The Taepo Dong 2 is an intermediate/intercontinental-range, surface-based, liquid-propellant ballistic missile. The Taepo Dong 2 missile is often referred to as a weapon of international blackmail. It will likely be used to blackmail wealthier countries for energy and food, similar to how the North Korean nuclear program has been used. Easily equipped with a nuclear weapon, it is the first direct threat to the United States from North Korea. It could also be a major income generator as an item for export.
The missile is thought to have three liquid-propellant stages, or two liquid stages and a solid third stage. It is believed to have a length of 16.3 m, a body diameter of 2.4 m, and has a total weight of 53,000 kg. The first stage reportedly has four motors in a cluster, and is very similar to the No Dong 2 assembly. Similarly, the second stage uses a liquid propellant and is based on the No Dong 1 or No Dong 2. The second stage has a length of 6.8 m, a diameter of 1.4 m, and a weight of 6,000 kg. The third stage is thought to be 5.3 m in length, .9 in diameter, and 2,600 kg in weight. 1
The re-entry vehicle (RV) is approximately 2.75 m in length and is 1,000 to 1,500 kg in weight. The warhead can be nuclear, biological, chemical, or HE. Some have suggested that following the nuclear test in 2006, the Taepo Dong 2 will likely possess a nuclear warhead. The range is estimated in between 4000 and 8000 km. The accuracy is unknown, but is probably relatively poor. 2
The development of the Taepo Dong 2 is estimated to have begun at the same time as the Taepo Dong 1(1990). Pakistan and Iran have been receiving technical assistance on their missile projects that are derivatives of the Taepo Dong 2 project. Iran’s Shahab-5/6, if in development, is believed to owe much to this North Korean design. It was reported that in 2004, North Korea put the missile up for sale to a number of Middle Eastern countries, Iran being one of them. 3
The Taepo Dong 2 was first tested in July 2006; this first test was a failure. The second test took place in April 2009 and the missile travelled about 3,800 km before landing in the Pacific Ocean east of Japan. The third test, in April of 2012, was also a failure. The missile flew a little longer than two minutes before exploding. Both the 2009 and 2012 launches could have been Unha satellite launch vehicles (SLV). 4
The Unha-2 and Unha-3 are satellite launch vehicles that closely resemble the Taepo Dong series of ballistic missiles. Reports indicate that the launch successfully put a Kwangmyongsong-3 series spacecraft into orbit. 5 The image below depicts the Unha-3 SLV on the left, and the Taepo Dong 2 missile on the right.
The latest test launch of this system occurred on December 12, 2012 and news reports suggest that it was successful unlike the previous three attempts. Although North Korea claims they were testing an Unha-3 SLV, their satellite launch program remains indistinguishable from their ballistic missile program.
- Lennox, Duncan. “Taepo Dong 2.” Jane’s Strategic Weapon Systems (Offensive Weapons). September 21, 2012. (accessed September 12, 2012). ↩
- Ibid. ↩
- Ibid ↩
- Ibid. ↩
- Richardson, Doug. “Update: Unha-3 orbits North Korea’s first satellite.” Jane’s Defense & Security Intelligence & Analysis. January 8, 2013. http://www.janes.com/products/janes/defence-security-report.aspx?ID=1065974905&channel=defence&subChannel=systems (accessed January 8, 2013. ↩