The No Dong 1 is a medium-range, road-mobile, liquid propellant, ballistic missile designed to strike population centers. It appears to be a enhanced version of the ‘Scud C’ missile. The No Dong 1 was likely based on the Russian R-21 (SS-N-5 ‘Sark’) and the R-5 missile. Numerous reports suggest that the North Koreans received assistance from Russian and Chinese scientists.
The capabilities of the No Dong 1 missile are such that it can only effectively be used against large, soft targets like cities, airports, or harbors. Its range is sufficient to put parts of Japan within range. The accuracy is extremely low for modern missiles and it is useless against a hardened military target. The exact size of the payload is unknown, but a medium yield nuclear warhead would maximize the potential damage. It is mobile and easily concealable, making it difficult to destroy prior to launch.
North Korea has provided little information about their ballistic missile program. Much of the information about the No Dong missiles stems from a comparison with the Ghauri missile of Pakistan and the Shahab 3 of Iran, which all seem to be related missile programs. The No Dong 1 missile has a range of approximately 1,300 km (807 miles). The accuracy of the missile is believed to be 2,000 m CEP when deployed at maximum range. Based on information obtained from its Iranian and Pakistani sister missiles, it is believed to be 16.2 m in length, 1.36 m in diameter, and a launch weight of 16,500 kg. It is equipped with a 1,200 kg separating warhead that can deploy 800 kg of HE-unitary, chemical, submunitions, biological, or medium-yield nuclear weapons. It can be launched from a converted Russian Transporter-Erector-Launcher (TEL) vehicle design and from converted North Korean tanks and trucks. The missile is presumed to use an inertial guidance system but may be upgraded with a more accurate Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) system. A nuclear warhead development program was started in 1990 which may include warheads for the No Dong missiles. A North Korean statement in 2002 suggested that their scientists had assembled between 2 and 5 nuclear warheads; potentially, some of those were fitted to the No Dong 1 missiles.
It is believed that development of the No Dong 1 began in the mid-1980s, with the first flight testing occurring in May 1990. The missile is believed to have entered regular production in 1994 and active service in 1995. Since 1994, North Korea has likely produced hundreds of No Dong 1 missiles. US estimates have suggested that production would be around 200 by 2006 while one South Korean report suggested as many as 450 operational missiles by September 2006.
Some missiles may also have been produced for export. It is believed that the No Dong 1 project was accomplished in conjunction with both Iran and Pakistan. It is reported that Iran received 150 missiles, although both North Korea and Iran deny the transaction. A comparison of the Ghauri and the Shahab 3 indicates the missile technology developed for the No Dong 1 was probably given or sold to Pakistan and Iran. Certain components of the Ghauri and Shahab missiles may also have been produced in North Korea. Other countries may also have been involved in the project. Iraq, Eqypt, Syria, and Libya are all believed to have negotiated to obtain the missile, though there are no known exports to these countries. 1
- Lennox, Duncan. “No Dong 1/2.” Jane’s Strategic Weapon Systems (Offensive Weapons). September 11, 2012. (accessed September 12, 2012). ↩