Pukguksong-3 (KN-26)

The Pukguksong (“Polaris”)-3 is a North Korean submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) with an estimated range of 1,900 km.1 After implying the program’s existence in 2017, North Korea tested the missile near Wonsan on October 2, 2019. 2

Pukguksong-3 at a Glance

Originated From: North Korea
Possessed By: North Korea
Alternate Names:  Pukkuksong-3, KN-26
Class: Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile (SLBM)
Basing: Submarine
Length: 7.8 – 8.3 m (estimated)
Diameter: 1.4 – 1.5 m
Launch Weight: Unknown
Payload: Unknown
Warhead: Unknown
Propulsion: Solid propellant
Range: 1,900 km (estimated)
Status: Unknown
First tested: 2019

Pukguksong-3 Development

North Korea first suggested the existence of the Pukguksong-3 in August 2017, showcasing imagery of the missile and upgrading solid-propellant production equipment at its Chemical Materials Institute, a key element in its missile industrial base.3 In October 2017, North Korea conducted a static test of a solid-propellant rocket motor reportedly intended for the Pukguksong-3.4 Pyongyang completed its expansion of solid-rocket production facilities by mid-2018.5

North Korea first tested the Pukguksong-3 on October 2, 2019, firing the missile to a 450 km range and 910 km apogee.6 In the test, the missile cold-launched from an underwater platform and landed in Japan’s EEZ near Shimane Prefecture. A cold launch is a firing method common to submarine-based missiles where the missile is ejected from its tube with pressurized gas before igniting its main motors. Data gathered by the Japanese Ministry of Defense suggests that the missile uses two stages.7

Specifications

Like its predecessors, Pukguksong-1 (KN-11) and Puguksong-2 (KN-15), the Pukguksong-3 is a two-stage, solid-fueled ballistic missile. The missile has an estimated length of 7.8 – 8.3 meters and diameter of 1.4 to 1.5 meters.8 Pukguksong-3 incorporates a cold-launch system on its aft end; after surfacing, the missile ejects its rear engine cover and ignites its main booster. Preliminary analyses of Pukguksong-3’s trajectory estimate its range at roughly 1,900 km.9

Service History

Pukguksong-3 is thought to be intended for deployment on the Sinpo-class submarine or its derivatives. On July 22, 2019, North Korean state media revealed imagery of a new class of submarine, likely designed to carry ballistic missiles.10 Further activity at North Korea’s shipyards was reported on August 26.11 However, the Pukguksong-3’s service status—and the maturity of North Korea’s submarine program—remains uncertain.

    1. David Wright, “North Korea’s Latest Missile Test, All Things Nuclear, October 1, 2019, https://allthingsnuclear.org/dwright/north-koreas-latest-missile-test.
    2. “DPRK Academy of Defence Science Succeeds in Test-firing of New-type SLBM,” Rodong Sinmun, October 3, 2019, http://www.rodong.rep.kp/en/index.php?strPageID=SF01_02_01&newsID=2019-10-03-0001.
    3. Joseph Bermudez and Dan Dueweke, “Expansion of North Korea’s Solid Fuel Ballistic Missile Program: The Eight Year Old Case of the Chemical Materials Institute,” 38 North, July 25, 2018, https://www.38north.org/2018/07/cmi072518/.
    4. Ankit Panda, “North Korea Has Tested a New Solid-Fuel Missile Engine, The Diplomat, October 25, 2017, https://thediplomat.com/2017/10/north-korea-has-tested-a-new-solid-fuel-missile-engine/.
    5. Jeffrey Lewis and Dave Schmerler, “North Korea Expanding Key Missile Site,” Arms Control Wonk, July 2, 2018, https://www.armscontrolwonk.com/archive/1205558/north-korea-expanding-key-missile-site/.
    6. “N. Korea presumed to have fired 1 SLBM-type missile:JCS,” Yonhap News, October 2, 2019, https://en.yna.co.kr/view/AEN20191002001257325.
    7. Reiji Yoshida, “North Korea fires ballistic missile built to be launched from submarine into Japan’s EEZ,” The Japan Times, October 2, 2019, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2019/10/02/national/north-korea-launches-apparent-missile-japan-coast-guard/.
    8. Michael Elleman, “North Korea’s New Pukguksong-3 Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile,” 38 North, October 3, 2019, https://www.38north.org/2018/07/cmi072518/.
    9. Wright, “North Korea’s Latest Missile Test.”
    10. Josh Smith and David Brunnstrom, “North Korea’s Kim inspects new submarine, signals possible ballistic missile development,” Reuters, July 22, 2019, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-northkorea-submarine/north-koreas-kim-inspects-new-submarine-signals-possible-ballistic-missile-development-idUSKCN1UH2LK.
    11. Joseph Bermudez and Victor Cha, “Sinpo South Shipyard: Construction of a New Ballistic Missile Submarine?” Beyond Parallel, August 28, 2019, https://beyondparallel.csis.org/sinpo-south-shipyard-construction-of-a-new-ballistic-missile-submarine/.