As I recently noted, the North Korean regime of Kim Jong Un just showed the world its newest and largest intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) at its nighttime parade on Saturday. The liquid-fueled missile, now designated the Hwasong-16, was seen mounted on a massive, 11-axle mobile transporter erector launcher (TEL).
At approximately 85 feet long, the new rocket appears to be about 6 to 9 feet longer than the Hwasong-15, reports the New York Post. “It’s also wider, making it the largest road-mobile ICBM of its type in the world.”
“It’s huge,” said Melissa Hanham, a weapons expert and deputy director of the Open Nuclear Network who called the missile “a monster,” according to the Post
Weapons experts believe the likely engine configuration of the “monster” long-range ICBM would allow Pyongyang to deliver several thousand pounds of payload anywhere in the United States for the first time. More importantly the missile should be able to carry multiple warheads.
As Ankit Panda, author of “Kim Jong Un and the Bomb: Survival and Deterrence in North Korea,” notes, Kim seems to have learned from the former Soviet Union that it’s more effective to add warheads to a single missile than build more missiles, reports the Post.
Panda, who is also a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, estimates that the Hwasong-16 could hold as many as four warheads. Meanwhile, reports Bloomberg, the Hwasong-15, launched in 2017, is believed to carry a single warhead.
With a limited, and unproven, arsenal, North Korea would be challenged with America’s small, but effective, anti-missile defenses.
Panda also said, at a web seminar hosted by South Korea-based NK News, that he estimates that Kim would need to launch 11 single-warhead ICBMs against the U.S. to have a minimum 1-in-3 chance of evading American missile defenses and detonating a nuclear warhead on American soil.
With more warheads per missile, “They can saturate the defenses by having more re-entry vehicles than the US can ever hope to defend against,” Panda stated, according to the Post.
While the new engines on the Hwasong-16 remain untested in a live missile launch, which would violate international sanctions, this new missile appears to be giving the Hermit Kingdom that dangerous capability.
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