The Kumsong-3 (U.S. designation: KN-19) is a North Korean variant of the Soviet-designed Kh-35 antiship cruise missile (ASCM). Though its capabilities have not been publicized, the Kumsong-3 likely shares performance characteristics with the Kh-35, which features a range of 130 – 250 km. This represents a significant capability improvement over the KN-01, a North Korean ASCM derived from earlier Soviet and Chinese designs.
Kumsong-3 (KN-19) at a Glance
- Originated from
- Soviet Union
- Alternate names
- KN-19, Kh-35, Kh-35(U)
- Possessed by
- North Korea
- Antiship cruise missile (ASCM)
- Ground- or sea-launched
- 145kg HE, semi-armor piercing
- Turbofan and solid-fuel booster
- 130 – 250 km
- Likely operational
- In service
- First appeared June 2014
Kumsong-3 Development / Acquisition
North Korea acquired the Kh-35 antiship missile—the basis for the Kumsong-3—sometime before 2014. While some speculate that Pyongyang purchased the initial missiles directly from Russia, others suggest that it acquired the Kh-35 from Myanmar, which has exchanged military technology North Korea in the past.1 Russia has sold the Kh-35 to India, Vietnam, Algeria, and several others, while Ukraine produces an improved variant, the Neptune, which entered service in 2020.
North Korea first revealed the Kumsong-3 in a propaganda video released in June 2014, and documented its first known flight test on February 7, 2015.2 According to North Korean state media, the missile was launched from a patrol boat and flew a range of 200 km.
In an April 15, 2017 military parade, North Korea displayed a tracked vehicle with a four-canister launcher for the Kumsong-3 missile. 3 On June 8, 2017, North Korea fired four Kumsong-3 missiles from Wonsan in its first test of the ground-launched system. According to South Korean officials, the missiles flew 200 km and reached a maximum altitude of 2km before landing in the Sea of Japan.4
On April 14, 2020, North Korea conducted a second test of the ground-launched Kumsong-3, firing “multiple” missiles near Munchon near the country’s east coast. The missiles flew over 150 km before impacting in the sea.5 North Korea may have conducted an additional test on March 21, 2021, launching two unnamed cruise missiles from the west coast city of Onchon into the Yellow Sea.[“North Korea missiles: Biden says launch ‘not provocation,'” BBC News, March 23, 2021, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-56504040; Aamer Madhani and Matthew Lee, “White House: North Korea conducted short-range missile test,” The Associated Press, March 23, 2021, https://apnews.com/article/antony-blinken-south-korea-north-korea-united-states-cd7b4dd2142258e172e2ad3a932bc38d.[/note]
The Kumsong-3’s appearance and performance closely resembles the Soviet-designed Kh-35 subsonic ASCM. Like the Kh-35, the Kumsong-3 can travel to ranges greater than 200km and cruises at low altitudes—less than 2km. The Kh-35 measures 4.4 meters long with a diameter of 0.42 meters, and has a launch weight of 620 kg.
The Kumsong-3’s true range remains a matter of speculation. Both test flights achieved a range of 200 kilometers. This could suggest that the Kumsong-3 is based on the newer, longer-range Kh-35(U) variant. Alternatively, it could also indicate that North Korea has modified older Kh-35 designs with an enhanced propulsion system, a lighter payload, or both.
Kumsong-3 features a different body length and booster separation procedure from the Kh-35. The missile may also feature an infrared terminal seeker.6 In its July 2017 tests, the Kumsong-3 was reported to have “successfully demonstrated waypoint maneuvers in flight at a range of 240 kilometers and featured…considerably upgraded seekers, comprising of active radar and infrared homing for terminal guidance.”7
- James O’Halloran, IHS Jane’s Weapons: Strategic 2015-2016, 2015, (United Kingdom: IHS), 189. Zachery Keck, “Who Sold North Korea a New Anti-Ship Missile?,” The Diplomat, June 13, 2014, http://thediplomat.com/2014/06/who-sold-north-korea-a-new-anti-ship-missile/.
- Jeffrey Lewis, “When a Cruise Missile is Just a Cruise Missile,” 38 North, June 19, 2014, http://www.38north.org/2014/06/jlewis062014/; “Kim Jong Un Watches Newly-Developed Anti-Ship Rocket Test-firing,” Korean Central News Agency, February 7, 2015.
- Ian Williams and Thomas Karako, “North Korean Missiles on Parade,” CSIS Commentary, April 17, 2017, https://missilethreat.csis.org/north-koreas-new-missiles-parade/.
- Ben Wescott and Steve Almasy, “North Korea Launches 4 Anti-ship Missiles, Fourth Test in a Month,” CNN, June 8, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/07/asia/north-korea-missiles-launch/index.html; Oh Seok-min and Choi Soo-hyang, “N. Korea fires barrage of missiles on eve of founder’s birthday, S. Korea’s elections,” Yonhap News, April 14, 2020, https://en.yna.co.kr/view/AEN20200414006452325.
- Hyonhee Shin and Josh Smith, “North Korea test fires multiple short-range anti-ship missiles,” Reuters, April 14, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-northkorea-missiles/north-korea-test-fires-multiple-short-range-anti-ship-missiles-idUSKCN21W0FS.
- Xu Tianran, Twitter post, June 9, 2017, 3:38 p.m., https://twitter.com/stoa1984
- Ankit Panda, “North Korea’s New KN19 Coastal Defense Cruise Missile: More Than Meets the Eye,”The Diplomat, July 26, 2017, http://thediplomat.com/2017/07/north-koreas-new-kn19-coastal-defense-cruise-missile-more-than-meets-the-eye/.