The KN-09 is believed to be a 300mm Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) under development by North Korea. The KN-09 is reported to have a range of up to 200 kilometers, significantly further than similar rocket artillery systems previously deployed by the DPRK.
KN-09 (KN-SS-9) at a Glance
- Originated from
- North Korea
- Alternate names
- Possessed by
- North Korea
- Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS)
- 200 km
- Road-mobile launcher
- Single warhead
- High Explosive
- Entered service 2018 – 2020
Much remains unclear about the development history and capabilities of the KN-09. Confirming tests of the KN-09 is often challenging, as government and media sources frequently conflict. How and from where North Korea acquired this technology is also uncertain. Some analyses indicate that the KN-09 is based on either Russia’s BM-30 Smerch or China’s A-100 MLRS. Its longer range and the physical characteristics of the rocket, however, suggest it could be based on one of China’s newer Weishi rockets, such as the SY300. It is also possible that North Korea developed the system indigenously, improving upon its existing 240mm MLRS.
There have been at least seven reported tests of the KN-09 since 2013. South Korean media first reported a test of a 300mm North Korean rocket system in May 2013.1 North Korea fired at least one rocket from a northeastern test site into the Sea of Japan.2 North Korea also tested a 300mm long range artillery rocket several times in 2014, with tests reportedly on February 21 and 27, March 4, and June 27.3
In a February 21, 2014 test, North Korea reportedly fired four rounds from a 300mm MLRS in addition to several 240-mm rockets and Scud missiles. The 300mm projectiles travelled around 155 kilometers northwest of their launch site in Wonsan.4 Other accounts of the test, however, reported that North Korea had fired four Scud-type ballistic missiles, rather than artillery rockets, or had fired both Scud and 300mm rockets during the test.5
On March 4, 2014, North Korea may have test-fired four KN-09 rockets from the same launch site in Wonsan, apparently also travelling around 155 kilometers.6 On June 27, 2014 test, North Korea fired an additional 3 projectiles from Wonsan thought to be KN-09s.7
On October 10, 2015, North Korea officially unveiled the KN-09 during a military parade in Pyongyang.8
North Korea tested the KN-09 twice in March 2016. On March 4, 2016, North Korea released photographs and a description of the new long range artillery system after firing an unknown number of rockets to ranges in excess of 100 kilometers.9 On March 22, 2016, South Korean authorities reported that Pyongyang had launched KN-09 rockets to a range of 200 kilometers and an altitude of 50 kilometers.10
In 2020, the United States’ National Air and Space Intelligence Center reported that the KN-09 had entered North Korean service. The center had previously listed the KN-09 as being under development in a report issued June 2017.12 This range is nearly double that of similar 300mm MLRS systems deployed by China and Russia, such as the A-100 and BM-30 Smerch, respectively.
It remains unclear how North Korea developed a long-range 300mm rocket, and some analysts have questioned the veracity of the system’s range claims entirely.13 Several analysts have speculated the KN-09 could be derived from China’s longer-range SY300 Weishi rocket, while others suggest that North Korea had evolved the system from its existing 240mm rocket designs.14
The KN-09 designation has been used to reference both North Korea’s 300mm MRLS and its Kumsong-3 antiship missile. The preponderance of sources, however, have settled on the KN-09 as the designation of the 300mm MLRS. The 2020 Department of Defense report on ballistic and cruise missile threats refers to the system as the KN-SS-9.15
The KN-09 carries a total of eight rockets in two pods of four launch tubes, with a reported range of 200 kilometers. Analysts have identified the launcher truck as Chinese in origin, likely a modified 6X6 HOWO ZZ2257M5857A, or “Sinotruk.”16 From images released by North Korea in March 2016, other analysts asserted that North Korea’s KN-09 launch truck matches that of China’s PR50 122-mm MLRS.17 The KN-09’s claimed reload time is approximately 30 minutes.
- Han Da-eun, “N. Korea fired 300 mm caliber rockets: military sources,” Arirang, May, 22, 2013, http://www.arirang.co.kr/News/News_View.asp?nseq=147386
- “North Korea launches fourth short range missile,” CNN, May 19, 2013, http://www.cnn.com/2013/05/19/world/asia/north-korea-missiles/index.html.
- IHS Jane’s 360, “China assists North Korea with new 300mm rocket artillery system,” Internet Archive, March 10, 2016, https://web.archive.org/web/20160310104416/http://www.janes.com/article/58660/china-assists-north-korea-with-new-300-mm-rocket-artillery-system.
- John Grisafi, “The threat of North Korea’s new rocket artillery,” NK News, March 13, 2014, https://www.nknews.org/2014/03/the-threat-of-north-koreas-new-rocket-artillery/.
- “North Korea Fires 4 short-range ballistic missiles,” Yonhap News Agency, February 27, 2014, http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/national/2014/02/27/9/0301000000AEN20140227009353315F.html; John Grisafi, “The threat of North Korea’s new rocket artillery,” NK News, March 13, 2014, https://www.nknews.org/2014/03/the-threat-of-north-koreas-new-rocket-artillery/.
- “North Korean Provocations and U.S.-ROK Military Exercises,” Beyond Parallel, April 3, 2017, https://beyondparallel.csis.org/north-korean-provocations-us-rok-military-exercises/; IHS Jane’s 360, “China assists North Korea with new 300mm rocket artillery system,” Internet Archive, March 10, 2016, https://web.archive.org/web/20160310104416/http://www.janes.com/article/58660/china-assists-north-korea-with-new-300-mm-rocket-artillery-system.
- Jeffrey Lewis, “More Rockets in Kim Jong Un’s pockets: North Korea tests a new artillery system,” 38 North, March 7, 2016 http://www.38north.org/2016/03/jlewis030716/.
- John Grisafi, “N. Korea reveals details of 300mm multiple rocket launcher,” NK News, March 4, 2016, https://www.nknews.org/2016/03/n-korea-reveals-details-of-300mm-multiple-rocket-launcher/.
- Ha-young Choi, ”North Korea reveals pictures of multiple rocket launch test,” NK News, March 22, 2016 https://www.nknews.org/2016/03/north-korea-reveals-pictures-of-multiple-rocket-launch-test/.
- Defense Intelligence Ballistic Missile Analysis Committee, Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat 2020, (Wright-Patterson AFB, OH: National Air and Space Intelligence Center, July 2020); Defense Intelligence Ballistic Missile Analysis Committee, Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat 2017, (Wright-Patterson AFB, OH: National Air and Space Intelligence Center, June 2017).
The KN-09’s reported 200 kilometer range would represent a significant advancement in North Korean artillery technology.11NASIC 2020, p. 17
- Jeffrey Lewis, “Smerch or Tochka,” Arms Control Wonk, June 29, 2014, http://www.armscontrolwonk.com/archive/207392/smerch-or-toksa/.
- Joseph Dempsey, Twitter Post, March 4, 2016, 8:33 a.m., https://twitter.com/josephhdempsey/status/705793176037101569?lang=en; John Grisafi, “N. Korea reveals details of 300mm multiple rocket launcher,” NK News, March 4, 2016, https://www.nknews.org/2016/03/n-korea-reveals-details-of-300mm-multiple-rocket-launcher/.
- NASIC 2020, p. 17
- Richard D Fisher Jr, “China Assists North Korea with new 300mm rocket artillery system,” IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly, March 9, 2016 https://world-defense.com/threads/china-assists-north-korea-with-new-300-mm-rocket-artillery-system.3706/.
- Jeffrey Lewis, Twitter Post, March 4, 2016, 11:17 a.m., https://twitter.com/ArmsControlWonk/status/705836645086433280.