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 190 kilometers, significantly further than similar rocket artillery systems previously deployed by the DPRK.
KN-09 at a Glance
Originated from: North Korea
Possessed by: North Korea
Alternate names: K-SS-X-9
Class: Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS)
Basing: Road-mobile launcher
Payload: Eight 300mm launch tubes (two pods of four)
Warhead: High Explosive
Range: 190 kilometers
Status: In development
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 One rocket was fired from northeast North Korea 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 Wonson.4 Reports conflict regarding the February 27, 2014 test, with some news outlets reporting that North Korea had test fired four Scud-type missiles, rather than artillery rockets.5 Other reports indicated that North Korea fired both Scud and 300mm rockets during this test.6
On March 4, 2014, North Korea may have test-fired four more KN-09 rockets from the same launch site in Wonson, apparently also travelling around 155 kilometers.7 Less information is available on the June 27, 2014 test, but it has been reported that North Korea fired 3 projectiles from Wonson thought to be KN-09s.8 9
The system was officially unveiled during a military parade in Pyongyang on October 10, 2015, but drew little interest from foreign governments and analysts at the time.10
The KN-09 was tested 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, according to the South Korean military.11 North Korea released more photographs of the system following a live test fire on March 22, 2016. During this test the missile reportedly reached a range of 200 kilometers and an altitude of 50 kilometers according to the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff.12
The KN-09’s reported 190 kilometer range would be a significant advance in North Korean artillery technology. 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 such a long-range 300mm rocket, and some analysts have questioned the veracity of 190 kilometer range claim entirely.14 The U.S intelligence community, however, has assessed the KN-09’s range to be 190 kilometers.15
Others have speculated the KN-09 could be derived from China’s longer-range SY300 Weishi rocket, which would help explain the KN-09’s long range.16 Some analysts also contend that North Korea developed the system by improving the design of its 240mm MLRS.17
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 2017 DOD report on worldwide ballistic and cruise missile threats refers to the system as the KN-SS-X-9.
The KN-09 carries a total of eight rockets in two pods of four launch tubes, with a reported range of 190 kilometers. The launcher truck has been identified as Chinese in origin, likely a modified 6X6 HOWO ZZ2257M5857A, or “Sinotruk.”18 From the images released by North Korea in March 2016, one analyst asserted that North Korea’s KN-09 launch truck matches that of China’s PR50 122-mm MLRS.19 KN-09’s reload time is approximately 30 minutes.