North Korea has likely sent its newest missiles to Russia.

The missiles that the United States has accused North Korea of ​​sending to Russia appear to belong to its new family of nuclear-capable rockets, easy to conceal, quick to deploy and difficult to shoot down.

Images provided by the United States indicate that they are the North Korean Hwasong-11, a broad class of short-range ballistic missiles that can hit targets with a high degree of precision, according to weapons experts.

Since the missiles are among the newest in Kim Jong Un’s arsenal, he is likely to get significant compensation from Russian President Vladimir Putin in return. Their price is around $5 million each, according to data collected by the Korean Institute for Defense Analysis and published in 2022 by South Korean legislator Shin Won-sik.

The transfer of these missiles, with a range of 400-800 kilometers (250-500 miles), increases the Kremlin’s arsenal to attack Ukraine as the war launched by Putin in early 2022 moves into its third year. Moscow, for its part, is likely providing Kim with weapons, cash and raw materials to help shore up his sanctions-hit economy.

Weapons expert Joost Oliemans said that the images of the missile parts located in Ukraine match “totally with the Hwasong-11 family.”

Since 2019, the bulk of North Korea’s ballistic testing has consisted of two variations of this group, which the outside world has dubbed KN-23 and KN-24. North Korea has fired about 120 of them, most from mobile launchers. But it has also fired them from train cars and platforms submerged in lake beds and used them in simulated nuclear attacks in which it detonated a simulated nuclear warhead carrying conventional explosives.

Although the Russian Iskander ballistic missile may have inspired the KN-23 and KN-24, many experts consider the North Korean rockets to be homegrown, built without depending on Russia.

“They could have a significant impact, if only by offering a different set of capabilities and flight characteristics than the Iskander,” said Oliemans, co-author of a book titled The North Korean Armed Forces.

“The benefits can be expected to be very beneficial to the North Koreans,” he said of the supply of missiles, as well as large quantities of artillery ammunition, adding that one thing Kim could receive in return is military aircraft.

Weapons expert Jeffrey Lewis posted on the social media platform .”

The United States believes Russia used missiles provided by North Korea in at least two attacks against Ukraine on Dec. 30 and Jan. 2, White House spokesman John Kirby told reporters Thursday. Russia plans to continue using North Korean ballistic missiles, which can be fired from up to 550 miles away, in the coming weeks, Kirby said, without detailing how the United States obtained the intelligence.

If the missiles turn out to be from the Hwasong-11 family, their use by Russia could mark its first test against U.S.-backed air defense systems employed by Ukraine.

The missile shipments came after the United States and South Korea accused North Korea of ​​sending hundreds of thousands of rounds of munitions to Russia that are interoperable with Soviet-era systems that Russia has used in its bombing raids on Ukraine. Moscow and Pyongyang have denied the accusations.

While Biden administration officials plan to raise the latest developments at the United Nations Security Council, there may be little Washington can do to stop the trade in illicit goods between North Korea and Russia.

Satellite images of North Korea’s Najin port taken from October to December show a constant flow of ships through the facility, hundreds of containers being loaded and unloaded and railcars ready to transport goods.

Ships docking there appear to have disabled international maritime transponders that would reveal their location, effectively turning them into ghost ships as they travel the relatively short route between Najin and Dunay, a former Soviet submarine port about 180 kilometers away.

​Three or four ships have been moving between the ports on voyages that appear to keep them in the territorial waters of the two countries, according to an analysis by the Royal United Services Institute, based in the United Kingdom.

The number of missiles and mobile launchers that North Korea can supply to Russia remains unknown. But increasing production of both is one of Kim’s top priorities.

Last August, the North Korean leader toured missile, launcher, armored vehicle and ammunition factories, calling for a drastic increase in the production of missiles and what are known as transporter erector launchers (TEL). These mobile systems designed to house nuclear-capable missiles have been a choke point for North Korea; The more TELs it can deploy, the greater the number of missiles it can fire in a first strike, or retaliatory strike, against South Korea and Japan.

Kim began 2024 with a visit to a TEL factory, where he again called for increased production. A key priority is to produce “several TELs for tactical and strategic weapons in order to relentlessly reinforce the country’s nuclear deterrent and the operational demand of our military,” state media reported.