Kim Jong Un ordered the production of “more” solid-fuel engines and warhead tips for intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) during a recent visit to the Chemical Material Institute of the Academy of Defense Science, the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Wednesday.
“He instructed the institute to produce more solid-fuel rocket engines and rocket warhead tips,” KCNA said in a Korean language dispatch.
Kim ordered the scientists to “further expand” production capacities for developing rocket warhead tips and engine outlets.
The institute produces chemical materials “used in a variety of modern arms equipment, including heat protection materials and materials for warhead and engine outlets of Hwasong-line rockets,” KCNA said.
State media added it had contributed “greatly to achieving the resounding success” of the test-launch of North Korea’s first ICBM on July 4.
“The research institute has also succeeded in researching, developing and localizing 3D carbon/carbon – Silicon carbide composite, which are the most advanced materials used for producing warhead tips and solid-fuel engine exhaust nozzles for intercontinental ballistic rockets,” KCNA added in Korean.
Carbon-carbon composites are used to manufacture missile warhead tips and engine exhaust nozzles, KCNA said.
Kim also inspected the processes for “manufacturing solid-fuel rocket engines,” as well as the “specific tasks and ways to normalize production at a higher level.”
KCNA said the institute was established on August 11 in 1966 under the orders of Kim Il Sung and described its role as “research and development of chemical materials necessary for the development of advanced weapons.”
“This is showing off their solid propellant program,” Scott LaFoy, a Washington DC-based missile and satellite imagery analyst, told NK News. “Specifically, it’s showing off that they have an industrial base and set up and it is showing that they have wound filament airframes.”
“Basically the practical difference is wound filament airframes are lighter and better for long-range solid propellant missiles.”
Michael Duitsman, a research associate at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies, also told NK News that Pyongyang had first displayed filament casings during the annual “Day of the Sun” military parade.
“I took that more as an indication of the direction they intended to pursue, but I did not expect to see it this fast,” Duitsman said. “Ability to make wound-filament solid rocket casings would be significant for North Korea’s solid fuel ballistic missile program.”
Re-entry technology – which allows a missile’s warhead section to survive the heat and pressure sustained when reentering the Earth’s atmosphere – is key to the successful use of an ICBM.
Experts also pointed out that the photo released by the Rodong Sinmun featured the Pukguksong-3 and the Hwasong-13, which is designated as the KN-08 by the U.S. Department of Defense.
Duitsman said that high-strength fibers, which are used to produce high-thrust solid-fuel rocket engines, could enhance the capability of solid propellant missiles.
“Those used in the solid rocket motor casing they displayed… will significantly reduce the empty mass of the motors for solid fuel missiles, such as the Pukguksong-3 that was shown on one of the posters,” he said.
Pukguksong-3 hasn’t yet been test-fired, but the KCNA photo indicates that it is a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM).
“I think this is a preview of things to come,” Joshua Pollack, editor of The Nonproliferation Review and a senior research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, told NK News.
“They only revealed the existence of the Academy recently – presumably it is the same as the Second Academy of Natural Sciences.”
The Second Academy of Natural Sciences was listed by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on 7 March 2013 “as being engaged in or providing support for, including through other illicit means, DPRK’s nuclear-related, other weapons of mass destruction-related and ballistic missile-related programs.”
North Korea last fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), the Pukguksong-1, on August 24 last year.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: Rodong Sinmun
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