Earlier, I quoted a 2006 article by Daniel Sneider on the “origins of North Korea’s SS-N-6 clone”:, the so-called “Musudan missile”:

Like “Nodong” and “Taepodong,” “Musudan” is the name of a village close to the “Musudan-ri launch site”:, lately also known as the “Tonghae Satellite Launching Ground”: 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”:

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”: 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”: 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”:, titled “MRBM and IRBM Characteristics.” It includes the following info, listed right after the No Dong and the Taepo Dong I:

Missile: IRBM****
Country: North Korea
Number of Stages: 1
Propellant: Liquid
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”: 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.

3 thoughts on “IRBM****

  1. Allen Thomson

    I’ve been trying to find more or less official statements about the Musudan. No luck searching or for any statements using that name, but we have the 2008 annual threat reports that say,


    WASHINGTON, Feb. 6, 2008 – The director of the Defense Intelligence Agency gave the Senate Intelligence Committee an assessment of military threats confronting the United States during testimony before the panel yesterday.

    Army Lt. Gen. Michael D. Maples told the committee that several global military trends concern the U.S. armed forces. He then went on to delineate specific threats to the United States, its allies and its interests…

    North Korea maintains its military might on the backs of its people, and the military has artillery and mobile ballistic missiles that can reach South Korea’s capital of Seoul and beyond. The country’s work on the Taepodong-2 missile continues, “as does work on an intermediate-range ballistic missile, a variant of which has reportedly been sold to Iran,” Maples said.

    Annual Threat Assessment of the
    Intelligence Community
    for the Senate Armed Services Committee
    27 February 2008

    Talks about Nodong and Taepodong, no hint of Musudan or anything that might be it.


  2. Josh


    Thanks for weighing in. Based on what you’ve dredged up here, I’m starting to wonder if the IC isn’t divided on his question.

    Some subsequent Musudan sightings have appeared in the open-source literature since the Sept. 2003 reports I quoted above. A good resource is the monograph by Daniel Pinkston that Jeff just pointed out:

    On a related note, Pinkston seems to accept the Robert Schmucker account of the Nodong, which I find a little surprising. There’s a tremendous amount we don’t know about the North Korean missile program. But it is difficult to accept the idea of a previously unknown Soviet missile being reborn as the Nodong. By comparison, it is not as tough to believe that low-rate production and sales to Pakistan and Iran might follow from very little testing. These countries have done their own testing, which hasn’t been uniformly successful.

    The broader idea of assistance by Russian engineers is not as hard to swallow. (Consider, for comparison, the example of German scientists and engineers who participated in Egypt’s military R&D programs.) Neither is it difficult to imagine North Koreans, Iranians, and others receiving training in Russia.

    That’s my take, anyway. Your mileage may vary.

  3. Allen Thomson

    > I’m starting to wonder if the IC isn’t divided on his question.

    That’s kind of my sense of it. It wouldn’t be at all unusual for one of the service agencies, maybe NASIC, to push a maximum interpretation of ambiguous intelligence and for CIA and State to push back. DIA would in most cases kinda side with the service, or at least not outright oppose it; the NIC and DNI would go with the majority in most cases.


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