Pukguksong-3 (KN-26)

The Pukguksong (“Polaris”)-3 is a North Korean submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) with an estimated range of 1,900km.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

Development

North Korea first hinted the development of Pukguksong-3 in August 2017, showcasing a poster of the missile and upgraded equipment at the Chemical Materials Institute, a key element of its missile production complex.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—thought to produce the Pukguksong-series missiles—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 in which missile is ejected from the launch tube, typically via a gas-powered system, prior to 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 appears to be 7.8 – 8.3 meters long, 1.4 to 1.5 meters in diameter, and is cold-launched using an aft-mounted gas-generator system.8 After clearing the water, 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

The weapon is likely intended for deployment on North Korea’s Sinpo– or Sinpo-derived ballistic missile submarines. On July 22, 2019, North Korean state media revealed imagery of a new class of submarine, likely designed to carry 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 Solidd-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/.