TOKYO (AP) — North Korea released dozens of photos Thursday of the Hwasong-15, a new intercontinental ballistic missile it claims can reach any target in the continental United States. The photo dump, published in the paper and online editions of the ruling party’s official daily, is a goldmine for rocket experts trying to parse reality from bluster.
Their general conclusion is that it’s bigger, more advanced and comes with a domestically made mobile launcher that will make it harder than ever to pre-emptively destroy. But there’s a potentially major catch: it might not have the power to go much farther than the West Coast if it is loaded down with a real nuclear warhead, not a dummy like the one it carried in its test launch on Wednesday.
Here’s a closer look:
The North’s new missile appears to be significantly bigger than the Hwasong-14 ICBM it tested twice in July. Note how it dwarfs North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who stands about 170 centimeters (5 feet 7 inches) tall. In a tweet just after the photos were published, Michael Duitsman, a researcher at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, California, said: “This is very big missile ... And I don’t mean ‘Big for North Korea.’ Only a few countries can produce missiles of this size, and North Korea just joined the club.” Size is important because a missile targeting the United States would have to carry a lot of fuel. Duitsman also suggested the new ICBM appears to have a different engine arrangement and improved steering.
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