Could North Korea’s nuclear-tipped missile actually reach entire US?

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close Officials in the U.S. say North Korea's latest launch appears to be its most advanced intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) yet. North Korea named the missile the 'Hwasong-15.'  Here's what we know about it and how deadly it could be.

North Korea's latest missile, the Hwasong-15: What we know

Officials in the U.S. say North Korea's latest launch appears to be its most advanced intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) yet. North Korea named the missile the 'Hwasong-15.' Here's what we know about it and how deadly it could be.

North Korea's bomb blast rhetoric might just bombast.

The Hermit Kingdom on Wednesday boasted its new Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile can carry a “super heavy nuclear warhead” that can strike “the whole mainland” of the United States — but an expert tossed some cold water on Kim Jong Un's brag.

A view of the newly developed intercontinental ballistic rocket Hwasong-15's test that was successfully launched is seen in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang November 30, 2017. REUTERS/KCNA ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS - RC19B2C34FD0

North Korea claimed its latest ICBM launch could reach the entire U.S. mainland. (KCNA via Reuters)

The ICBM that was launched Wednesday flew nearly 2,800 miles and traveled 590 miles before it hit a sea target in Japanese waters, the North said. South Korea’s military announced it had similar data. The missile’s flight time was reportedly 53 minutes. If flown on a standard trajectory, instead of Wednesday's lofted angle, the missile would have a range of more than 8,100 miles, said U.S. scientist David Wright, a physicist who closely tracks North Korea's missile and nuclear programs.

The Hwasong-15, like the previously launched Hwasong-14, had payloads — an item mimicking a nuclear warhead — strapped on to test if it could hold a nuclear warhead and the distance it was capable of reaching before it comes down.

This Nov. 29, 2017, image provided by the North Korean government on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, third from left, and what the North Korean government calls the Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile, in North Korea. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the North Korean government. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

Kim Jong Un analyzed the Hwasong-15 ICBM before Wednesday's launch. (KCNA via Reuters)

Michael Elleman, a missile expert, wrote Wednesday in an article on 38 North, a blog which specializes in North Korea news, that the dummy warhead strapped on to Hwasong-15 was most likely much lighter than any real nuclear payload Kim Jong Un’s rocket scientists can produce, however.

“It is doubtful North Korea can fashion a nuclear weapon that weighs less than 100 kg [220 pounds],” Elleman wrote on 38 North. “It is also unlikely that North Korea has enough experience developing, testing and validating the technologies needed to build a 50 kg re-entry vehicle capable of protecting the warhead during the high-temperature, high-stress environment experienced during descent through the atmosphere.”

The mock warhead on Wednesday’s ICBM most likely weighed around 330 pounds based on the estimated 8,100-mile range it could reach. Kim would have to develop a nuclear warhead that weighs less than 1,100 pounds to reach the U.S.’ West Coast — a feat the despot’s scientists may not be able to achieve, Elleman said.

North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un is seen as the newly developed intercontinental ballistic rocket Hwasong-15's test was successfully launched, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang November 30, 2017. REUTERS/KCNA ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS - RC1ECCC05940

Kim Jong Un gave a fist pump as he was watching the flight data early Wednesday morning. (KCNA via Reuters)

"Kim Jong Un's nuclear bomb must weigh less than 350 kilograms [800 pounds] if he expects to strike the western edges of the U.S. mainland," Elleman said. "A 600-kilogram [1,300-pound] payload barely reaches Seattle."

Elleman’s analysis was done before North Korea’s state newspaper released dozens of photos of the missile test, including Kim in mid-laugh while staring out the window. The despot was pictured also giving a fist pump while looking at flight data. He then declared hours after ordering the ICBM launch that North Korea had “finally realized the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force.”

Katherine Lam is a breaking and trending news digital producer for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter at @bykatherinelam

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