Taepodong 2 – The North Korean Missile that By no means Existed: How Western Analysts Mistook a Civilian Satellite tv for pc Launcher for an ICBM

Within the early levels of the North Korean ballistic missile program the nation relied closely on comparatively comparatively easy liquid fuelled designed primarily based closely on Soviet applied sciences. These included the brief vary Hwasong-5, 6 and 9 primarily based on the Scud B and C, the stable fuelled KN-02 Toksa primarily based on the OTR-21 Tochka obtained by way of Syria, and the medium vary Rodong-1. All of those missiles have been straight derived from earlier Soviet designs, apart from the Hwasong-9 which enhanced the Scud design with a for much longer vary, higher accuracy and a manoeuvrable reentry automobile, and the Rodong-1 which was a a lot scaled up spinoff of the Scud that positioned American bases throughout Japan inside vary. These belongings have been all exported to a lot of Pyongyang’s defence companions together with Pakistan, Syria and Iran amongst others, and although formidable they have been far much less innovative for his or her time than the sorts of missiles North Korea would start to discipline within the 2010s. All through the 2000s, Western analysts reported nearly unanimously that North Korea, regardless of the comparatively primary state of its applied sciences, was growing or had already developed an intercontinental ballistic missile that was additionally primarily based on Soviet Scud applied sciences, which was referred to within the West because the Taepodong 2. 

In america, director of Central Intelligence George Tenet gave testimony to the Senate Armed Providers Committee within the late Nineteen Nineties that North Korea was on the verge of growing an intercontinental ballistic missile of hitting the continental United States mainland. He noticed on the time that the nation’s defence sector had “demonstrated expertise that with the decision of some essential technical points would give North Korea the flexibility to ship a really small payload to intercontinental ranges, together with elements of america, though not very precisely.” Referring on to the Taepodong 2, he said that the 2 stage liquid fuelled missile “would be capable of ship considerably bigger payloads to mainland Alaska and the Hawaiian Islands and smaller payloads to different elements of america.” Tenet additional predicted that the missile would seemingly be developed into a 3 stage spinoff which may “ship giant payloads to the remainder of america.” He additionally mentioned that he was “deeply involved that North Korea has a covert [nuclear weapons] program” and he cited North Korea’s secret underground facility as a “key goal for us to observe.” U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Energy would years later straight discuss with the Taepodong 2 when confronting North Korean diplomats, accusing them of growing ICBM applied sciences. Japanese media reported in August 2003 that not solely was the Taepodong 2 a really actual risk, however that the missile was being delivered to Iran the place North Korea was set to ship a manufacturing plant to assist Iranian license manufacturing of ICBMs.

Whereas North Korea has lengthy displayed its missile capabilities as a logo of its energy, Pyongyang notably by no means introduced a ‘Taepodong 2’ or any missile which might match its description. Evaluation of the Taepodong 2 program reveals actually that there by no means was such a missile, and that allegations in opposition to North Korea had been fictitious, and it will not be till 2017 that the nation inducted its first ICBMs into service. The Taepodong-2 was supposedly primarily based on the North Korean Unha-2 and Unha-3 satellite tv for pc launch automobiles, which have been used to deploy the nation’s Kwangmyongsong-2, 3 and 4 climate statement satellites into house. The launch automobiles have been certainly considered powered by comparable engines to these utilized by the Rodong missiles, however they have been removed from viable to be used as fight belongings. The Unha rockets carried modest payloads for his or her measurement and required days to assemble utilizing huge scaffolding buildings, which made them extraordinarily weak to enemy strikes with abysmal response time if pressed into fight use. North Korea’s ballistic missiles have prized survivability and deployed from cell transporter erector launchers – permitting them to launch with in minutes and stay cell till then. This has included all types of ballistic missiles from older tactical missiles just like the Hwasong-5, to newer ICBMs a number of instances its measurement such because the Hwasong-17.

Relating to the Unha launchers’ lack of viability as weapons techniques, aerospace engineer and North Korea missile program analyst John Schilling famous: “An intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) utilizing the fundamental Unha design, doesn’t look like a part of Pyongyang’s plan. We first mistook that rocket (from grainy satellite tv for pc photographs) as an ICBM, and gave it the pleasant identify ‘Taepodong-2.’ However the Unha is clearly not optimised for army use; it’s too giant and cumbersome, and its higher levels would have extra thrust in the event that they have been meant to hold heavy warheads.” Allegations that North Korea was testing an ICBM, moderately than peacefully pursuing an area program, nonetheless served as a useful pretext for Western powers to push for extra financial sanctions by way of the United Nations in opposition to their East Asian adversary. It was solely later within the 2010s that the U.S. Division of Defence would report that the Taepodong-2 had by no means been deployed as a missile, with Western analysts on the identical time reporting that the Unha house launch automobile had actually by no means been supposed as such. With North Korea extensively referred to in Western intelligence circles as an ‘intelligence black gap,’ the Taepodong 2 represented however one among a number of sensationalised tales which might come to have an effect on U.S. overseas coverage in direction of the nation – however which actually had little or no foundation in actuality.  

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