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.
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.
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.
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