North Korea KN-23 ballistic missile flew 460km hitting Zaporizhzhia

Debris allegedly from a North Korean KN-23 [Hwasong-11Ga] ballistic missile has reportedly been discovered in Ukraine’s Kharkiv region. The found fragments belong to the tail end of the missile, as portrayed in the photographs provided below. 

North Korea's KN-23 ballistic missile flew 460 km, hitting Kharkiv
Photo credit: Telegram

Upon close examination, you would notice the striking resemblance between this missile’s gas-dynamic rudders and those found on the South Korean-produced KN-23 short-range ballistic missiles. Interestingly, this missile appears to be a duplication of the Russian 9M723 missile, employed by the Iskander ballistic complex. However, the photos we have bespeak the hallmarks of the North Korean edition, noting that the Russian 9M723 sports a lengthier, rounded tail section. 

Confirming these intricate details, Russian experts lend credibility to its North Korean origin. The critical element left to justify is the authenticity of the photographs. If indeed clicked on either December 30 or January 2 in Ukraine, it substantiates the deployment of the North Korean short-range ballistic missile.

The US claims the same

John Kirby, US National Security Council Coordinator, recently announced at a White House briefing that Russian military forces are reportedly deploying North Korean ballistic missiles. This statement has been backed by US intelligence findings. 

In an attempt to visually demonstrate the situation, Kirby presented infographics to the attending reporters displaying North Korea’s missile capabilities. It was revealed through one such infographic that a missile, which had originated from Russian territory, successfully covered a minimum distance of 460 km before landing Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine. 

North Korea's KN-23 ballistic missile flew 460 km, hitting Kharkiv
Photo credit: Telegram

Furthermore, Kirby emphasized that, according to the information gathered by US intelligence, Moscow has received a supply of missiles from Pyongyang that can cover a distance of 500 miles, approximately 900 kilometers. These missiles are identified as operational-tactical ballistic missiles commonly referred to as short-range ballistic missiles. Kirby expressed concern, stating the missile transfer from North Korea to Russia transgresses multiple UN Security Council resolutions.

The Russian reaction

As of yet, Moscow has yet to comment on allegations made by Ukraine and the US, accusing them of utilizing a North Korean ballistic missile in the large-scale assault that took place between December 30 and January 2. 

A reminder from BulgarianMilitary.com brings to light that Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea, was officially visiting Russia on September 13, 2023. Coinciding with this visit, the initial discussion round between Putin and Kim at the Vostochny Cosmodrome started. 

Kim Jong Un boards a Russian Su-57 and examines Su-35 Flanker
Photo credit: Twitter

Insights from Russian experts perceive the choice of meeting site as significant. Russian news outlets reported that the talks centered around possible collaborations between Russia and North Korea in the field of space technology and rocket science. These speculations found confirmation in Putin’s statements. He disclosed that Pyongyang showed an inclination towards “rocket technology” and also expressed intentions of expanding into “space”.

KN-23

The KN-23 bears striking similarities in its exterior to the Russian Iskander-M and South Korean Hyunmoo-2B Short-Range Ballistic Missiles [SRBMs]. You can differentiate it by the elongated cable raceway, distinct jet vane actuators, and a smooth base. 

North Korea's KN-23 ballistic missile flew 460 km, hitting Kharkiv
Photo credit: Military-Today.com

Just like the Iskander-M, the KN-23 also follows a quasi-ballistic trajectory. This pattern becomes particularly evident below an altitude of 50 km [160,000 ft], where the atmospheric density allows the missile’s fins to alter its flight path. 

It’s commonly thought that the KN-23 can cover a distance of around 450 km when equipped with a 500 kg warhead. This range places all of South Korea within its reach. Reducing the payload could potentially extend the missile’s range to 690 km. The warhead can either be conventional – likely unitary or submunition – or nuclear. 

Its advanced steering abilities enhance its precision. With satellite guidance, it can achieve an accuracy within 100 meters of the Circular Error Probable [CEP]. The precision remains within a respectable 200 meters using an Inertial Navigation System [INS] alone. The KN-23 is dispatched from a mobile transporter-erector-launcher [TEL].

North Korean artillery ammunition

Last year, it was rumored that the Russian Federation had obtained a significant shipment of over 350,000 artillery munitions from North Korea. This claim emerged alongside images that purportedly showcased the North Korean-manufactured, 122mm and 152mm munitions. 

Estonian military intelligence later corroborated this information, which was disseminated through local media channels. Ants Kiviselg, the director of the Estonian Defense Forces’ intelligence center, substantiated the claim that Russia had indeed received 350,000 units of ammunition from North Korea. 

Russia keeps 4,500 D-30 and 2S1 guns in stock to absorb DPRK shells
Photo credit: Maavoimat FB

However, the specifics of the relationship between Russia and North Korea in this munitions exchange remain unclear, according to the Estonian intelligence sector. There is a prevailing concern in Estonia that if this munitions supply is indicative of a longstanding “alliance”, it could escalate the present predicament in Ukraine, as Russia may now have a “reliable” artillery ammunition supplier in North Korea.

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