Earlier, I quoted a 2006 article by Daniel Sneider on the “origins of North Korea’s SS-N-6 clone”:http://www.totalwonkerr.net/1851/pointing-fingers-at-russia, the so-called “Musudan missile”:http://www.armscontrolwonk.com/1500/nork-irbm-musudan-1.
Like “Nodong” and “Taepodong,” “Musudan” is the name of a village close to the “Musudan-ri launch site”:http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/world/dprk/nodong.htm, lately also known as the “Tonghae Satellite Launching Ground”:http://www.totalwonkerr.net/1877/kwangmyongsong-kwangmyongsong-kwangmyongsong. The U.S. intelligence community seems to issue these geographic names after the first sighting of each missile in question.
Over at ACW, the knowledgeable Allen Thomson sounds “a skeptical note”:http://www.armscontrolwonk.com/2203/unhataepodong-test-imminent#c010602:
I agree about the Nodong and Taepodong, but it’s not clear to me that the “Musudan” missile designation came out of the usual USIC naming process. Mostly because I’m still not convinced that the Musudan/BM-25/SS-N-6/R27 story isn’t a fable. Maybe the thing is real and maybe it, or its engine, were tested at Musudan-ri. But I’m not betting money on it.
I know what he means. There’s still no strong evidence to support the stories in the “NY Times”:http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/02/international/middleeast/02iran.html or the German tabloid _Bild_ (headline: _Irans Raketen reichen bald bis Berlin!_) that placed 18 Russian-designed IRBMs from North Korea in Iran. (If the number 18 sounds familiar, that’s also how many KH-55 cruise missiles were reported smuggled from Ukraine to China and Iran.)
_Update: I’ve just remembered an “article from mid-2006”:http://online.wsj.com/article/SB115212320912498575-search.html in the_ Wall Street Journal _claiming that Musudan missiles reached Iran by sea in late 2005. Judge for yourself._
But the intelligence community clearly believes that the missile exists in North Korea. See page 10 of this “2006 NASIC report”:http://www.nukestrat.com/us/afn/NASIC2006.pdf, titled “MRBM and IRBM Characteristics.” It includes the following info, listed right after the No Dong and the Taepo Dong I:
Country: North Korea
Number of Stages: 1
Deployment Mode: Mobile
Maximum Range (miles): 2,000+
Number of Launchers: Not yet deployed
****Missile has not yet been flight-tested.
That’s our Musudan.
Why the missile was still nameless in 2006 is anybody’s guess. In September 2003, Lee Chul-hee of _Joongang Ilbo_, a Seoul newspaper, reported a sighting _en plein air_:
North Korea has deployed new intermediate range ballistic missiles capable of reaching key U.S. military posts, South Korean intelligence sources said yesterday.
The sources said the new missiles appeared recently at an air force base near the capital of Pyeongyang.
North Korea is expected to unveil the weapons publicly at its 55th founding anniversary parade today.
The missiles are believed to be modified from Soviet-era weapons.
“The missiles were deployed at the Mirim Airdrome, probably to display them at the military parade,” said a South Korean military intelligence official on condition of anonymity. Five launch pads and about 10 missiles were detected at the air base, he said.
Intelligence officials in Japan, South Korea and the United States have inferred from the unique shape of the missile’s warhead – which resembles the top of a baby bottle – that the North’s version was developed based on the Soviet-designed, submarine-launched SS-N-6.
In the end, the missiles did not join the parade. But a nameless “U.S. official” told Sonni Efron of the _LA Times_:
“We’ve had hints of this for several years, but it’s only within the last year that we’ve been able to confirm that this did exist and it’s derived from Russian technology,” the official said, adding that the development “makes you wonder what else they might have been able to access” during that period.
Some guy named “Paul Kerr”:http://www.armscontrol.org/act/2004_09/NK_Missile also wrote about this.
Since NASIC’s 2006 report said it was not “flight-tested,” and it’s not called “Mirim” or “Pyongyang” in the open-source reporting, I’m guessing that Allen’s speculation about an engine test at Musudan-ri is about right.