After a long wait, North Korea’s “Musudan” intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM), a weapon with a reported range of 2,500 to 3,000 km, has made its first public appearance. Described as a copy of the Soviet R-27 submarine-launched ballistic missile (a.k.a. RSM-25, a.k.a. SS-N-6, a.k.a. Serb), it has never been flight-tested in North Korea, as far as anyone knows.
The missile showed up in the course of a televised military parade in Pyongyang’s Kim Il Sung square, better noted elsewhere for the joint appearance of ailing North Korean ruler Kim Jong Il and his son and successor Kim Jong Un. Compare this image of the nosecone on the right — a closeup from Anatoly Zak’s photo of an R-27 in a museum — to the glimpse of a pair of missiles at 0:49 in this video from North Korean television:
Another view appears at 1:12 in this video:
More than one missile type appears in the videos. According to the Associated Press, the Musudan wasn’t the only new one:
Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported Sunday that the parade included three never-before-shown types of missiles and launching devices.
One was thought to be a new “Musudan” intermediate-range ballistic missile with a long, narrow head, similar to a ball-point pen, NHK said. It has a range of 3,000-to-5,000 kilometers (1,860-to-3,100 miles) and would be capable of hitting Japan and Guam, NHK said.
Where that range estimate comes from, I don’t know.
“Musudan,” incidentally, is a Western designation. The press — starting with a December 15, 2005 story in the German tabloid Bild — tends to call it “BM-25,” probably a distortion of RSM-25. (The actual BM-25 was a Soviet rocket artillery system.) According to one source, the North Koreans market a 3,000-km range ballistic missile as “Scud-F,” but that’s unlikely to be their own name for it.
Update. Here’s another view of the R-27.
Further Update. [Oct. 11, 2010, 10:23 pm. I've moved the video that appeared here to this post, thanks to sharp-eyed commenter SJS.]
And a still photo, also courtesy Tal Inbar. A somewhat larger version appears here.
Late Update. According to the Chosun Ilbo, the Musudan was first displayed in an April 2007 military parade, but never previously exhibited to the world media. The Chosun, which describes the Musudan as having a range of 3,000 to 4,000 km, adds that the missile is deployed:
About a dozen of the missiles are apparently stationed at missile bases in Yangdok, South Pyongan Province, and Sangnam-ni, Hochon, North Hamgyong Province. The missile is 12 m long and 1.5 m wide and has the longest range in North Korea, outdoing the Rodong missile, which has a 1,300 km range.
The R-27, by contrast, was about 9 m in length (9.65 m, according to one source), and 2,500 to 3,000 km in range, depending on the mod. We’re looking at a new missile. The lack of a known testing record prior to deployment raises all sorts of questions. Was it tested in another country, for example?
Late Update | Oct. 11, 2010, 10:31 pm. Here’s Steve Zaloga’s nicely drafted comparison of the R-27 to the Musudan and its TEL.
Late Update | Oct. 14, 2010, 10:16 pm. Yonhap has published a sharp still photo of the Musudan on parade.