Over the years, I’ve been very interested in North Korea’s development of a new IRBM — called variously the SS-N-6 (US designation of a Soviet precursor system), the Musudan (US designation of the DPRK version) and the BM-25 (used in reference to kits allegedly exported from the DPRK to Iran), as well as a few other names.
The new IRBM is interesting because it represents a better base technology, in terms of more energetic propellants, than the Scud. One of the big debates about the community of people interested in North Korea’s ballistic missile capabilities turns on the level of North Korean competence. Do they do it themselves? Do they have help? How far can they stretch and stack what are basically Scuds?
And now, does this new technology open up new possibilities, like a three-stage road-mobile ICBM?
Some, like Robert Schmucker and Markus Schiller, are skeptical. In our comments, Markus expressed his doubts:
[My] first impression by reading open source literature is either that the Musudan is based on the SS-N-6 because everybody knows that NK mastered SS-N-6 technology, or that NK mastered SS-N-6 technology because everybody knows that the Musudan is based on the SS-N-6. This is not a good starting point for further analysis. Remember: In assessments, it is way too easy for the author to confuse “we know” with “we think we know”!
As for me, I find this is a bit unfair — quite a lot of people, especially on this site, have spent plenty of time musing over whether the SS-N-6/BM-25/Musudan was just a paper missile or not. We’ve spent too much time trying to separate what “we know” from what
we think we know” to be accused of being confused. Wrong? Sure, it happens. Confused? Not so much.
So let me recount what we know, and think we know, about the SS-N-6 aka Musudan aka BM-25.
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