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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

The Closely Related Collaborative Iranian, North Korean & Pakistani Strategic Space, Ballistic Missile and Nuclear Weapon Program & State Planning


By © Charles P. Vick, 1999-06-07, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Senior Fellow Space Policy

03-20-05 updated 05-28-10


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.


This study is a part of an ongoing study on Iranian and North Korean missile developments initially started at FAS under Mr. John Pike by this author during 1996 - August 2002. In 2004 it was restarted at the Globalsecurity.org organization, but it still requires a four years plus chronological reference update and subject separation. Many of the conclusions reached up to August 2002 have been reinforced by this all to brief updated study that could have been made available some years earlier. This is an attempt to conceptually project where the known existing hardware can take these known developing programs based on the proven and apparent trends observed. Take caution, that this analysis is only as good as the sources and methods utilized to develop its conclusions based on open sources and the analysis of what trends that information reveals.

Iranian North Korean & China Policy Issue

© C. P. Vick 2010 All Rights Reserved

May 21, 2010

As long as Iran remains the quad-pro-quo near abroad ally of China and to a degree Russia but especially China (a none signatory of the MTCR) with its acquiesce aiding and abetting of Iran will continue to be a none supporter of the international sanctions regime against Iran and North Korea which they will continue to ignore at the expense of the world at large promoting their own agenda. This is a very slippery road with ominous meaning to humanity.

Collaborative Iranian, North Korean & Pakistani Efforts

It can not be stated strongly enough how closely related the North Korean and Iranian strategic space, ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs appear to be based on the observed trends. Particular attention has been paid to the rules of the analytical process by looking at what they have said verses what they have built as compared with what they have done with what they have built and why. Considerable attention has been devoted to the analysis of what they have hardware wise and where it could lead them. It suggests with caution that North Korea and Iran are moving far more rapidly towards perfecting a strategic space booster, ICBM ballistic missile and nuclear weapons warhead. Although the evidence is by coincidence circumstantial the trends tend to suggest that Iran is to deploy an operational nuclear weapon in the very near future well ahead of the existing intelligence estimates. They are doing it with the appropriate management of its science & technology resources, education of personnel, with a political leadership focused on support of by their own words, "deliberate deceptive" agenda. By the Iranian leadership not discussing or admitting what their intentions are they are deceptively buying time to build up their already tested nuclear arsenal. This is being carried out through the use of a series of infrastructures set up in Iran and Pakistan for the mutual benefit of North Korea and its known to exist seen and unseen infrastructure. They are benefiting from some past Russian and considerable China's assistance. The full assessment of this collaboration goes beyond the existing public "think tank" studies and the open U. S. intelligence estimates. Thus the trends seem to indicate there is every reason to believe that Iran has the benefit of the design work and testing done in the DPRK (North Korea) and Pakistan. Further the trends seem to continue to prove the underestimation of the degree of intimacy of the collaboration among these three countries strategic programs.

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 =Kossar-Shahab-5A n/a
8. Taep’o-dong-2B? =Shahab-5B? 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

Satellite Launch Vehicle Developments

Based on indications that the satellite Iran may launch in the next few years is in the 170 and 250-550 kgs range it would require the Taep'o-dong-2A or 2B or 2C/3. The Taep'o-dong-1 payload capacity is below 100 kilograms (Perhaps 55-85 kg.) based on more complete information on its performance and therefore cannot be used for the expected satellite launching. The new data on the Taep'o-dong-1 (TD-1) indicates it utilized for its second stage a Scud-B airframe tank-age design with its propellants but that is where the utilization of Scud-B technology ended. It turns out that North Korea developed a sophisticated modified engine that is in fact a step throttled SAM-2 engine designed to use the Scud-B propellants. If the standard Scud-B engine had been utilized on the TD-1 the payload capacity to Earth orbit would have been questionable only allowing a few grams to be placed in the intended orbit if any at all.

It is known that North Korea's Taep'o-dong-2B, or 2C/3 design is in the final stages of development. What final design variant of the Taep'o-dong-2 that Iran has or will receive, is only now leaning towards the 2C/3 design. This brings up the question of whether Iran will in fact flight test the Taep'o dong-2A or Taep'o-dong-2B or the advanced Taep'o dong-2C/3 derivations in cooperation with North Korea or whether it will be their own variation for its satellite launcher ballistic missile. Iran has already flight tested the No-dong-A and the No-dong-B for North Korea and Iran. It is known that Iran has been attempting to purchase the Taep'o-dong-2 from North Korea, a program they originally contributed to its evolving design with the IRIS upper stage concept. Whether that purchase agreement has been approved and completed by both parties remains open to interpretation based on the No-dong-B purchase the new Shahab-4.

More recently Iran did get its first satellite Mesbah (lantern) launched by Russia in October 2005 delayed from April 2005, that is the 60 kilogram (132 lbs.), 50 centimeter cube. Mesbah is designed with instrument capable of identifying Earth resources, facilitating the control of electrical power grids and carry out communications for emergency management. The two initial Iranian satellites Mesbah-1 and Sinah-1 were launched from the Russian, Plesetsk cosmodrome on a Russian Kosmos-3M booster and not by an Iranian derived Shahab-4 booster.

Iran additionally has the 170 kg (374 lb.) Zohreh (Venus) communications satellite contracted for construction and launch by Russia. This is while Iran continues to try and obtain from North Korea the new advanced Taep'o-dong-2C/3 ICBM for the same job. It is now understood that the Zohreh is to be launch on the Soyuz booster but Western companies will not supply the "computers and star sensors" for the satellite. Iran will have to turn to China or more probably Russia to get these components. This brings into question whether it will get launched as planned in 2007. A multipurpose satellite built by China and contributed to by Iran and other nations will be launched by China in 2006.

Iran's Own Satellite Launch Vehicle for Its Own Satellite versus the Shahab-4?

Iran has stated it will attempt to launch its own satellite with its own booster in March 2006 but this has clearly been delayed. Iran also has the 20 kg. (44 lb.) Safir-313 (Emissary) satellite in line for these spaceflights but whether it will fly on a test flight of the Shahab-4 improved Taep'o-dong-1 in 2006 is uncertain. Iran continues to state they have no need to develop a Shahab-4 class missile with a range of 2,000 - 3,000- 4,000 kilometers that would threaten Europe.

The Iranian own satellite launcher and the Shahab-4 ballistic missile are probably separate projects in the light of the recent introduction of the No-dong-B through its successful flight test. Although this satellites design specifications fit the payload capacity of the improved Taep'o-dong-1 three stage class booster which in turn suggest it is the Shahab-4. Almost certainly the Shahab-4 will incorporate a third stage solid motor in addition to improving the Taep'o-dong-1 design perhaps with first stage strap on solid motors. This once again brings into question whether Iran has wasted its time and resources with the Shahab-4 improved Taep'o-dong-1 class booster verses the more logical Taep'o-dong-2C/3 booster. The Shahab-4 program appears to have been shelved several years ago but some uncertainty remains on this issue.

Whether Iran would develop the Shahab-4 believed to be similar to the Taep'o-dong-1 in design remained questionable even after new evidence has emerged showing the Iranian efforts. North Korea itself had produced only a limited number of these TD-1's for ground testing, satellite launch and potential foreign sales as well as for strategic purposes. At least one TD-1 was apparently looked at by Pakistan and one was either studied or purchased by Iran. This was based on circumstantial evidence when it was observed over several weeks in the open being assembled, unassembled and reassembled vertically inside scaffolding outside Tehran, Iran.

No-dong-B Flight Test Debus from Iran

This was followed in September 2004 with the announcement of the capability to launch a implied Shahab-4 improved Taep'o-dong-1 two & three stage class missile some 2000-2,500 kilometers effectively indicating the completion of the launch facilities as well as the missile development perhaps now awaiting possible flight test as a satellite launch vehicle. It also indicated a some what limited production run of the Shahab-4 improved TD-1 class missile for technological demonstration and strategic purposes besides for satellite a launch attempts. Again the issue of the existence of the Shahab-4 is brought into question and as we shall see which may refer to the Ghadr-101, and Ghadr-110 series class Solid motor based 2,500-3,000 kilometer range missile or the much greater 4,000 kilometer range performance No-dong-B liquid propellant IRBM. No-dong-B was flight tested by Iran on January 17, 2006 revealing its 3,000 - 4,000 km range capability. This was also followed with continued hints (both positive and negative) of continued progress with the primarily liquid propellant Shahab-4 design that was perhaps to utilized strap-on solid motors and the advanced Shahab-3B first stage as a revision update on the marginal performance Taep'o-dong-1 space booster potential ballistic missile design.


In August 2004 Iran tested a highly improved single stage Shahab-3B with a dummy test nuclear warhead prototype re-entry vehicle (RV) of about 650 kilograms that seems to strongly resemble North Korea's No-dong-B, 650 kilogram nuclear warhead prototype RV design identified earlier in 2003 and 2004. The mass of the Warhead comes from the Soviet era SS-N-6/SS-NX-13 missile technology requirements. Most of the guidance instrument package remains with the warhead during reentry. This presumably means that Iran has the perfected operational nuclear weapon design ready to receive its nuclear fuel by late 2004 or early 2005 that will require no underground or atmospheric testing since it is a perfected system ready to be deployed. That has at least been delayed into 2006. Although the evidence is by coincidence circumstantial the trends tend to indicate that Iran is to deploy an operational nuclear weapon in the very near future far ahead of the existing intelligence estimates of 10 years that have recently been revised downward. This reflects the rapid nuclear fuel production technology progress achieved in the Iranian nuclear fuel making operations. The coincidence being that both warheads seem to be nearly identical in design for North Korea already being deployed and for Iran being finalized for deployment.

Subsequently the evidence became apparent that Iran had flight tested the liquid propellant, twelve meter long No-dong-B for Iran and North Korea on January 17, 2006. This was a surprise once it was realized the missile exhibited Shahab-3B guidance telemeter and other radar detectable performance characteristics as well as a deliberate in flight failure destruction after engine shut down and warhead separation. However once this technology all sources information was processed by the community branch it revealed the missiles matched the No-dong-B angles and range capability with its 3,000 to 4,000 km range performance. The warhead was apparently tracked some 3,000 kilometers to impact. Further its origins were indicated to be Soviet design based on the presumed Soviet (SS-N-6/SS-NX-13) class system verses the more distant No-dong-A up rated origins. Iran had attempted to maskarade the No-dong-B flight test for itself and North Korea as a flight test failure of the Shahab-3B. It in fact revealed that Iran had flight tested a 4,000 kilometer range capable missile that could only be identified as the mobile No-dong-B a North Korean missile for both parties in violation of the missile flight test moratorium of North Korea.

Does the new 4,000 km range missile buys Iran anything? Diplomatically this createtes problems for Iran and North Korea as well as crates problems for the U. S., Europe and other regional countries with in its range. The No-dong-B out performs the Taep'o-dong-1 and meets the Shahab-4 requirements and gives Iran the upper stage of the Taep'o-ong-2C/3 technology as well as the technology for the first stage of the Taepo-dong-2C/3 ICBM and other IRBM capabilities. Does this imply that Iran has finally bought the Taep'o-dong-2C/3 technology to produce its own large space booster and full range ICBM? This analyst thinks this is the indicated trend. The only Soviet platform this matches is an up rated SS-N-6/SS-NX-13 design known as the No-dong-B with its 3,000-4,000 km range not the SS-5 Skean IRBM or the SS-4 Sandal MRBM or the ICBM R-16/SS-7 Saddler.

Ground Testing Evidence

There actually appears out side Tehran, Iran where the missile industries has several test stands, among which one static test stand looks remarkably like what would be expected for the No-dong-B static and dynamic testing tower. One other test stand could in fact be the future launch site of a much heavier booster such as the Taepo-dong-2C/3.


Presumably they are still working on Kossar-Shahab-5/Taep'o-dong-2B 2C/3 while preparing to maybe perhaps launch a Shahab-4 with some satellite payload. However it is believed that North Korea has abandoned this 2A and 2B design based on the No-dong-A technology in favor of the Taep'o-dong-2C/3 design full range ICBM/space booster. The Taep'o-dong-2C/3 is based on the No-dong-B technology, which can be traced back to the Soviet era SS-N-6/SS-NX-13 technology which had been in their hands since 1988. This certainly explains the delay in the appearance of the Taep'o-dong-2 flight. North Korea has announced that the satellite that will be launched is under development. Iran continues to try and obtain the so called Taep'o-dong-2, final design from North Korea with its apparent 2.0-2.2 meter diameter first stage. The Taep'o-dong-2 is based on the launch pad 2.0 meter inside diameter which will give them a payload capacity in the 250-550 kilogram range depending on the orbit. It is now clear that Iran has received the No-dong-B ballistic missile from North Korea and they apparently have its operational nuclear warhead perfected design details for its application

IRIS Sounding Rocket Satellite Launch Vehicle Upper Stages

Interest continues to focus on the IRIS two stage launch vehicle design also called Shahab-3D derivation of the existing Shahab-3, 3A & 3B. The IRIS launch vehicles has a first stage utilizing the Shahab-3A/B with a solid motor second stage surrounded with a bulbous payload shroud for a satellite or use as a payload carrying sub orbital sounding rocket launcher. The IRIS conceptual design has not been shown publicly for some time now. This IRIS launch vehicle design may in fact have evolved into the Shahab-4 design. IRIS as it was displayed at an Iranian aerospace trade exhibit could not launch a satellite when it was apparently designed as a Sounding rocket or Taep'o dong-2 second and third upper stage. However Shahab-4 is believed to be an improved Taep'o dong-1 class launcher that would be required to launch certain class of satellite payloads into earth orbit such as the Safir. It can not be emphasized enough, how very marginal the Taep'o dong-1 launch vehicle performance is to be able to launch these satellites separately into earth orbit with almost no margin for error built into the design for all practical purposes. Potential combining of the up-rated Shabab-3B with the IRIS solid motor second stage as a Shahab-3D ballistic missile could also improve the range performance but there is no proof that such a configuration has been flow so far but that does not mean that it will not in the future.

The two upper stages to be added to the Shahab-3B could be a step throttled Sam-2/Scud-B variant used by North Korea and an identifiable Chinese solid motor similar to the Taep'o-dong-1 configuration or two solid motor for the second and third stages. Although the solid motor third stage is almost certain to be incorporated into the design it is questionable if they will use this rapidly advancing solid motor technology for the second stage. At the same time the Shahab-4 first stage may also utilize at least two or four solid motor strap-on's boosters based on the existing Naze'at-110 series, Zelzel-1, Zelzel-2 and Fateh-110 series missiles.

Shahab-3, 3A Class Missile Performance
Range Payload
1,350 km* 1,158 kg*
1,400 km 987 kg
1,500 km* 760 kg*
1,540 km 650 kg*
1,560 km 590.27kg* (1,165km* lofted trajectory)
1,580km 557.33kg* (1,100km* lofted trajectory)
1,600 km 550 kg
1,780 km 240 kg
2,000 km 0 kg
2,300 km 0 kg
Shahab 3,3A Payload to Range Graph

* - Known real data points from Iran and Pakistan.

Note: At least one third of the Payload mass is utilized for the re-entry heat shield leaving about half of the mass for the nuclear weapons device itself built of fissile material.


Iran's Solid Propellant Program

Iran's missile solid propellant rocket motor program is not believed to be advanced enough compared to its liquid fuel rocket engine program, launch vehicle program to provide much more than strap on solid motors or upper and last stage satellite orbit injection solid motor for launch vehicles. This is based on the examples of the Naze'at-6 (NP-110), Naze'at-10 (NP-110A), Zelzel-1 (Mushak-100), Zelzel-2 (Mushak-200), and Fateh-110/110A. This solid motor program is known to be years behind the liquid propellant program but it is making systematic deliberate and critical strides that will eventually bring it up to IRBM, ICBM potential. Iran is believed during the year 2000 to have started the development of a new multi-stage solid propellant motor based Ghadr-101, and Ghadr-110, which may be an Iranian variant on the Shaheen-1, and Shaheen-II design of Pakistan. This advance is presumably thanks to the A. Q. Khan network, which in turn can thank China for its M-9, M-11 and M-18 technology. The solid motors program for the new Ghadr-101 completed development in 2005 and only had to be integrated with available propulsion and guidance air frame warhead design and developed to be flight tested in 2006. Essentially a major technology transfer from A. Q. Khan Network not ever considered before it was largely stopped. The Ghadr-101 is now nearing flight test, with 1,500-2,000-2,500 & 3,000 km range capability depending on the payload mass, similar to or much better than that of the Shahab-3 class performance, that could lead to other significant potential developments. This is because Iran has just very recently announced in late May early June 2005 that it had successfully tested the new larger solid motor associated with this program. If this solid motor-s or multi-stage solid motors can indeed perform to this level, then it suggest that Iran is on the verge of potentially being able to create a clustered solid propellant motor IRBM and/or ICBM. This Ghadr-110 series of launch vehicles may have all together in fact replaced the apparently shelved Shahab-4 improved Taep'o-dong-1 class booster some years ago. It can not be understated just how much the Iranian solid propellant, motor program owes to Pakistan, China and the South African industry under its former regimes and the indirect Israeli/French contribution to that rapidly developing effort. (1) However there is mounting evidence that Pakistan is openly continuing cooperation with Iran and China raising serious red flag questions. It became apparent late last year that two missile programs were maturing to preflight testing development.

Whether this is the liquid propellant No-dong-B or truly a solid propellant missile is uncertain but it would be foolish to count the solid propellant program out of the strategic picture in spite of the historic trends seen in Russia and China. However it is now known that Iran received in 2005 the Taep'o-dong-2C/3 technology through the No-dong-B already in hand because the Taep'o-dong-2C/3 upper stage is an altitude version of the No-dong-B.

Background Taep'o-dong-2C/3

Right before our eyes North Korea has apparently developed a new variant of the Taep-o dong-2 concept first imaged by the US in 1994 in mock-up form at the factory. North Korea was circumstantially known to be developing Taep'o-dong-2A satellite launchers and is now believed to have subsequently shifted work into what I have labeled as the Taep'o dong-2B (TD-2B), and Taep'o-dong-2C/3 (TD-3). Once North Korea rebuilt the Taep'o dong-1 launch facility into the Taep'o-dong-2A (TD-2A) launch facility two things became apparent; one was the fact that Taep'o-dong-1 was but a "pathfinder vehicle" for the TD-2A follow-on missile system. This was later confirmed by the CIA its public NIE, in agreement with my previously published work. The second was what DIA stated in agreement with my previous works that there was no evidence that the TD-1 was being deployed at that time. Equally revealing was that the TD-2 launch umbilical service tower was built for a much larger booster that even the TD-2A or TD-2B or advanced TD-2C/TD-3.

Iranian Satellite Launch Site Question

Several years ago the CIA stated that there was no evidence at the time that Iran had developed a space launch facility. Surely that has now changed (or has it?), but where and what form will it take is unknown? That will not last as it must be located either in the South East quadrant of the country or in the South Western or the north central part of the country in order to avoid flying over any local countries but allowing it to fly out over the Indian Ocean parallel and west of India's West coast. Flight testing has so far come out of the Shahroud (emamshahr) region flying south over Tabas tracking station region and for satellite launchings would be expected to fly out over the Indian ocean east of Humedan. Giving satellites a higher inclination polar orbit. Military launch test have also come from the Qom, Semnan, and Mushhad regions part of the Dasht-e-kabir (Salt-Desert missile test range). By the end of September 2004 it was apparent that the Shahab-4 improved Taep'o-dong-1 class launch facility had perhaps been completed (although there was no imagery proof that that is the case) perhaps in the Shahroud (Emamshahr) region of Iran but that remains unconfirmed from commercially available imagery searches. It could just as easily be located on the Imam Ali Base, Khoramabad, in Iran's South west region or the Shahid Hemmat, Tehran region but it would also require a similar Iranian variant infrastructure launch site development as seen for the North Korean, Taep'o dong 1, 2 installation.

More recently a newly erected launch facility (Concrete slab) near Dasht-e-kabir (Salt-Desert missile test range), Iran has been suggested as the satellite launch site probably located on its northern or western edge of the range but again not confirmed. That is probably some where south of Damghan and Shahroud east of Torud near the salt desert edge to fly out over the Tabas tracking station region. This tracking station has a near complete fan view of the range. The flight tests of the Shahab-3B during August through October 2004 from a flight test rolled out from a military base near Isfahan to a site along the towns of Na'in, Anarak Jandaq, Khvor, is possibly but would indicate a satellite launch ground track leading over the Tabas tracking station region flying across Afghanistan out near Kabul. This possibility of flying out over Afghanistan instead of the Indian ocean is better for a lower inclination but the second stage would break up and impact down range over Afghanistan in such a scheme. This is improbable because the most optimal launch would be over the Indian ocean .

Launch Vehicle Background No-dong-B and Taep'o-dong-2C/3

It has been known since 1994 from FBIS reports from Russia that the North Korean's received the Soviet era SS-N-6/SS-NX-13 missile between 1988 and 1991 with its higher performance closed cycle liquid propulsion engine. This has only in 2003 manifested itself as a deployed land based and or a future potential surface ship or submarine deployed threat, due to its greater propellant load and increased range longer length SS-N-6/SS-NX-13 the No dong-B.

It took North Korea between fifteen and eighteen years to master the SS-N-6/SS-NX-13 for the No-dong-B technology including its closed cycle propulsion system as well as the UDMH production/storage technology in addition to the critical welding technology and highly improved inertial guidance technology. The production of the advanced laser guidance technology, with the addition of GPS ground input capability and the use of proper materials technology to handle the propellants represents a very significant leap forward for this space booster/ballistic missile program. More recently it was learned that in August 2004 that China has helped Iran integrate a new GPS aided laser inertial guidance system into the Shahab-3B MRBM. This same system has shown up in the No-dong-B flight test flown on January 17, 2006.

Prior to this, the North Koreans added a new UDMH propellant storage facility as a harbinger of things to come beside the TD-2B or TD-2C/TD-3 launch pad with enough capacity for and entirely new booster, with its new second and third stages and probable redesigned first stage of the satellite launcher prototype. The SS-N-6/SS-NX-13 derivation uses UDMH as one of its liquid propellant components in addition to the already available Inhibited Red Fuming Nitric Acid.

This will dramatically improve the mass fraction and aspect ratios of the missile systems than the previous design manifested as revealed in my previous studies. It must be remembered that these Taep'o dong missiles are not well suited for mobile or silo deployment. Equally they take days to assemble and make ready for launching from above ground soft sites that are vulnerable to strategic removal. There is no evidence they are being coffin deployed at the present time.

Perhaps North Korea decided to stick with an up-rated cluster of four No-dong engines in the TD-2, TD-2A and TD-2B first stage that may or may not utilized UDMH, but that is not certain and remains under study. The previous TD-2A first stage design utilized a cluster of four sea level versions of the No-dong-A engine, and an altitude version of the No-dong-A as its second stage and a solid motor as its third stage. The present TD-2B design is believed to utilize a combined solid motor and liquid propellant bus third stage along with the altitude version of the SS-N-6/SS-NX-13 the No-dong-B as its second stage. If the satellite is in the 250-550 kilogram range then it could carry the solid motor and its posi-grade separation and attitude control systems.

The TD-2C/3 for its first stage may utilized either a cluster of four No-dong-B engines in what would have to be a redesigned first stage instead of up-rated No-dong-A engines versus up-rated No-dong engines modified to use UDMH side stepping some of the previous engine clustering problems. There is the strong possibility that North Korea has in fact eclipsed the Taep'o-dong-2, 2B, & 2C/Shahab-5 concept in favor of the highly improved Taep'o-dong-2C/3, Shahab-6 potential full range ICBM.

However, there are alternative missile design approaches that Iran may have at some point considered. Iraq's missile design method would call for clustering several Shahab-3s for a first stage and several Scud-C/Ds as the second stage with a solid motor bus third stage to create a satellite launch vehicle. Possibly some combination of these may have utilized solid motor-s designs for the upper two stages, although this approach seems to have been abandoned in favor of the North Korean design approach. At the same time, the Shahab-4 is expected to perhaps utilize strap-on solid motors on its booster first stage if it is developed.

Missile Born Nuclear Weapons Status

Although North Korea may only now possess the capability for a third generation nuclear weapon, (based on the U. S., and Soviet evolutionary experience standards though it is in fact a second generation for the North Koreans, and Pakistani's) of 650 kilograms thanks to possible weapons technology transfer, sharing from China, Pakistan and or Iran. The current mass of 650 kilograms would prevent the TD-2B, TD-2C/TD-3 from fulfilling its potential range capacity. If a fifth or sixth generation warhead of 240 kilograms were developed by North Korea then the TD-2B or TD-2C/TD-3 could potentially approach a range of 15,000 kilometers to cover the entire United States. At present that does not seem likely for some time to come but nothing would surprise this analyst based on open source information. Both the No-dong-B and Shahab-3B appear to have the same nuclear warhead prototype RV design. Believing the RV is a nuclear warhead prototype and proving it are two very different worlds. The design of the No-dong-B and Shahab-3B, RV certainly indicates the expected standardized nuclear warhead design. It also indicates that they have mastered the technology for reducing the size of the nuclear device with in the RV's airframe but does not prove that it is a nuclear warhead. Proving the RV's potential nuclear lethality is no easy task requiring radiation sensing as well as atmospheric sampling of the emitted gaseous vapors. The question is why develop such a RV but for a nuclear warhead as all previous nations have done that possess nuclear technology for weapons nuclear fuel production? Is that the probable answer to the question?

Up to the summer of 2004, the common theory among analyst was that Iran will develop its nuclear weapons program right up to the threshold of actually having an operational weapon. That potentially delusional conceptual wish may no longer apply as of August through October 2004 and may in fact have never applied in reality based on the circumstantial evidence here in explored. Generally speaking, no country makes such a huge investment and builds up to the point of having nuclear weapons without actually completing the process. The parallel missile and re-entry vehicle development programs also manifest this very harsh reality.

The late 2003 earlier 2004 observation of the No-dong-B, Re-entry Vehicle (RV) with its "top of a baby bottle-neck" nose cone design description which allowed the U. S intelligence community to recognize the SS-N-6/SS-NX-13 origin of the new missile system. This along with the subsequent appearance of the Iranian Shahab-3B with its "baby bottle-neck" nose cone design reflected a commonality not immediately anticipated unless the degree of intimacy of the collaboration between the these countries is taken into account. The fact that both countries had their RV's designs described separately in the same way profoundly suggest that their tested, operational nuclear weapon system are one and the same. When applying the known Shahab-3B, RV design to the No-dong-B it was found that it fitted with the known propulsion performance design constraints of the rocket stage. Circumstantially this results can not be ignored much less dismissed.


Yet at the same time, the question could and should be asked, did the North Korean displayed the No-dong-B's for the US benefit? They were not paraded, which had been predicted which would have allowed for a much close examination of their realness. Nor have there been any identified flight test of the No-dong-B although they could be convinced that no flight test are required because of its design heritage and ground testing success. Also were the six Iranian deployed Shahab-3B's real or are they both a deception for our benefit? Are the No-dong-B's real and are the Shahab-3B's fakes and what is one to make of the Shahab-4 question?

What they have said verses what they have built as compared with what they have done with what they have built or might build and why becomes a very dangerous fraught with pitfalls process of analysis; one that is not an exact science that is so critical to these National Security issues. That completely changed on January 17, 2006 when No-dong-B was flight tested. Circumstantial evidence may indicate that Iran has in fact already started to or is about to deploy the No-dong-B. This also applies to the Taep'o-dong-2C/3 program and launch site developments activities seen since 2000. Past experience has taught us that they are real national resources investment (which would not be made unless they were real) but not necessarily in production deployed systems. What does one believes while your mind is being played with is truly a subjective analytical decision based on one's experience and rules of analysis methodology.

Already Perfected and Tested Atomic and Thermo-nuclear Weapons Technology

According to John Pike of globalsecurity.org, "In the autumn of 1998 a report leaked from Los Alamos Nuclear Laboratory indicated that air samples acquired from the Kharan Desert test by US intelligence aircraft contained traces of plutonium. Pakistan, at the time of the tests, had not had time to develop a warhead from the minimal quantities of plutonium generated by the research reactor at PINSTECH. The most plausible explanation was that North Korea had participated in a joint test of an atomic weapon." (1)

Could it potentially have been one of North Korea's then existing plutonium nuclear devices that needed testing?

This implies that much like the Israel's known nuclear artillery test off South Africa at Prince Edward Island, and this presumed joint test for North Korea in Pakistan may have been to test the trigger to the thermo-nuclear weapon design to be certain of its functionality. At the same time, this would have tested the Atomic weapon device, which is used to start thermo-nuclear fusion. Further this implies that North Korea, Pakistan and Iran require no further nuclear testing because their new weapon is already proven as a second generation 650 kg nuclear warhead.

Nuclear Warhead Details

The warhead RV is constructed of re-entry material and fissile, aluminum magnesium structural materials weighing about one third the total mass of perhaps 217 kg. With instruments such as the neutron produces and other trigger instrument, explosives and separation timing devices etc, leaving about 108 kg. With a nuclear device constructed of weapons fissile material having a mass of approximately 325 kg. This is far above the minimum of 45 kilograms for an atomic nuclear device which may be a part of the total nuclear device package. By the Iranian leadership own words, "deliberate deceptive" agenda. of not discussing or admitting what their intentions are they are deceptively buying time to build up their already tested nuclear arsenal. Whether Iran has in fact already deployed its first six nuclear warheads of twenty and twenty six initially expected is problematical but strongly expected by some time in 2006.

Pike went on further to state, "It is noteworthy that the second small test at Wazir Khan Khosa, in the Kharan Desert was at such a great distance from the first larger test at Ras Koh. In contrast, India conducted multiple tests in close proximity. This creates the appearance that there were aspects of the Wazir Khan Khosa test that needed to be hidden from the staff that was conducting the Ras Koh test. It is also of note that Pakistan publicized the Ras Koh test by releasing a video/film of that test, but did not release any publicity concerning the Wazir Khan Khosa test." (2)

It has been repeatedly confirmed that China's clandestinely delivered complete design details of its fourth nuclear test device, flown as a missile born warhead to Pakistan. This potentially provided the basis for the Pakistan's nuke. This is further sobered with the realization that Pakistan, and perhaps Iran and Syria may in fact have received processed uranium sold to them via Pakistan A. Q. Khan sales operations from the original supplier North Korea which was received by Libya. Although this material was not weapons grade in quality it could be converted to weapons grade uranium oxide. Iran may recently have partially completed this task and Pakistan has already converted in recent years.

If what we see in Iran is in fact the total Iranian nuclear industry infrastructure, and that that is all they have, then their threat to placed the infrastructure underground if the world destroyed it is conceivable it they still existed. Then if the present talks with Europe collapse this spring of 2006, then after a few months of working with completion of facilities as well as a few months refining the centrifuges to get the finished enriched uranium oxide, Iran could then be expected to deploy nuclear weapons in 2006 or early 2007 at most. In all cases the intelligence appears to be several years behind what is actually going on in Iran. . The Missile and RV programs have outpaced the warhead fuel program but not the warhead nuclear device design program which is in hand and has been for some time now.

The wild card is the rumor milled deception and plausible denial issues surrounding Pakistan's A. Q. Khan and North Korea's nuclear trafficking activities. If North Korea is being supplied or is supplying through Pakistan to Iran and perhaps Syria did get supplied and are continuing to get supplied with processed uranium then Iran could be very close to deploying nuclear weapons in 2006, if they have not already done so. Certainly the rapid progress in the missile, and RV-warhead program would seem to be mirroring that serious progress parallel potentiality. The worst case scenario is that they in fact have deployed six or more nuclear tipped Shahab-3B missiles in the first quarter of 2006. If however Iran still needs to work out the centrifuges, uranium hexafluoride enrichment processing over several months to get the weapons grade uranium oxide material processing correct then Iran could finish with deployment of its first missile born nuclear weapons by the middle of 2006 or earlier. That is, if North Korea did indeed provide it's otherwise not limited supply of processed uranium and is continuing to provide Iran the processed nuclear materials, then the implications are far more ominous. Iran to a large degree has mastered the nuclear fuel refinement process.

Equally troubling is the circumstantial actions of China that has made Iran and Pakistan its near abroad quick pro quo ally for its own agenda. However, the most troubling issue is the extent of the scope of the collaboration between North Korea, Pakistan, China and Iran. Are the development and test facilities infrastructure in Pakistan and Iran in fact for both North Korea and those countries benefit? Are any of the facilities dedicated to North Korea's benefit? Could the relationship be that extensive? Based on the probable nuclear test for North Korea that took place in Pakistan certainly would seen to indicate that this is the case. The missile programs would then seem to be an even more certain mirroring of that reality and that the facilities and testing that has taken place in Pakistan and Iran is for their mutual benefit of North Korea. This returns us to the issue of why Israel felt compelled to do testing of its nuclear weapons after they had it deployed for over 12 years or so which in turn brings up the question of why North Korea felt compelled to test its nuclear weapon. Did the tests give them the answer on the atomic bomb functionality but also the thermo-nuclear weapon functionality in a "two tests for the price of one" deal? Circumstantial evidence would seem to indicate that it did. There is no doubt that Iran, Pakistan and North Korea have the design for the nuclear weapons at this point and that they have the nuclear materials processing facilities operational. Pakistan's second nuclear materials enrichment facility appears to be not for Pakistan use but some other countries but who or whom and why?


The final answer to analysis is a political answer regardless of the analysis resulting conclusions. Take caution, that this analysis is only as good as the sources and methods utilized to develop its conclusions based on open sources and the analysis of what trends that information reveals. This tends to say to to this analyst that the intelligence is rapidly being out paced by the actual progress in these integrated space missile ballistic missile nuclear warhead programs. All of this implies that the Solid propellant program is also starting to catch up with the liquid propulsion program which is even more ominous. So the solids are coming soon. The Missile and RV programs have outpaced the warhead fuel program but not the warhead nuclear device design program which is in hand and has been for some time now. I would expect them to have the fuel soon than later than is presently estimated. Countries do not produce missiles to travel over thousands of kilometers to deliver mere "Fire Cracker" conventional high energy explosive warhead weapons unless they are intended to carry primarily nuclear, or chemical, biological weapons. The advances in the missile launch vehicle and re-entry vehicle program do mirror the advances in the nuclear weapons program of the larger total weapons program. Generally speaking no country makes the investment up to the threshold of actually having nuclear weapons with out completing the process. The question on Iran is not "if" but "when" it will deploy its nuclear weapons; if they have not already done so. There is no doubt that North Korea has a number of nuclear weapons ready to deploy, if not deployed, because of the availability for some years of this tested technology and the inherent requirement for processed enriched nuclear material. Iran's self-described, "deliberate deceptive" policy on satellite launch vehicle, ballistic missile and nuclear weapon development programs certainly indicates the imminent deployment by Iran of a second or third generation class operational nuclear weapons system that has been successfully tested because of technology transfer that can not be ignored any longer for its immediate global strategic national security implications.

North Korean State Planning

C. P. Vick 2008 All Rights Reserved

May 1, 2008

Predicting the Taep’o-dong-2C/3 Flight Test of July 5, 2006 was not that Difficult

Why was it possible for this analyst to predict the flight test nearly one and a half years before it actually took place lies in understanding the economic engineering reference frame under which the program functions? The North Korean authoritarian military based regime with its State Councils and hereditary leadership continues to follow the Soviet era economic model. North Korea actually operates on a multiple Five Year Plan fiscal planning process with the Self Sufficiency policy while remaining on a continuous war time footing. In reality the industry and government policies are to blame for the real economic ills that are the disaster of the command economy of North Korea . The most reliable indicator Instrument of North Korean State policy was it missile programs activities. This makes their system immensely predictable.

Why is this Possible?

"According to James T. Westwood, senior consultant at Military Science and Defense Analytics, Unionville VA, in 1978, while employed as a senior special research analyst for one of the three-letter national intelligence agencies, he discovered and crystallized into application, a novel, original technique for interpreting and predicting all of the military and space programs of the former Soviet Union with consistent accuracy and reliability. There came from this numerous applications and non-surprises, e.g., that the ballistic missile programs, with their space rocket off-shoots (to coin a phrase), were arguably the most reliable and revealing among the thousands of armor, aircraft, ship, artillery, etc. military hardware and operations programs. In a recent interview with this author, Westwood says that to the extent that the military programs of the PRC as well as North Korea and Iran long may have replicated the former Soviet Union's national planning schema, the same methodology likely can successfully illuminate China's, Iran’s and North Korea’s future military and space programs. The present author was taught this methodology by Westwood in a Continuing Engineering Education short course at the George Washington University in the late 1980’s.

Conferring with James T. Westwood, senior consultant of Military Science and Defense Analytics, Unionville VA, he said that CIA failed again in a systemic and incredible manner ever to be able to reliably predict the strategic behavior of the former Soviet Union in terms of "reverse analysis," to wit, reading the tea leaves from the native, bureaucratic Soviet perspective --planning and projecting on the same basis and by same method as did the former USSR. This was, he said, the "great plan," the GOSPLAN. He hoped, this magnificent blunder is not now being repeated with respect to the Peoples' Republic of China, Iran and North Korea. Because the current, active PRC, North Korean and more recently Iranian national planning scheme is based on the former Soviet model and is running now in phase for over a half-century, Westwood emphasized, it should not be a problem to draw a matrix and populate it in detail from 1953 on in order to have, at long suffering last, a reliable analytic tool for interpreting and forecasting Chinese weapons, space, energy and a host of other, important, national programs and projects -- in planning now, and in the recent past, for pay-off in the future.

Budget Five Year Fiscal Planning Cycle Military Science & Technology

North Korea because of its authoritarian vertical structured military regime with its hereditary leadership must balance the military industrial bases of its existence since the State is the military and the military is the State verses the all too real economic depleted national reality all working under the same employer roof.

These five year plans are the previous 2001-2005 and the 2006-2010 present plan and it follow on ten year “forecast plans” 2011-2015, and the 15 year “outlook plan” 2016-2020 and Future Forecast Plans discussions through 2021-2025. Although North Korea does not announce as much as other authoritarian States on their planning it has left enough gathered information to identify trends and expectations. In a true sense they serve to set up the future five year plan fiscal command economy planning for North Korea ’s development and utilization. From the start of this process North Korea has, like the West, used the available discretionary funds to push its military S & T to drive its national military economy to provide for development of its military industrial industry capabilities, all under the same Government employer roof. We have to understand why these programs are being pursued by North Korea . It has been the plan like in the West at least since the introduction for the total available government funding about 40% to basic scientific research to push the basic sciences and about 60% of the available funding to push the basic technologies, (research & development). (1) Above all, it is to provide for the national security of the nation by keeping the North Korean technologically competitive with the technologically advanced world leadership. Typically this so called budget funding largely derived from the vulnerable to external influence is very dependent on selling its military technology products to third world countries in order to acquire real hard currency for its primary leadership military need at the expense of the populace overall. The command economy operated through the five year plan via the State controlled allocation of material resources, equipment and personnel which is broken down between strictly military programs and civil military duel purpose programs is very weak because of its policies as posed by the North Korean regime.

Later Perspective

As early as 1998-2001 through 2003 North Korean Static Stand and launch pad activities with the Taep’o-dong-2A indicated that the flight test was to be expected in the middle of the following five year plan 2002-2003. In 2003 North Korea fielded the No-dong-B/Mirim 3,218 - 4,000 kilometer range IRBM with its higher technology. But there was no flight appearance of the Taep’o-dong-2A. Why? North Korea had committed itself to a missile flight test moratorium through 2003 and further after that but what were they really doing?

However with three separate programs having replaced the original Iranian 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 from Iran as well as the new Ghadr-101/110 (Ashura). 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 the Taep’o-dong-2C/3. 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 its 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 compacted up-rated Taep’o-dong-1 called “ Safire” 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 technology 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 in 2006 which directly impacting the Shahab-4, 5, 6 programs back from the years 1998-2001. Taep’o-dong-2C/3 took over two and a part of a third North Korean five year plans to finally fly in the summer of 2006. 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 2002-2003. 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-on Taep’o-dong-2C/3 final design launch vehicle. So, yes both Iran and North Korea did redirect their launch vehicle development program in 2001.

Recent Developments in the Taep'o-dong-2 Program of North Korea

During 1999 preparation was detected for what was expected to be the launch of the much larger Taep'o-dong-2 satellite launcher/ballistic missile. Beginning in May 1999, US Intelligence picked up indications that the Taep'o-dong-1 launch site had been undergoing a total rebuild to accommodate the Taep'o-dong-2. Compared to the previous pad gantry umbilical tower (with a height of about 22 meters), the new pad gantry umbilical tower is 1.5 times taller, standing about 33 meters tall. This rebuild was nearly complete as of late July 1999, and as of early August 1999 it appeared that the Taep'o-dong-2 facilities systems test vehicle was already complete and was stored near the launch pad. However, it had not been transported over to the launch pad. It is said that it would take a minimum of two days to assemble the missile on the launch pad before checking it out electronically, mechanically and hydraulically and other preparation explosives arming procedures for a new system and then load liquid propellants from a fleet of tanker trucks. Such preparation would take several weeks to complete because of the nature of the new systems design. What could have been detected by Intelligence was North Korea carry out the facilities post construction testing once the facility rebuild had been completed. By year's (2001/2002) end these activities were abandoned with no launch being attempted. Further ground testing activities were revealed as we shall see from between 1999-2002.

According to some media reports, North Korea has conducted three or four static test firings of Taep’o-dong missile engines, between December 1999 and January 2000, at Musudan-ri infrastructure in North Hamgyong Province. Some of these test firings no doubt involved the static test firing development of the Taep’o-dong-2 first stage four thrust chamber first stage engine cluster. This in turn lead to the more recent late June early July 2001 vertical static test firing of the Taep’o-dong-2 systems integration first stage on the launch pad as reported in The Washington Times. (9, 10)

This in turn lead to the more recent late June or early July 2001 North Korea reported static test firing of the Taep’o-dong-2 first stage on the launch pad. That report in The Washington Times July 3, 2001(9) failed to note that the static test firings could only have been conducted in a vertical position not horizontally as suggested in what had to be the Taep’o-dong-2 systems integration first stage. Static test firings of the integrated engine and launch vehicle first stage rocket body could only be accomplished on the rebuilt launch infrastructure of Taep'o-dong-1 which is now the new Taep'o-dong-2 launch pad with it new gantry umbilical tower. It was placed on the new Taep'o-dong-2 launch pad beside its new gantry umbilical tower. The ground test was the first major development in the long-range-missile program since the first flight test of the Taepodong-1 in August 1998. A large burn area -- the effects of the engine test -- was photographed by US military reconnaissance aircraft. North Korea tested a new engine for the long-range missile system several times during 2001 at the missile testing site in Musudan-ri, Hwadae-gun, of North Hamgyong Province . North Korea has conducted engine tests every year since the August 1998 Taep’o-dong-1 launch. This certainly explains the appearance of propellant tank trucks and support vehicles on the Taep'o-dong-2 launch pad along with a whole series of support trucks recently observed in new imagery taken by Space Imaging of North Korea’s Taep’o-dong-2, 2A launch site. That places the Taep'o-dong-2, 2A/Shahab-5, 6 class space booster one step from being flight tested once they tear-down the first stage engine cluster clean it up, reassemble and install it back in the first stage. What will follow both in Iran and North Korea ’s remains to be seen at that time in the late spring of 2001-2002? (9, 10)

Major Program Shift from Taep’o-dong-2, 2A, 2B to Taep’o-dong-2C/3

In fact North Korea also has abandoned its Taep’o-dong-1, and Taep’o-dong-2A booster in favor of its Taep’o-dong-2C/3 booster program. They scrapped the launch site pad and gantry umbilical tower and built an entirely new launch pad and much taller gantry umbilical tower to handle the Taep’o-dong-2 and follow on redesigned booster systems. More recently inn late June or early July 2001 North Korea used that launch pad to static test fire the Taep’o-dong-2 integrated first stage and four thrust chambered engine or engines. The firing was done with the first stage sitting up vertically on the pad firing downward into the pad flame bucket, using the Chinese design approach which ducts under the gantry umbilical tower. This first stage remained on the pad for months while undergoing dynamic, electronic check out, and general systems integration tests were conducted with it which also included the static test firing.

For some unexplained reason the flight test did not follow during the middle of that five year plan as expected. This was the critical program juncture of redirection as the initial design proved inadequate with many problems added to that issue. The burn mark from that firing was very prominent according to the imagery news reports. The North Korean launch site and its combined gantry umbilical tower and flame bucket use the same plan form as that used by China in its Long March launch vehicle launch facilities design. There should be no surprise in this realization of the Chinese influence on this North Korean program. Ultimately this was the end of the original Taep’o-dong-2, 2A class launch vehicle development in favor of the follow on advanced design. These test marked the end of this original design with a redirection of the effort in a new direction. In that development process North Korea is believed to have run into considerable No-dong-A engine clustering problems that essentially slowed the effort to a near stand still. The present new engines of the Taep’o-dong-2C/3 have replaced the troublesome propulsion configuration design initially developed for the program with a much more efficient design that does meet the satellite and full range ICBM performance design requirements. It can not be underestimated how important this new No-dong-B technology is because the impact on the previous design of the Taep’o-dong-2 has effectively replaced it with what amounts to a completely new Taep’o-dong-3 design. This explains the activity seen during this North Korean so called testing moratorium between the years 1999 and 2006. Iran purchase the Taep’o-dong-2C/3 hardware for its own program. That technological basses for this new program is now apparently in Iran ’s hands as of the last half of 2005 that both Iran and North Korea have benefited.

It can be surmised that based on the ground testing of the Taep’o-dong-2A from 2001 through 2003 North Korea found out the inadequacies of it design approach and under performance characteristics. This persuaded them to redesign the vehicle for the better technology already fielded. Thus North Korea by giving lip service to the missile flight testing program moratorium was actually buying time to develop the higher performance Taep’o-dong-2C/3 design which it ultimately flight tested in July 2006 early in the next five year plan of today. It takes five to seven years to develop a new missile design based on new fielded technology thus it was easy to predict this and other activities of the North Korean in missile development.


1. As I was taught at George Washington University and the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association courses on Soviet Economics Military S & T Prospects by James T. Westwood, Military Science and Defense Analytics, Unionville, Virginia,

9. Gertz, Bill, “ N. Korea tests its missile engine“, The Washington Times, 3, July 2001, pp. 1 and 7.

10. Gertz, Bill, “Gore Raises Sale to Iran with Chernomyrdin”, The Washington Times, 13, Feb. 1997, p.?

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