosive devices with in the over all warheads design must be adapted to the available untested RV designs dimensions. Certainly the first generations warheads are assumed to be in the 1,000-1,500 kilograms mass range while subsequent generation’s warheads would be expected to be in the 500-1,000 kilogram range. (14)

Those first generation nuclear devices may in fact be much heavier or closer to on the order of 2,200 kilograms verses the existing design warhead mass, that only subsequent generations after testing will reduce to acceptable masses.

Yet more sophisticated warhead may carry as little as 4-6 kilograms of critical mass Plutonium or be built in part of fissile material with devices of 15-25 kilograms to create upwards of 200-300 kilograms total warhead mass. (15, 16) The development ------- reentry vehicles (RV’s), typically ---- 2-4 % of the total ballistic missile systems mass, is the most difficult pacing item for strategic ballistic missiles with ranges beyond 1,500 kilometers. (17)

North Korea and Iran may very well be able to develop the missiles with ranges beyond 1,500 kilometers but the RV’s for the return trip is another question requiring extensive flight testing and or inside knowledge from countries that have developed these technology. These countries must first perfect the launch vehicles they have and are developing before they can even contemplate testing the RV technology at full range. (18)

To date there is no public evidence except for acquiring of some wind tunnel technology that either of these countries has successfully developed the designs or mastered the material and production technology to create a deliverable credible RV for their suggested FRICBM/SLV launch vehicle programs reducing them to mere propaganda psychological political theater weapons.

First we have to recognize that the No-dong-A payload mass of 650-760-1,158 kg as the first generation nuclear weapon target mass for North Korea, Iran and Pakistan. Ultimately that figure has to be 1,050 kg’s. plus for the 1 st. generation nuclear weapon RV payload. Looking at the potential expected mass of various generations of uranium based nuclear warhead suggest there are real limits to the warheads that have yet to be developed by North Korea and Iran except for the testing conducted by Pakistan. It is quite obvious that Iran and Pakistan have become the testing agents of North Korea based solely on the public trends.

Nuclear Warhead Mass by Generation of Development

Generation Mass Range Kg.  
1 st Gen. 1,158-850 *
2 nd Gen. 900 – 750 (650)
3 rd. Gen. 750 -- 500
4 th Gen. 500 -- 400
5 th. Gen. 450 -- 200

*This is based on the 1 st generation nuclear warheads of Pakistan.

“Extending the range of the missile to ----- continental United States would reduce the payload ----- below the minimum needed to carry a first -generation nuclear warhead.” “……a North Korean ICBM attack on the continental United States …. require an entire new (series of) development cycles- for missiles, or for warheads, or for both.” (19)

“The likely weight of a first (generation) warhead produced by a proliferating country has been variously estimated at 450-1,000kg.” (20) Since the suggested range performance of the North Korean missiles can only deliver 300-200 kilograms to those targets they will be unable to deliver a first generation nuclear warhead to the suggested ranges. (20) Based on the No-dong/Ghauri-II model it would appear that that first generation nuclear warheads mass is on the order of 850-1,158 kg. or in the 1,050kg category well above that required for the suggested range performance. It is our earnest hope that the Islamic warhead technology embodied in the Pakistani first generation nuclear warhead of 850-1,050-1,158 kg will not travel to Iran much less North Korea for humanities well being unfortunately it did.

Under normal conditions a nuclear warhead constitutes “ two-thirds or more of the payload”…The re-entry vehicle with its heat shield will take up about one third of the payload with the nuclear device being reduced to about half of the payload mass leaving the rest of the mass to the fuse and onboard payload instrumentation. (21)

In addition to the limitations of these ballistic missiles, the weight of their payload will have a direct impact on their range performance; the heavier the payload on the missile the shorter the range will be. The reason a heavier payload will decrease the range of a missile is that it takes more fuel which translates into more energy to propel the missile the same range as a missile with a lighter payload.

Related to this issue of warhead weight is the sophistication of the weapon. The NIE claims that Iran and/or North Korea could deploy a nuclear weapon that would have a mass of several hundred kilograms. This presupposes that they can do better than India and Pakistan in reducing the size of their nuclear warheads. However, it is very challenging to develop a nuclear weapon that would be small enough to fit inside a reentry vehicle and light enough to not adversely limit the range of the delivery system.

Only recently has a considerable amount of critical information come together on the North Korean, Pakistani, and Iranian missiles and the range performance of the No-dong-A/Shahab-3/Ghauri-II, Taep’o-dong-1/Shahab-4, Taep’o-dong-2/Shahab-5 class missile systems and the postulated Taep’o-dong-3/Shahab-6 and postulated Taep’o-dong-4/Shahab-7 concepts. The failure of the U.S. Government Agencies to publicly quantify the nature of the potential threat seems very inadequate based on this admittedly preliminary analysis, perhaps reflecting just how little they guest-mate to know.

Based on the known and common warhead masses and some actual range analysis data and similar profiling of the follow-on systems and estimating where they sit on the graph has made it possible to derive a preliminary “Range-Payload Throw-weight Trade Off” graph to assess the quality of the potential threat.

If the warhead mass, shrinks much below the standard 1,000-500 kg or even 450-400 kg to just under 200 kg then the warhead probably is only being used for Chemical and Biological weapons whose effectiveness is some what better than conventional high energy chemical weapons. It could be further inferred that if the mass of the warhead or (bomb let’s as they have been called) is anywhere below 200-300 kg the existing warhead designs and size would have to be dramatically changed to be workable for a ballistic re-entry from the known warhead masses and design sizes. Bomb let’s for Chemical or biological weapons would perhaps be less than 300-350 kg each but could be combined to create clustered munitions into MRV’s (multiple reentry vehicles) on the order of 1,000-400 kg. These bomb let’s could be as small as a basket ball to graph fruit size verses the known 0.88 meter to 1.35 meters base diameters cone shaped designs sizes though there is no public evidence of their existence. This does not preclude the full 1,000-500 kg warheads from being dedicated to chemical and biological weapons even though today they are built alternatively as high energy chemical explosive warheads. There is a point where the range forced reduction in the mass of the warhead does preclude it from being a nuclear weapon. This demarcation line is however unclear at this time. If the mass just under 200-300 kg of the warheads is understood then the yield can be estimated depending on the country’s nuclear technological level of development. The nuclear charges within the re-entry warhead whether an implosion or gun type design would have to be 0.6-0.4 meters in diameter otherwise the warheads would have to be larger in base diameter than the missile bodies they are attached to. To assume that Iran or North Korea has a level of nuclear technological capability to create nuclear weapons much smaller than 400-500 kg is a bit of a stretch and would suggest that their nuclear weapons’ technology is equal to that of the United States nuclear weapon’s technology. This I submit is highly improbable for a first generation nuclear warhead.

From this and other missile analysis on the North Korean and Iran missiles it is clear that the suggested range performance of some of the above noted missile classes does not exist. Some of the longer range missile performance figures could only be applied to the Shahab-6 theoretical undeveloped Taep’o-dong-4/Shahab-7 FRICBM space launch vehicle. Shahab-6/Taep’o-dong-3 is at best a concept years from becoming a manifested reality. The very nature of it’s expected design still keeps it in the less than 8,000km Limited Range ICBM category far short of the full range ICBM of 10,000 -12,000 km. unless the warhead mass is dramatically reduced. The U. S. Intelligence Community analysis itself is unsure of what the Shahab-6 configuration will become because of all the variables in analyzing the potential performance capability of the system from the various redesign options which may not turn out to be the final design utilized. Thus, the wide range of suggested performance figures can be understood. It further reveals just how unrealistic these missile systems are as a viable military system for deployment strongly suggesting they are intended as space boosters only. However, this does not preclude them from being used as weapons of mass destruction carriers. Unfortunately far more has been attributed to these missile systems than is justified. Thus it can be understood why Iran is now starting to develop its own solid propellant rocket program from the external foreign technology transfer primarily from China that has been obtained. This could become a far more serious threat that the Shahab-5 and Shahab-6 will ever become many years from now.


At this time the credible strategic threat to the Untied States from both North Korea and Iran remains uncertain. This does not mean that such a threat will not manifest itself in the foreseeable near future but it simply does not exist today. This necessitates asking the question of just what are the North Koreans and Iranians aiming these missiles at both strategically, geopolitically Policy wise. What Iran and North Korea are developing for strategic and space launch vehicles is historically repeating the same history lessons learned during the early years of the Cold War by the United States and the former Soviet Union. The lessons learned by the United States and the former Soviet Union have not been embodied in the missile programs of the North Koreans and Iranians. Their existing launch facilities for deployment of these missiles have been identified and activity with them is easily detectable and they can be elimination as a threat through military action.

To date the U.S. has applied the following strategic defense policies against Iran and North Korea. They are Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), denial of access to military applicable science and technologies under the multi nation Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), as well as open and quiet, but intense, diplomacy. Furthermore, the United States is now actively pursuing the deployment of an unproven and yet to be perfected National Missile Defense system as a last line of defense against a committed WMD attack. It must be clearly understood by both Iran and North Korea that if they were to successfully carry out such a strategic attack on the U. S. and/or its allies they would be subject to an appropriate debilitating response.

Lastly, the relationship between strategic arms reduction programs and the proliferation of strategic arms technology must be examined. One specific concern is the effect strategic arms reduction will have on the large numbers of personnel that possess the technology necessary for the proliferation of WMD’s and ballistic missiles. In the immediate ongoing strategic arms reduction discussions there must be a clear future for those personnel that would otherwise be unemployed from their work. This should be a part of the reduction process for the strategic arms reduction packages in order for them to not further add to the threat presented by strategic missile technology transfer.

It is most unique that for some time in this country it has been suggested that these third world missile/space systems have been justified as a threat to the US without any explanation of why they are a threat by explaining the suggested performance attributes and what they are based on publicly. In this report we have tried to separate fact from the fog of Best Guess Estimation. The “Foreign Ballistic Missile Threat Through 2015” overestimates the capabilities of the North Korean and Iranian ballistic missiles and their ability to produce a nuclear payload that could be mated to their missiles. In addition, even if they could develop a ballistic missile that could reach the United States, North Korea and Iran would have to produce a warhead equivalent to a modern U.S. or Russian MIRV. This is well beyond the capabilities of North Korea and Iran with out help from China.

To reach the United States with a ballistic missile armed with a nuclear weapon, Iran and North Korea would have to acquire the technology, design and develop an entirely new ballistic missile because the ones they are developing will never be able to totally cover the continental United States.

This in and of itself brings into strong question whether these very vulnerable none viable military missile systems were not in fact developed as space boosters and nothing else. Perhaps too much has been attributed to these missile systems than can be legitimately justified by the U. S. Intelligence Community. I do think it is clear that the U. S. Intelligence Community owes the American people a much better explanation clarification to justify its threat statements. Few presidents since President Dwight Eisenhower have understood the limits of intelligence or had the wisdom to ask why to make them justify their conclusions.


1. Foreign Missile Developments and the Ballistic Missile Threat Through 2015, Unclassified Summary of a National Intelligence Estimate, Produced by the National Intelligence Council, Dec. 2001, pp.11.

2. Foreign Missile Developments and the Ballistic Missile Threat Through 2015, Unclassified Summary of a National Intelligence Estimate, Produced by the National Intelligence Council, Dec. 2001, pp.11-12 .

3. Siegel, Ronald H., The Missile Programs of North Korea, Iraq, and Iran, Institute for Defense & Disarmament Studies, Sept.2001, PP. 1-16, Page 2,3.

4. Testimony by Robert Walpole, Strategic and Nuclear Programs officer, CIA before the International Security, Proliferation and Federal Services subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Government Affaires Committee, March 11, 2002 on the, CIA National Intelligence Estimate of Foreign Missile Development and Ballistic Missiles Threats Through 2015.

5. Gertz, Bill, "N. Korea sells Iran missile engines,” The Washington Times, 9, Feb. 2000, pA1.

6. McCarthy, Timothy, North Korean Ballistic Missile Programs: Soviet and Russian Legacies? Monterey Institute of International Studies pp.9-12 and the FAS North Korean missile web sites.

7. Karp, Aaron, Ballistic Missile Proliferation the Political and Technics, (Items 1-5), SIPIR Oxford University Press, 1996, p. 97.

8. Foreign Missile Developments and the Ballistic Missile Threat Through 2015, Unclassified Summary of a National Intelligence Estimate, Produced by the National Intelligence Council, Dec. 2001, pp.17.

9. [MENL], “Iran Fails To Display Shihab-3", April 27, 2002.

10. Washington [MENL], “Iran Fails to Develop Shihab-3 missile engine”, Feb.13, 2002.

11. Iran Conducts Successful Missile Flight Test, Associated Press, Fox news,2933,53609,00.html, May 24 2002,

12. Official: Iran Developing Missile, Washington, AP, May 9, 2002.

13. Siegel, Ronald H., The Missile Programs of North Korea, Iraq, and Iran, Institute for Defense & Disarmament Studies, Sept.2001, p. 10.

14. Karp, Aaron, Ballistic Missile Proliferation The Political and Technics, SIPRI Oxford University Press, 1996, page 180.

15. Karp, Aaron, Ballistic Missile Proliferation the Political and Technics, SIPIR Oxford University Press, 1996.

16. Siegel, Ronald H., The Missile Programs of North Korea, Iraq, and Iran, Institute for Defense & Disarmament Studies, Sept.2001.

17. Karp, Aaron, Ballistic Missile Proliferation the Political and Technics, SIPRI Oxford University Press, 1996, pp. 126-131, 151.

18. Karp, Aaron, Ballistic Missile Proliferation the Political and Technics, SIPRI Oxford University Press, 1996, pp.183, 184, 185.

19. Siegel, Ronald H., The Missile Programs of North Korea, Iraq, and Iran, Institute for Defense & Disarmament Studies, Sept.2001, p.3.

20. Siegel, Ronald H., The Missile Programs of North Korea, Iraq, and Iran, Institute for Defense & Disarmament Studies, Sept.2001, p. 5.

21. Siegel, Ronald H., The Missile Programs of North Korea, Iraq, and Iran, Institute for Defense & Disarmament Studies, Sept.2001, p. 4.

22. General Reference- Bin Li, Nuclear Missile Delivery Capabilities in Emerging Nuclear States, 1997, pp. 311-328.

23. Gertz, Bill, How the “axis” seeks the killer missile, The Washington Times, January 30, 2007 , p?


1. Statement Before The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence by Vice Admiral Thomas R. Wilson, U.S. Navy Dir. DIA Feb. 6, 2002, pp. 11, 18.
Page 11.

“Iran has established Solid and liquid propellant capabilities and already is beginning to proliferate missile production technologies to Syria.”....
Page 18

North Korea

...” is developing an ICBM capability with its Taepo Dong 2 missile, judged capable of delivering a several-hundred kilogram payload to Alaska or Hawaii and a lighter payload to the western half of the United States. A three-stage TD-2 could deliver a several-hundred kilogram payload anywhere in the US.”....

2. Worldwide Threat - Converging Danger in a Post 9/11 World, Testimony of Director of Central Intelligence by George J. Tenet, Before The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Feb. 6, 2002, pp. 1-12 general Ref.

3. The MTCR initially developed in 1987 and revised in 1991 covers any missile technology greater than a surface to surface range of 150 km with a payload considerably less than 500 kilograms. (X) Karp, Aaron, Ballistic Missile Proliferation The Political and Technics, SIPRI Oxford University Press, 1996, pp. 26.

4. Scud-Bs cost about 1 million dollars each during the 1990's. (X ) Karp, Aaron, Ballistic Missile Proliferation The Political and Technics, SIPRI Oxford University Press, 1996, p. 93.

2000 Afghanistan, 1500 sold to Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Yemen. (X) Karp, Aaron, Ballistic Missile Proliferation The Political and Technics, SIPRI Oxford University Press, 1996, p. 93.

5. The banking community was and is an excellent critical barrier to violators of the MTCR by not providing letters of credit and services etc. (X) Karp, Aaron, Ballistic Missile Proliferation The Political and Technics, SIPRI Oxford University Press, 1996, p. 94.

North Korea Notes For web site:

(6) McCarthy, Timothy, North Korean Ballistic Missile Programs: Soviet and Russian Legacies? Monterey Institute of International Studies pp. 9-12.

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