The Transfer of a Russian ICBM to North Korea?

The Transfer of a Russian ICBM to North Korea?

The Topol-M (SS-27 Mod 2), a multi-warhead intercontinental ballistic missile from Russia, and the “Hwasong-18” which was recently test-launched by North Korea (right) are both remarkable illustrations. (Russia MoD and KCNA).

Main Discoveries

  • The successful launch of North Korea’s Hwasong-18 ICBM on July 12, 2023 is probably the outcome of technical collaboration obtained from Russia.
  • It is difficult to explain the sudden appearance of these advanced capabilities without cooperation from the Russian government. The sudden appearance of a solid-fueled ICBM, the Hwasong-18, which can deliver substantial payloads to intercontinental ranges, occurred only months after a test engine demonstration with a decoy canister countermeasure. Unlike the liquid propellant North Korean ICBMs demonstrated over the past few years.
  • The flight trajectory and physical dimensions reported for the Hwasong-18 missile are nearly identical to that of the Russian ICBM 2 Mod-27 (SS) Topol-M.
  • The U.S. Missile force will need to consider additional concepts for defense, including the use of airborne patrol interceptors and drones, to counter the Hwasong-18 missile. This missile, equipped with multiple thermonuclear weapons and countermeasures, is capable of penetrating the existing ballistic missile defenses of the United States on the continental continent.
  • Russia would violate the unwritten international protocol by transferring nuclear capabilities to other parties and refraining from preventing the transfer of technology related to this ICBM.
  • In July 2023, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu will visit the DPRK to attend the 70th anniversary of the Korean War armistice, which is not only the latest manifestation of growing ties between Russia and the DPRK, but also an opportunity for personal audience with Kim Jong Un. This visit could potentially involve the transfer of energy and food supplies from Russia to North Korea, as well as cooperation between Pyongyang and Moscow in the field of technology or the potential transfer of the Topol-M missile, which poses a new and increased level of danger to the Indo-Pacific region and the allies of the US. It also highlights Russia’s support for the war in Ukraine through the transfer of munitions.
  • On July 25, 2023, Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea, had a meeting with Sergei Shoigu, the Defense Minister of Russia, the day after he was greeted by Kang Sun Nam, his North Korean counterpart, upon his arrival in Pyongyang.

    The Russian Defense Ministry simultaneously announced that one purpose of Shoigu’s visit was to assist in enhancing the military relations between Russia and North Korea and promoting cooperation between the two countries.

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    With the implementation of this new initiative, Russia has surpassed previously prohibited political limits. This meeting is just one indication of what has thus far gone unrecognized in the Western world.

    The SS-27, alternatively referred to as the Topol-M, a state-of-the-art 50-ton solid fuel intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), has been selected by Russia to be transferred to North Korea only if the latter has significantly deviated from its previous political approach. The primary concern revolves around this matter.

    “The sudden appearance of the Hwasong-18 missile from North Korea cannot be simply ignored as ‘business as usual.’ In order to address this concern, it is crucial for the North Korean government to receive substantial training and cooperation from the Russian government. Without full cooperation and support from the Russians, it would not have been possible for North Koreans to have developed this particular ICBM. Unlike the liquid propellant used in previous years, the North Korean government has made significant advancements in missile technology.”

    The newly developed intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) by North Korea, known as Hwasong-18, is currently being modernized and operated by the United States. It has the capability to deploy and carry multiple countermeasures decoy and bombs, and is fully capable of delivering these thermonuclear weapons to the continental United States. North Korea has demonstrated this ability through underground nuclear tests, and the Topol-M can also deliver multiple thermonuclear bombs to the continental United States.

    To ensure the devastation of urban areas, it is uncertain whether the Hwasong-18’s guidance system also grants it enough precision, potentially within a range of a few thousand feet (approximately 300 to 400 meters), which might enable North Korea to effectively aim at American cities.

    Commonalities in abilities and sizes

    In addition to multiple warhead capabilities, the onboard defense missile countermeasure systems would have an immediate indicator for high-resolution X-band intelligence radars in South Korea and Japan, as well as immediate indicators for Western intelligence radars in the United States.

    The non-powered third phase of the Hwasong-18 missile discharges a container that possesses the ability to launch countermeasures in order to counter anti-missile defense systems. (Rodong Sinmun).

    The exceptional flexibility of the Hwasong-18 is demonstrated by its ability to carry large payloads of countermeasure defense missiles and warheads of varying ranges. The July test demonstration showed a trajectory of 20,000 km, assuming the same payload of 70%. The chosen range for this ICBM trajectory, with a full payload, is approximately 11,000 km between Washington, D.C. And Pyongyang. The graph below shows the range capability of the Hwasong-18 with a full payload of 2500 pounds and a 70% payload. Estimates indicate that the North Korean test demonstration was performed with a 70% payload, which closely matches the characteristics of the Topol-M and Minuteman III ICBMs, as described in open literature. The Hwasong-18 is able to easily carry several warheads yielding hundreds of kilotons. Its full payload weighs approximately 2500 pounds, which closely matches that of the Russian ICBMs. Simulations of the near-vertical flight trajectory of the Hwasong-18 indicate a very close match to actual Russian flights.

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    The flight demonstration near July 2023 showcased the trajectory that can be achieved by the Hwasong-18, indicating the possible trajectories that can be flown.

    Consequences for the United States.

    The development of this attack still has very far-ranging implications for U.S. National security policy. Although North Korea understands that a suicidal response to it would destroy the United States, it does not trust the U.S. Commitment to come to its assistance. So, the objective of North Korea is to intervene in a crisis in South Korea if the United States were to attack with a nuclear threat to the mainland. The new North Korean ICBM significantly enhances the capability to pose a significant security threat to both Japan and South Korea. The United States will stand by them in this time of crisis, maintaining confidence in its commitment to defend against North Korean aggression. If it were true, it would appear that Russia has broken the unwritten international protocol by potentially providing nuclear strike capabilities to North Korea, which has politically and obvious implications for both North Korea and Russia’s strategic capabilities.

    The primary concern should be the U.S. National security establishment. The U.S. National security establishment should consider this matter with utmost concern. Currently, we lack any specific insights into the far-reaching, unpredictable, and intricate political consequences of this singular yet deeply troubling development. Neglecting technology and history, which would be akin to repeating the mistakes of World War II’s Maginot line, is irresponsible when we possess a technically viable missile defense system like the airborne patrol that could effectively function in East Asia. It would be irresponsible to disregard technology and history by repeating the mistakes of the Maginot line in World War II when we have a feasible missile defense system like the airborne patrol that could work in East Asia. A closely related option is to impose sanctions that allow for interference with North Korea’s ships deployed in the ICBM impact area to monitor the final stages of its tests. One possible approach, through the UN, is to implement an international sanction that permits South Korea, Japan, and the United States to intercept any ICBMs tested by North Korea. One possible approach, through the UN, is to introduce an international sanction that authorizes South Korea, Japan, and the United States to shoot down any ICBMs being tested by North Korea. Unless a nation tests its missile on a complete trajectory, it cannot have confidence in its reliable use. A nation cannot have confidence in the reliable use of its missile unless it tests it on a complete trajectory, even if it is a different flight path that is not as demanding as a near vertical trajectory. Monitoring the reentry of warheads in the target impact area necessitates deploying and operating a specialized fleet of ships to observe the behavior of warheads as they reenter and traverse the atmosphere. The flight test must also follow an ICBM trajectory, allowing North Korean missile engineers to monitor the deployment of warheads and decoys for any anomalies. Although this is not technically challenging, it is crucial to verify that a specific missile can successfully follow a trajectory where it tips over to place a payload on a long-range course. Currently, North Korea would need to conduct full-range flight tests of any long-range ICBM. In the case of a limited deployment, a small number of interceptors carried by drones could be utilized to shoot down North Korea’s long-range ICBMs during tests. This missile defense system, known as the “airborne patrol,” capitalizes on North Korea’s proximity to the Sea of Japan, which provides a vast expanse of adjacent international airspace where drones can operate. However, there is a missile defense concept that could prove effective if deployed against North Korea. It was specifically designed to counteract large numbers of decoys, which pose a significant challenge to current U.S. Missile defenses. The current Topol-M (Hwasong-18) possesses the capability to overwhelm the long-range missile defense systems that the United States has been constructing over the past two decades. All of these questions, and many others, appear to be relevant now. Could Russia’s next move involve a game-changing transfer of advanced air defenses to North Korea? Is it an indication of how much advanced strategic military technology Russia is willing to share with North Korea? Does it signify a new form of hostile actions by Russia? Is it possible that Russia provided these missiles to North Korea as a warning to the United States about the escalating tensions between the two nations? For instance, is it conceivable that Russia provided these missiles to North Korea as a warning to the United States about the escalating tensions between the two nations?

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