Hwasong-17 – North Korea’s most powerful missile ?


Launched on November 18, the Hwasong-17 missile is the world’s longest-ranged liquid-fueled and mobile ICBM. Its range is around 15,000 km.

After 69 minutes of flight, the Hwasong-17 missile reached an altitude of 6,041 kilometers, covering almost 1,000 kilometers.

If launched at the correct angle, though, Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada claims the missile may cover the whole United States.

The Hwasong-17 is the largest missile model in North Korea’s arsenal and has been dubbed a “monster missile” by some Western experts. This is believed to be the third time North Korea has successfully test-fired the missile.

North Korea first declared the Hwasong-17 missile test on March 24, marking Pyongyang’s first intercontinental ballistic missile launch since 2017. However, according to Western officials, the Hwasong-15 was successfully launched twice in 2015.

However, Pyongyang did not reveal the missile’s technical details. US policy thinks tank Stimson Center’s 38 North program estimates it to be 2.5 m in diameter, 24-26 m in height, and 80-110 tons in launch mass.

It is said that the Hwasong-17 is the world’s largest mobile and liquid-fueled ICBM variant because of its massive size.

In October 2020, the Hwasong-17 missile debuted during a military display in Pyongyang, mounted on a launcher cum ammo carrier (TEL) with 11 axes.

In October 2021, during an armaments display in Pyongyang, North Korea unveiled the official name of this ICBM variant.

KCNA images show the Hwasong-17 launching directly from the TEL, while the Hwasong-14 and Hwasong-15 were disassembled before launch.

Hwasong-17 ICBMs benefit from this improvement by being more agile and having a shorter battle deployment time.

Ankit Panda, a Carnegie Endowment for Peace Studies expert on North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile systems, estimated that the Hwasong-17’s first stage could generate 160 tons of force.

The Hwasong-17’s size allows it to carry multiple independently attacking revolving space (MIRV) warheads and decoys, allowing it to penetrate opponent missile defense systems.

The MIRV design could endanger the United States missile defense system. The US Ground-Based Intermediate Defense (GMD) system has 44 interceptors as of 2020, but to destroy an enemy missile, they must launch at least four rounds.

This suggests that the US missile defense system can intercept no more than 11 missiles.

Pyongyang risks overloading the GMD shield if it fires multiple ICBMs at once due to the Hwasong-17’s ability to carry 3 to 4 warheads or a combination of live warheads and decoys.

John Kirby, a spokesperson for the US National Security Council, said on Wednesday that the Hwasong-17 missile North Korea fired posed no threat to the United States mainland but that the US remained concerned about Pyongyang’s development.

“They learn a lot with each launch. That’s disturbing. They still learn something even if the test fails or is only partially successful. This is an act of destabilization, not just for the public. The Korean peninsula but the whole region,” he said.