North Koreas Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles – How It Works!

(FILES) This file picture taken by North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on December 12, 2012 shows North Korean rocket Unha-3, carrying the satellite Kwangmyongsong-3, lifting off from the launching pad in Cholsan county, North Pyongan province in North Korea. North Korea said on January 24, 2013 it planned to carry out a third nuclear test and more rocket launches aimed at its "arch-enemy" the United States in response to tightened UN sanctions, but offered no timeframe. AFP PHOTO / KCNA vis KNS / FILES ---EDITORS NOTE--- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / KCNA VIA KNS" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS (Photo credit should read KNS/AFP/Getty Images)

The tention between North Korea and the USA gets stronger and stronger and everybody can take notice of the currents events every evening during news time.  Kim Jong Il the current dictator of North Korea currently pushes the development of long range missiles and threatens the United States and its current president Donald Trump to hit its territorial area but how do they even work?


North Koreas Technologies


Chart of North Koreas weapon arsenal //

The technologies North Korea tries to push since 2012 are two types of “inter-continental ballistic missiles” in short ICBM. There are many different types of ICBMs but Pyongyang mostly focuses on those two types known as KN-08 and Hawasong-14, both untested.


North Korea also claims to have developed a completely new kind of missile called Taepodong-2 which they said is able to “reach every part in the world” but the US military is in two minds about this statement. Some believe the missile is “only” an intermediate-range missile other say the missile could actually reach the US state Alaska. The estimated distance is more than 10,000 km. But apart from a few claimed tests by Pyongyang there is not much actually known about the missile.


The KN-08 is believed to be able to reach about 8,000 km where as the Hwasong-14 is said to reach 10,000 km maximum. Both missiles get fired from a special truck.
The connection between the known missiles and the newly developed Taepodong 2 is unknown.


General Missile Types

  • Short-range: less tan 1,000 km.
  • Medium-range: 1,000 – 3,000 km
  • Intermediate-range: 3,000 – 5,500 km
  • Intercontinental-range: +5,500 km. This is the missile technology North Korea is working on.



//Source BBC

There are mainly three phases in a flight of a ballistic missile: ascent (boost), mid-course and terminal of free fall phases.

  • Asceniding or Boost phase: In this phase the missile is burning all the fuel it carries to gain acceleration and establishes an trajectory towards the endo-atmosphere. This phase lasts only for about 3-5 minutes.
  • Midcourse phase: This phase usually lasts about 20-30 minutes. During this time the missile travels outside of earths atmosphere to the apogee of its flight path.
  • Terminal phase: the terminal phase starts the moment when not the missile but the actual warhead (which is the actual weapon, the rest of the missile is just the engine) re-enters earth atmosphere. The warhead can carry “normal” explosives but also nuclear weapons. By free falling the warhead gains an exceptional amount of energy and a speed of up to 22500 km/h.


The New Taepodong-2

North Korea does not publish any information about this new missile which means that this discription

Launch photo of Taepodong-2 //Photo by KNS/AFP/Getty Images

is based on assumptions from the US military.


The Taepodong-2 is said to be a three stage missile which uses liquid fuel as propellant. Given this fact the missile is assumed to travel more than 10,000 km.
The missile was first tested in July 2006 and is still in development.


Recently North Korea increased the amount of its nuclear tests which let analysts speculate wheter Pyongyang plans to use the missiles as nuclear warheads.


Given the fact that all the tests of the Taepodong-2 failed in one way or another and the unsuccesful attempts of North Korea to put a setelite into space and into the correct orbit the accurancy of the missile is assumed to be poor.


The Bottom Line

On the bottom line, it is really hard to make any serious assumptions about what will happen next between the USA and North Korea. Apart from reports showing new tests of missiles and the current threat of Kim Jong Il to shoot a missile to an american island there is just not that much information around.
Take this post with a grain of salt when it comes to the actual numbers. They are all assumptions by the US government and military.

//Featured image from

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