The Hwasong-13 (KN-08 / KN-14) was an experimental North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile. North Korea first displayed a Hwasong-13 in a parade on April 15, 2012, and showcased a modified variant—designated separately by the United States as the KN-14—on October 10, 2015. Both variants have ceased to appear in public parades following the introduction of the Hwasong-14 and Hwasong-15 ICBMs. It is unclear whether Pyongyang ever constructed an operational Hwasong-13, and it is likely North Korea has abandoned further development efforts.
Hwasong-13 at a Glance
- Originated from
- North Korea
- Alternate names
- KN-08, KN-14 (KN-08 Mod 2)
- Possessed by
- North Korea
- Intercontinental-range ballistic missile (ICBM)
- ~17 m
- 1.5-2 m
- 8,000 – 10,000 km
- Never Deployed
Analysts remain uncertain whether the Hwasong-13 was ever an operational weapons program. Early assessments of the missile suggested that both variants were nonworking mockups displayed as propaganda, or represented an unreliable prototype system. 1 North Korea has never flight-tested either Hwasong-13 variant. Though North Korea displayed the Hwasong-13 alongside its nuclear weapons as an aspirational delivery system, it is unclear whether Pyongyang ever constructed a working prototype.2
The Hwasong-13 design reportedly employed the Soviet-made 4D10 rocket motor in its propulsion system. In 2016, Pyongyang released imagery of a similar engine undergoing static firing tests and later released imagery of a similarly-sized engine attached to the missile’s first stage. North Korea likely obtained 4D10 engines after acquiring R-27/SS-N-6 missiles and technical assistance from the former Soviet Union.3 While several analysts suggested that two 4D10 engines would be insufficient to propel an ICBM-class weapon, others noted that new liquid fuels might allow the missile to reach intercontinental range.4
Despite the Hwasong-13’s uncertain functionality, its associated research efforts possibly contributed to North Korea’s development of the Hwasong-14 and Hwasong-15 ICBMs. In 2017, North Korea flight-tested the Hwasong-12, Hwasong-14, and Hwasong-15 missiles, which employed a large, liquid-fueled engine powered by a more energetic fuel. Thought to be derived from the Russian-produced RD-250, these new engines may share a technological lineage with prior Hwasong-13-related developments.5 The second variant (KN-14) of the Hwasong-13 also bears a close visual resemblance to the later Hwasong-15. Though its ultimate status remains uncertain, the Hwasong-13 played a pivotal role in North Korea’s efforts to create—and showcase—its emerging nuclear deterrent.
- John Schilling, “North Korea’s Space Launch: An Initial Assessment,” 38 North, February 9, 2016, http://38north.org/2016/02/jschilling020816/; Elaine Bunn, “Next Steps in Missile Defense” (event, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, DC, April 7, 2015), https://www.csis.org/events/next-steps-missile-defense
- ; Jeffrey Lewis, “Five Things You Need to Know about Kim Jong Un’s Photo Op with the Bomb,” 38 North, March 11, 2016, http://38north.org/2016/03/jlewis031116/.
- John Schilling, “North Korea’s Large Rocket Engine Test: A Significant Step Forward for Pyongyang’s ICBM Program,” 38 North, April 11, 2016, http://38north.org/2016/04/schilling041116/
- Markus Schiller, Robert H. Schmucker, and James Kim, Assessment of North Korea’s Latest ICBM Mock-up, (n.p.: Asan Institute Center for Regional Studies, 2014), http://en.asaninst.org/contents/assessment-of-north-koreas-latest-icbm-mock-up/; Jeffrey Lewis, “New DPRK ICBM Engine,” Arms Control Wonk, April 9, 2016, http://www.armscontrolwonk.com/archive/1201278/north-korea-tests-a-fancy-new-rocket-engine/.
- Michael Elleman, “The Secret to North Korea’s ICBM Success,” IISS Blogs, August 14, 2017, https://www.iiss.org/blogs/analysis/2017/08/north-korea-icbm-success.