Military Wiki
Strategic Rocket Forces / Strategic Missile Forces
Active 1999–present
Country  North Korea
Branch Independent
Type Strategic missile force
Role Strategic deterrence
Size Unknown
Garrison/HQ Sŏngch'ŏn-kun
South Pyongan, North Korea
Equipment 1,000 or more ballistic missiles[1]
Lt. Gen. Kim Rak-gyom, KPA

The Strategic Rocket Forces (Chosŏn'gŭl: 조선인민군 전략로케트군, Hanja: 朝鮮人民軍 戰略로케트軍),[2] also known as Missile Guidance Bureau (Chosŏn'gŭl: 미사일지도국; Hanja: 미사일指導局) is the strategic missile forces of North Korea. The SMF is a major division of the Korean People's Army that controls North Korea's nuclear and conventional strategic missiles. It is mainly equipped with surface-to-surface missiles of Soviet and Chinese design, as well as locally developed long-range missiles.


Shortly after Kim Il-Sung's October 5, 1966, instructions to develop the military and economy jointly, the Second Machine Industry Ministry, under the Korean Workers Party secretary in charge of military industries, was established to manage the procurement and production of weapons.[3] Some sources assert that North Korea had begun the production of multiple rocket launchers in the early 1960s,[4] but by 1965 Kim Il-sŏng had probably made the political decision to establish an indigenous missile production capability after the Soviets rebuffed his request for ballistic missiles. Nevertheless, during the 1960s the Soviet Union began to provide free rockets over ground (FROGs), surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), and coastal defense antiship missiles, which exposed North Korean engineers to basic technologies for rocket propulsion, guidance, and related missile systems. And in 1965, North Korea founded the Hamhŭng Military Academy, which began to train North Korean personnel in rocket and missile development.[5] By 1970, North Korea had received surface-to-ship missiles and surface-to-air missiles from China, but Pyongyang was also seeking assistance to establish its own missile development program.[6]

In September 1971, North Korea signed an agreement with China to acquire, develop, and produce ballistic missiles, but significant bilateral cooperation did not begin until about 1977 when North Korean engineers participated in a joint development program for the DF-61, which was supposed to be a liquid-fueled ballistic missile with a range of about 600 km and a 1,000 kg warhead. The program was cancelled in 1978 because of Chinese domestic political reasons.[7]

Around this same time, Pyongyang was also seeking Soviet missiles and technology. The DPRK did receive Soviet-made Scud-B ballistic missiles, but the timing of the acquisition is unclear. One North Korean defector has asserted that the Soviet Union provided about 20 Scud-Bs in 1972, but this claim has not been substantiated and is probably not credible. By 1984, the DPRK had produced and flight-tested its Hwasong-5, which reportedly has a range of 320 km compared to the Scud-B’s 300 km; the extra 20 km is attributed to improvements in the missile’s propulsion system and not a reduction in the mass of the warhead. Just as North Korea was beginning to manufacture the Hwasŏng-5, Tehran approached Pyongyang in 1985 to purchase the missile for use in the “war of the cities” with Iraq.[8] North Korea began to construct missile bases for the Hwasŏng-5 around 1985-86, just before the missile went into serial production around 1987. North Korea’s ballistic missile development then accelerated at a fast pace; as soon as mass production of the Hwasŏng-5 began, North Korea began developing the Hwasŏng-6 (火星-6 or Scud-C), the Rodong (commonly known as Nodong-1), the Paektusan-1 (白頭山-1; commonly known as the Taepodong-1), the Paektusan-2 (白頭山-2; commonly known as the Taepodong-2), and the Musudan.[9] Despite the difficulties of missile development and the fact that other countries had tried and failed to develop medium- and intermediate-range missiles, North Korea began to produce Rodong prototypes around the same time it was beginning mass production of the Hwasŏng-6 (Scud-C). The first Rodong deployments were in February 1995, even though the system only had two flight tests—one catastrophic failure and one successful flight at a reduced range.[10] In 1999 different missile units, which were subordinate to the KPA Ground Force Artillery Command, were re-organized into a single missile force - the Missile Guidance Bureau.


The Strategic Rocket Forces is a branch of the KPA, and is directly subordinate to the supreme commander.


Location of the Musudan-ri launch facility

  • Musudan-ri is a rocket launching site in North Korea at 40°51′N, 129°40′E. It lies in southern North Hamgyong province, near the northern tip of the East Korea Bay. The area was formerly known as Taep'o-dong (대포동), from which the Taepodong rockets take their name.
  • Kittaeryŏng site is located in Kangwon province, which borders South Korea. It is used for launches of short to medium-range missiles and has a pad for mobile launchers.
  • Kalgol-dong site is located in Chagang province and houses Hwasong-5/6 missiles, targeting South Korea.
  • Kusŏng site is located in North P'yongan province and houses Rodong missiles. It targets U.S. forces in Japan.
  • Okp’yŏng-dong site is located in Kangwon province and houses Hwasong and Rodong missiles.
  • Pongdong-ri is a new larger missile launch site under construction, located on North Korea's west coast, about 50 km south of the North Korean-Chinese border. As of September 2008 it is 80% complete, being much more advanced and modern than the older Musudan-ru site.[11] Even though not completed, it can currently be used to launch missiles.[12]

There are other numerous smaller sites, scattered around the country, serving for mobile launcher pads. Some larger sites are under construction.

Launching capabilities

  • Silo-based launch:
DPRK is not known to have built missile silos. Such facilities are only useful if the country operates missiles with a long range, which can be deployed fueled for significant periods of time, although simple silos can be built for short-range missiles such as the Hwasong-6. The only such missile in the North Korean inventory is the BM25/Musudan-1.
  • Launch pads:
Launching pads are required for the more sophisticated Taepodong-1/2, as their liquid propellant is difficult to store and the missile must be fueled immediately before launch. This launching method poses a great risk, as the site itself is extremely vulnerable to airstrikes. Launching pads can be used to test different types of SRBM, IRBM and ICBMs, and to launch space satellites, but they are of little value if any of these missiles is to be deployed as a strategic weapon.
  • Mobile launcher vehicles:
North Korea extensively uses mobile launchers for its missiles, including the Rodong-1 and the BM25. These are hard to detect and significantly improve survivability.
  • Submarine/ship-based launch:
The Korean People's Navy is not known to have any ballistic missile submarines in its inventory, but has acquired 2 Foxtrot class and 10 Golf-II class submarines for scrapping in 1993.[citation needed] The latter are capable of firing three SLBM. It is possible that North Korea has refurbished some of those with the help of more than 20 Russian experts or upgraded them to accommodate the larger Musudan-1.[13] Another option is that their launch tubes have been studied, and either externally fitted to Romeo/Whiskey-class submarines, or simply deployed on a cargo ship.[14] In both cases, the DPRK has vessels capable of striking American bases in Japan, Guam, Hawaii, or even targets on the west coast of the United States.[13]

Active Missiles

Detailed listings of the equipment holdings of the Korean People's Army [KPA] are rather scarce in unclassified literature. North Korea operates the FROG-7, Hwasong-5 (NK built Scud-B), Hwasong-6 (NK built Scud-C), Rodong-1, SCUD-ER.[15][16] Rather speculative estimates are given in the following table:

Missile Type Origin Range Inventory
FROG-7 artillery rocket  Soviet Union 70 km 24 launchers
KN-1 anti-ship cruise missile  North Korea 110[17] - 160 km[18][19][20] ?
KN-2 Toksa Advanced SRBM  North Korea ~70 km (500 kg payload)[16] or 120 – 140 km[21] 30 launchers
Hwasong-5 SRBM  North Korea 330 km ~180
Hwasong-6 SRBM  North Korea 500 km[16] ~100[16] or 300-600[22]
Scud-ER 1 SRBM  North Korea 700 km small numbers[16]
Rodong-1 MRBM  North Korea 900[16]-1,300 km <50[16] or >200[23]
Taepodong-1 technology demonstrator  North Korea 2,500 km zero (technology demonstrator)[16][24]
Taepodong-2 ICBM (in development)  North Korea up to 10,000 km; 6,700 km average[25][26][27] not deployed[28]
BM25 Musudan IRBM (untested)  North Korea 2,500–4,000 km[29] ?[28]

Additionally, there are two space booster variants:

  • North Korea Paektusan - a Taepodong-1 missile with a third stage and satellite added. Launched in 1998 with a small satellite on board (see Kwangmyŏngsŏng-1). The satellite failed to reach orbit due to a malfunction in the additional third stage.
  • North Korea Unha - a satellite launch vehicle partially based on Taepodong-2 with a solid-fueled third stage. The satellite once again failed to reach orbit after a launch in 2009 (see Kwangmyŏngsŏng-2), and two more attempts were made in 2012. The first, in April, ended when the rocket exploded in the first minute of flight. The second, in December, finally managed to deliver its satellite to orbit; see Kwangmyŏngsŏng-3 and Kwangmyŏngsŏng-3 Unit 2.

North Korea test-fired a short-range missile off its eastern coast toward Japan on 1 May 2005. The missile, fired into the Sea of Japan (East Sea of Korea), appeared to have a range of between 100 to 120 kilometers. It is called by the North the KN-02 Toksa ("Viper"), an upgraded version of the Russian SS-21, with a longer range. The KN-02 nomenclature was disclosed by Kim Sung-il Kim Seong-il, chief information officer at Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a closed-door parliamentary session. The DPRK test-fired the same type of missile in April 2004, but the test failed. Another multiple test has taken place in 2006, and it was a success. According to most reports, the missile was deployed in 2007, and was seen on military parades.


North Korean missiles can serve to deliver various types of warheads, including WMD. It is possible that up to three Rodong-1 missiles are fitted with nuclear warheads.[30] In a similar manner to the initial Chinese nuclear doctrine, nuclear weapons are being stored separately, and would only be mounted on missiles after an order of the supreme commander (Kim Jong-un). Despite the claims by numerous media that North Korea has not yet created nuclear warheads small enough to be fit in a missile, reports surfaced in April 2009, according to which North Korea has miniaturized warheads, capable of being mounted on its missiles.[31] The most suitable nuclear weapons delivery system is the Rodong-1, which has been successfully tested many times.

Additionally, the DPRK possesses a large chemical weapons stockpile, including powerful agents such as tabun, sarin, soman, VX gas and others. Little is known about the biological weapons stockpiles. They are probably limited, as North Koreans consider them much more dangerous to handle, therefore posing a threat to their own soldiers apart from the enemy.

North Korea has yet to demonstrate the ability to produce a re-entry vehicle, without which North Korea cannot deliver a weapon from an ICBM.[28]

Doubts about the missiles

United Nations and independent experts say that North Korea does not operate missiles beyond the intermediate range, and that the long-range missiles shown at parades are mock-ups. There are doubts about the authenticity of the KN-08 missiles displayed on 16-wheel carrier trucks during a 2012 military parade, and Musudan missiles shown in 2010 were probably mock-ups.[16][32][33][34] The experts who studied the most doubted KN-08 pictures have pointed out multiple problems. For example:

  • Some parts of the missile look like it is liquid fueled, while others parts belong to solid fuel rockets.
  • There are no actual separation lines between the warhead and the last stage of the rocket.
  • There are visible loose bolts.
  • The missile is not aligned straight on the vehicle.
  • The surface of the missile above the warhead looks like a thin sheet of fabric over a frame. An actual missile would be built completely differently.
  • None of the 6 ICBMs shown had identical markings.
  • The white lines that represent the separation lines between the different missile stages were at noticeably different locations on some missiles. This exposed the fact that there's no real separation line.


Several countries, including Pakistan and Libya, have bought North Korean ballistic missiles or received assistance from North Korea to establish local missile production.

See also

National strategic missile forces:


  1. "North Korea has 1,000 missiles, South says". Reuters. March 17, 2010. 
  2. The Chosun Ildo
  3. Joseph S. Bermudez, Jr, The Armed Forces of North Korea, New York: I. B. Tauris, 2001, pp. 45-46
  4. Joseph S. Bermudez, Jr., “Ballistic Missile Development in the DPRK,”
  5. Joseph S. Bermudez, Jr., “A History of Ballistic Missile Development in the DPRK,”
  6. Joseph S. Bermudez, Jr., “The North Korean ‘Scud B’ Program,” Jane’s Soviet Intelligence Review, May 1989, pp. 203-207; Foss, p. 749; Gordon Jacobs and Tim McCarthy, “China’s Missile Sales--Few Changes for the Future,” Jane’s Intelligence Review, December 1992, p. 560.
  7. Bermudez, “A History of Ballistic Missile Development” p. 3; Hua Di, “One Superpower Worse than Two,” Asia-Pacific Defense Reporter, September 1991, pp. 14-15; John Wilson Lewis and Hua Di, “Beijing’s Defense Establishment: Solving the Arms Export Enigma,” International Security, Fall 1992, pp. 5-40.
  8. David C. Isby, “Iranian Commander Acknowledges Use of North Korean ‘Scuds’,” Jane’s Missiles and Rockets, January 1, 2007
  9. Musudan is the name assigned to the North Korean road-mobile version of the Soviet R-27/SS-N-6 "Serb" submarine-launched ballistic missile. See Joseph S. Bermudez, Jr., “Japan Reveals Name of North Korea’s R-27 IRBM,” Jane’s Defence Weekly, May 23, 2007.
  10. Paul Beaver, “Flash Points,” Jane’s Defence Weekly, Vol. 23, No. 25, June 24, 1995, p. 22.
  11. N Korea 'builds new missile site', BBC
  12. Analysts: N. Korea completing missile test site, CNN
  13. 13.0 13.1 North Korea's New Missiles
  14. North Korea Develops a Submarine Missile With Shooting Range 2,500km - DailyNK
  15. [1][dead link]
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 16.4 16.5 16.6 16.7 16.8 Markus Schiller (2012). Characterizing the North Korean Nuclear Missile Threat (Report). RAND Corporation. ISBN 978-0-8330-7621-2. TR-1268-TSF. Retrieved 19 January 2013. 
  17. KN-01 Anti-Ship Cruise Missile,
  18. North Korea test-fires short-range barrage, AP, July 2, 2009
  19. North Korea fires four missiles, Jerusalem Post, July 2, 2009
  20. North Korea Missile Chronology 2008/9,
  21. North Korea to Deploy New Missile, U.S. Says,, July 9, 2007
  22. Bermudez, Joseph S. (1999). "A History of Ballistic Missile Development in the DPRK: Longer Range Designs, 1989-Present". James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies. Retrieved 2008-02-14. 
  23. In N. Korea, Missiles Herald A Defiant 4th, Washington Post, July 4, 2009
  24. "Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat". National Air and Space Intelligence Center (Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency). April 2009. NASIC-1031-0985-09. Retrieved 20 February 2013. 
  25. FACTBOX: North Korea's Taepodong-2 long-range missile, Reuters, March 13, 2009
  26. North Korea to launch 'satellite' on rocket,, February 24, 2009
  27. North Korea's Missiles, Radio Free Asia, February 25, 2009
  28. 28.0 28.1 28.2 Military and Security Developments Involving the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (Report). U.S. Department of Defense. 2012. Retrieved 23 May 2013. 
  29. "Facts about North Korea's Musudan missile". AFP. GlobalPost. 8 April 2013. Retrieved 10 April 2013. 
  30. "The North Korean Plutonium Stock Mid-2006" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-10-09. 
  31. "North Korea is fully fledged nuclear power, experts agree". The Times. London. April 24, 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-25. 
  32. Marcus, Jonathan (2012-04-27). "BBC News - New ICBM missiles at North Korea parade 'fake'". Retrieved 2012-10-09. 
  33. "U.N. Report Suggest N. Korean Parade Missiles Possibly Fakes | Defense News". 2012-10-05. Retrieved 2012-10-09. 
  34. The Associated Press (2012-04-26). "North Korean missiles dismissed as fakes - World - CBC News". Retrieved 2012-10-09. 
  • Reuters - A look at North Korea's missile arsenal
  • Bermudez, Joseph S. (2001). Shield of the Great Leader. The Armed Forces of North Korea, The Armed Forces of Asia. Sydney: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1864485825.
  • Homer T. Hodge, North Korea’s Military Strategy, Parameters (journal), Spring 2003, pp. 68–81
  • The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) (2007). The Military Balance 2007. Abingdon: Routledge Journals. ISBN 9781857434378.
  • Bermudez, Joseph S. (1999). "A History of Ballistic Missile Development in the DPRK: First Ballistic Missiles, 1979-1989".
  • James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.
  • Zaloga, Steven; Illustrated by Jim Laurier and Lee Ray (2006). Scud Ballistic Missile Launch Systems 1955-2005. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-84176-947-9.
  • [2]

Further reading

External links

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