9 May news the tapes literally blew up a message from the Central Telegraph Agency of Korea (CTAC) that the DPRK had a test launch from a submarine of a powerful Korean strategic ballistic missile, which was accompanied by a television picture. This event indicates that the DPRK is improving and increasing its missile potential, seeking in the future to become the owner of the nuclear triad.
In this regard, it is interesting to assess the potential of the DPRK to build and produce nuclear weapons and their means of delivery.
At present, the nuclear industry of the DPRK has limited production capacity armory materials and the production of nuclear weapons from them.
The country has the only atomic center in Yongbyon, located in 86 kilometers north of Pyongyang. The structure of its industrial complex includes:
- gas graphite reactor with an electrical capacity of five megawatts (thermal power - 25 MW), commissioned in the 1986 year (it is capable of producing three to four kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium per year);
- nuclear fuel plant;
-radiochemical plant for the separation of plutonium from irradiated nuclear fuel (SNF), which is capable of processing up to 110 tons of SNF per year;
- a plant for isotope enrichment of uranium, which can produce annually up to 26 kilograms of weapons-grade uranium.
The construction of a nuclear power plant with an experimental light-water reactor (ELWR) of the North Korean development is being completed. Its electrical capacity is estimated to range from 25 to 30 megawatts (heating capacity is above 100 MW). As expected, he will be able to produce kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium a year before 20. Commissioning is possible at the end of this or early next year.
“The prototype“ Hwason-11 ”served as a Soviet-made OTR“ Point ”, samples of which were transferred to the DPRK by Syria in the middle of the 90-x
Uranium reserves in the DPRK are estimated at 15 – 20 thousand tons. Currently, uranium ore is mined in the Pakhon and Pyongsan regions (70 km to the north and 95 km to the southeast of Pyongyang, respectively). Here are located uranoobogatelnye factories supplying raw materials for a nuclear fuel plant in the Yongben nuclear center, their total capacity is up to 150 tons of concentrate per year.
It is estimated that a total of 40 – 42 kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium was isolated from the entire SNF recovered in different years from the above North Korean gas-graphite reactor. For the manufacture of nuclear explosive devices tested in 2006, 2009 and 2013 at the Kilchu site (Northern Hamgen Province), 10 – 12 kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium were consumed. With this in mind, at the beginning of 2015, the DPRK’s accumulated reserves of weapons-grade plutonium were at least 30 kilograms.
There is no reliable expert assessment of the North Korean reserves of highly enriched uranium (HEU), since it is not clear when and in what amounts the respective capacities were put into operation in the DPRK. There is a weighty assumption that by the beginning of 2015, in this country, up to 200 kilograms of weapon-grade HEU could have been developed.
However, it should be taken into account that in the 2013 – 2014 years, the production area of the uranium isotope enrichment plant at the Yongby nuclear center was doubled and an additional number of centrifuges were installed. With the commissioning of these facilities (as expected in the second half of the year), the production capacity of the above-mentioned plant can increase weapon-grade HEU to 60 kilograms per year.
The DPRK reserves of weapons-grade nuclear materials held by DPRK for January are considered to be sufficient for the production of simplified-design (2015 – 10 plutonium and 16 – 6) weapons-grade uranium nuclear weapons for 8 – 4. Most likely, these warheads are now used in nuclear bombs that can be delivered to targets by Chinese-made Hun-8 front-line bombers. This bomber is an analogue of Soviet-made IL-5, which is certified as a carrier of a nuclear bomb weighing up to three thousand kilograms. There is no reliable data on the presence of the DPRK nuclear warheads for ballistic missiles today.
At the same time, sufficiently authoritative sources confirm the suspicions of the international community that the DPRK is conducting research and development work in order to reduce the weight and size characteristics of nuclear weapons. The ultimate goal is to create such a compact ammunition, which could equip the head part (MS) of a ballistic missile. One of the directions of such work, which has become known to the expert community, is associated with the development of a pulsed neutron source for a nuclear warhead, which will significantly increase the power of the explosion. Thus, it will be possible to reduce the weight and size parameters of the munition while maintaining the required power.
But the capabilities of the DPRK nuclear weapons complex to create new types of nuclear warheads should not be exaggerated. Recent publications in foreign media that North Korean specialists have allegedly mastered the secrets of nuclear fusion and are about to create a thermonuclear weapon do not correspond to reality, since the DPRK has no scientific, design, production or testing facilities for this. Just as there is no base for the creation of low-energy nuclear weapons, the so-called super-EMP weapon, the threat of which the DPRK has in the summer of 2014 was announced by former US CIA Director James Woolsey.
Historical the experience of developing and improving nuclear weapons indicates that breakthroughs in this area of arms simply do not happen: they have nowhere to come from until the appropriate scientific and industrial infrastructure is formed. Huge resources are required here, which, it seems, will not appear in the DPRK in the near future, but also in the distant future.
Therefore, based on a realistic assessment of the capabilities of the country's nuclear weapons complex, it should be expected that in the foreseeable future the efforts of North Korean specialists will be directed mainly at increasing the production of existing nuclear munitions while miniaturizing them. Reducing the mass of a nuclear weapon to 1000 kilograms will allow it to be placed in the MS of the Nodon-type ballistic missiles already available from the DPRK. But before that, it is imperative to carry out a full-scale test of such ammunition. So the next nuclear test at the Kilchu range, as they say, is not far off, since Pyongyang in every way seeks to equip its long-range ballistic missiles with a nuclear warhead.
The American-Korean Institute of Johns Hopkins University together with the University of National Defense of the USA prepared a forecast of the development of the North Korean nuclear program before 2020, which was presented in February this year in Washington. It is alleged that in five years the DPRK nuclear arsenal may increase to 50 – 100 ammunition. The arsenal in 50 – 60 of such ammunition seems to be realistic.
“But we are making rockets”
It is estimated that by the beginning of 2015, the DPRK armed forces could have had the following missile forces:
- one separate missile regiment and three separate missile battalions armed with a Luna-M tactical missile (TR) (a total 21 mobile launcher on a wheeled chassis);
-four separate missile battalion armed with KN-02 tactical missile (OTR) (a total of 16 mobile launchers on a wheeled chassis);
-one separate missile regiment armed with a Scud type OTR (28 mobile launchers on a wheeled chassis);
- three separate missile battalions armed with a Nodon-1 medium-range ballistic missile (MRBD) (a total of 9 mobile launchers on a wheeled chassis).
The single-stage solid fuel TR "Luna-M" (North Korean name - "Hwason-3") with a starting weight of 2,3 tons is equipped with non-separable warhead 450 mass of kilograms and has a range of up to 65 kilometers. The first samples of this unguided rocket with its production technology were acquired by the DPRK from the Soviet Union at the end of the 60s.
A single-stage solid fuel OTP KN-02 (“Hvason-11”) with a starting weight of two tons is equipped with non-detachable warhead weighing about 480 kilograms and has a firing range of up to 120 – 140 kilometers. Adopted in 2007 – 2008's. Its prototype was the Soviet-made OTR “Point”, samples of which were transferred to the DPRK by Syria in the middle of the 90's. In August-September, a series of test upgrades of the KN-2014 modified version was carried out by 02 (it is referred to in the media as the KN-10 short-range missile). The projected maximum firing range is up to 200 kilometers.
The single-stage liquid SCR-VTR (“Hvason-5”) with a launch weight of 6,4 tons is equipped with non-detachable 1000 warhead kilograms and has a firing range of up to 300 kilometers. Adopted in 1987 year. A prototype of this Soviet-made rocket (known as 8K14) was acquired by the DPRK from Egypt in 1980 year. At the end of 80-s, with the help of Chinese specialists, an advanced model of the rocket was created, which was named Scud-S (Hvason-6). Due to the lengthening of the fuel tanks and reducing the mass of the warhead to 700 kilograms, the firing range increased to 550 kilometers.
The single-stage liquid Nomon-1 MRSD (Hvason-7) with a launch mass of 16 tons is equipped with a detachable 1000 warhead of kilograms and has a firing range of up to 1000 kilometers. Adopted at the end of 90-x. It is developed by scaling OTR type "Scud". In 2010, at the military parade in Pyongyang, a modernized model of this rocket, called Nodon-1M (Hvason-9), was demonstrated. Compared to the base model, the Nodon-1M rocket has shortened fuel tanks (on the 1,5 m) and is equipped with a lightweight MS (500 kg mass). Its estimated range can be 1300 – 1500 kilometers.
All missiles currently in service with the North Korean missile units are equipped with warheads in conventional equipment of two types: high-explosive and cluster fragmentation. Potentially, Nodon-1 MRBM could become a carrier of nuclear warheads.
The aforementioned 2010 parade of the year also showed a single-stage ballistic missile of the new type, which was called Musudan (Hvason-10). She was transported on a wheel launcher. Its diameter was 1,5 meters, and length - 12 meters. In appearance, this rocket resembled the Soviet sea-based P-27 liquid (the case diameters and the MS form coincide, but the length of the North Korean sample is more than 1,5 meters). According to the latest publications in foreign media, the maximum firing range of “Musudan” can be 3200 – 4000 kilometers with a mass of MS to 650 kilograms.
Recently, information appeared unconfirmed by official sources that flight testing of Musudan MRSD began this year and that two short-range test launches have allegedly already been held. It was previously reported that two separate missile divisions (a total of 8 mobile launchers) were formed in the DPRK armed forces, which should have the Musudan armored personnel carrier armed with weapons, and that these divisions are deployed near the east coast of the DPRK.
In April, at the next military parade in Pyongyang, 2012 was shown a new North Korean development - the ballistic missile KN-08 (“Hwason-13”). It was transported on an eight-axle wheeled launcher and, by external signs, was a three-stage solid-fuel rocket with a diameter of two meters and a length of about 19 meters. It is claimed that it has an intercontinental firing range, but it is not possible to confirm this, since no test launches were carried out.
There are strong suspicions that the KN-08 rocket model was shown at the parade, which would take considerable time to translate into a real model. According to the South Korean news agency Rehnap, in May and October 2014, the intelligence services of the United States and the Republic of Korea recorded tests in the DPRK of solid-fuel engines for the KN-08 rocket.
In addition to the creation of the Musudan and KN-08 ballistic missiles, the DPRK is implementing another project - the two-stage liquid ballistic missile Tephodon-2. The development of its elements was carried out with the launch of the space launch vehicles "Enkha-2" (April 2009-th) and "Enkha-3" (April and December 2012-th). In the first stage of these launch vehicles, four propulsion units of the Nodon-1 MRSD were used, connected by a common frame, and in the second stage, the OTR Scud-S liquid-propellant rocket engine was used. Given the successful launch of the Unha-3 launch vehicle in December of 2012, which ended with the launch of the Tepodon-2 ballistic missile by the end of this decade, it could be completed by launching a low-Earth orbit of a technology satellite to the Earth’s surface imaging satellite. Estimated it will have a starting weight of about 65 tons, a length of up to 32 meters and the largest diameter of the body of the 2,4 meter. The maximum firing range can be from 3500 to 6000 kilometers, depending on the mass of the warhead. For this missile, a nuclear warhead can be created.
To ensure the upcoming tests of the developed ballistic missiles from the beginning of 2014, the North Korean province Sohe (its other name used is Tonchandon), located in North Pyongyan province, is undergoing modernization and expansion of the site’s infrastructure. It is expected that these works can be completed in 2015. Therefore, it cannot be excluded that in the near future tests of medium and longer range ballistic missiles will be resumed at the test site.
The development of a ballistic-missile submarine on board has become a fundamentally new direction for increasing the missile potential of the DPRK.
Information about the ongoing work in this direction appeared in foreign media at the end of last summer. In particular, in August, the Washington Freedom Beaken Internet publication wrote that the American intelligence services were able to obtain data on a submarine being built in the DPRK to launch an SLBM and that the country already has such missiles. In March of this year, sources in the diplomatic and military circles of the Republic of Korea announced that the DPRK had launched the Xingpo class diesel submarine capable of launching ballistic missiles.
Therefore, the test of an SLBM conducted by the DPRK 9 in May did not come as a surprise to those professionals who are professionally engaged in the problems related to the development of North Korean ballistic missiles.
At the same time, a test launch report published by the TsTAK contained information from the discharge “to give what is desirable for the real,” since in reality the launch of the rocket was carried out from a barge sunk into the sea (test bench), and not from a submarine. In addition, it was the so-called missile missile test, and not its full launch - the rocket flew just 150 – 200 meters.
It should be noted that the throwing tests - the normal practice of testing and testing the performance of both the rocket design and the launch shaft at an early stage. Only after that you can proceed to full-scale flight tests of an SLBM using a submarine.
Regarding the type of tested SLBMs, most of the credible sources believe that this is the prototype of the liquid musbane MRBD, adapted for launching from under water. The Pentagon SLBM received the designation KN-11.
The test showed that the DPRK directly began to build an underwater missile potential. South Korean government officials believe that within five years, the DPRK will be able to possess the limited potential of missile submarine forces. It cannot be ruled out that by the end of this period, part of the deployed SLBMs will be equipped with nuclear warheads.
Bargaining is appropriate
The hopes of a certain part of the international community that the current North Korean authorities, under pressure from the sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council and unilaterally by the governments of a number of states hostile to the DPRK, will refuse to implement national nuclear and missile programs are illusory. The tightening of these measures, which are now threatened by the United States, its allies and partners, will not change the situation. The DPRK has a great experience gained over the years of its existence, in terms of survival in harsh conditions.
The decisive factor is that Pyongyang views the possession of nuclear and missile potentials as the main guarantee of ensuring national security and preserving the existing political regime. This is particularly evidenced by an editorial published in September 2014 of the central North Korean party newspaper Nodon Sinmun, which states: “The DPRK will continue to increase its nuclear potential for self-defense in accordance with the legal right to provide protection state and nation ".
As Joel Whit, one of the leading staff of the Johan Hopkins American-Korean Institute, rightly notes, “Today, Kim Jong-un (the current leader of the country) is increasingly imposing a choice on the international community: to accept the fact that North Korea has nuclear weapons, or with periodic instability and tension on the Korean Peninsula. " This challenge, of course, is unpleasant for the international community, but from this promise it is forced to proceed when looking for a way out of the arising North Korean nuclear impasse. Therefore, it seems that the renewal of the 2009-th Six-Party Talks suspended in April (in the format of the PRC, the USA, Russia, Japan, the Republic of Korea and the DPRK) on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula has lost its meaning. The North Korean nuclear problem does not have a solution “all at once”, new approaches are needed that are adequate to the existing realities.
Based on the above, the international community should take it for granted that the DPRK, like India, Pakistan and Israel, will not just give up nuclear and missile potentials. Therefore, now international diplomatic efforts should be aimed at stopping the growth of these potentials and stabilizing the situation on the Korean Peninsula, in order to prevent unleashing a new war here, through the normalization of relations with the DPRK, primarily in the format of the DPRK-USA. nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.
Only after the above task can be solved and the parties gain mutual trust regarding their peaceful coexistence, can we proceed to solving the problem of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. At the same time, it will be necessary to provide the DPRK with substantial guarantees, as well as certain preferences (their nature and volume - the subject of future agreements). And this kind of fee should not be regarded as a unilateral concession to Pyongyang. It seems that the preferences that the DPRK will need to provide will be insignificant in comparison with the significance for international security of the stability on the Korean Peninsula, which will be ensured as a result of the “deal” on the nuclear disarmament of the DPRK. Another question is whether Kim Jong-un and his entourage can be inclined to this. In many ways, if not decisively, it will depend on the behavior of the participants in the nuclear "five", primarily the United States, with respect to the DPRK.