September 13, 2016

Russia's R-27 SLBM Design Also Helped Develop North Korea's KN-11 SLBM

Photo A. The KN-11 SLBM pictured above. 1 minute 35 seconds in Bechtol's claims are mentioned. But there is strong evidence that North Korea also used the Russian R-27 "SS-N-6 "Serb" SLBM design to develop the KN-11.

On 3 September 2016, a US North Korea expert, Bruce Bechtol, claimed (see Youtube above) that China must have provided North Korea with the relevant SLBM technologies to develop its increasingly dangerous KN-11Bechtol claims the KN-11 is a carbon-copy of the first China's SLBM, JL-1 (developed 1967 to deployment 1986). But the KN-11 is equally similar to the Soviet/Russian R-27 SS-N-6 "Serb" (see gray Photo B. below). The R-27 was developed from 1962 to deployment in 1968, much earlier than the JL-1.

Bechtol claims this allowed North Korea to move from first successful Cold launch of the KN-11 (on 23 April 2016) to a first complete test (24 August 2016). But he does not provide details on how many years NK has already been developing the KN-11, which seems to go back to 2004 (see Table A. below).  

Photo B. The R-27 SS-N-6 "Serb" (Courtesy ONWAR(dot)COM).

The following are relevant excerpts from a much longer report of September 20, 2004 by Richard Fisher Jr . It indicates that North Korea has not been developing the KN-11 for just a few years, and with only Chinese help. Rather North Korea has had extensive help to develop an SLBM, since at least 2004 using the Russian R-27 design….[see redded portions]

...In early September 2003 the first news leaks from South Korea and the United States told of a new North Korean ballistic missile that was to appear in a military parade marking North Korea’s 55th Anniversary….it was Beijing that cautioned Pyongyang against any provocative display.

U.S. sources were reported to have concluded, based on its size and the distinctive baby-bottle shape of its nose, that the new missile was based on the Soviet-era Makeyev R-27, NATO code named SS-N-6, a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM). …

[Table A. above written in 2004 or earlier on North Korean modeifications to the Russian R-27 to produce a North Korean SLBM]

"…North Korea is also developing “submarine or ship mounted” versions of the R-27."

[BTW] "In 1993 Japan’s Toen Trading Company arranged for twelve ex-Soviet Foxtrot-class conventional attack submarines and Golf II-class conventionally powered ballistic missile submarines to be scrapped in North Korea.”

Photo C is China's JL-1. The common "baby-bottle" design that equally points to Russian design (Photo B) assistance for North Korea's KN-11 (Photo A). 



Nicky K.D Chaleunphone said...

I would not be shocked or surprise if North Korea is using those old Soviet Era Golf class Submarines to launch their missiles and aim at South Korea.

Ztev Konrad said...

The likely source was 'scrapped' Soviet missiles that were 'upcycled' in the modern terminology
"What was not faked in was the fact that North Korea obtained all or parts of a Russian R-27 SLBM in the 1990s. The R-27 is 1960s vintage tech that was replaced in the 1970s by more modern designs. But many of the unused R-27s produced were recycled for scientific research until 1990. .... It was believed that all or much of at least one missile was illegally sold as “scrap” to North Korea in the 1990s. This was deduced from the fact that after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 North Korea bought a lot of discarded Russian weapons for scrap (none of which was supposed to be operational stuff) and it was later discovered that some of the scrap was remilitarized by the North Koreans.

Anonymous said...

Josh said:


It seems very likely the China source claim is perfectly accurate.

DPRK land based missiles revolve around the SS-1 'Scud' type engines and stages which use inhibited red fuming nitric acid as an oxidizer. This material cannot be stored for extended times in a sub based missile due to its corrosive properties. Any DPRK liquid fuel missile would have to use a completely different fuel and likely different engine design, implying some kind of technology transfer at some stage of the program.

Its possible the Norks came up with the design themselves but unlikely.


Peter Coates said...

Hi Nicky, Ztev and Josh

I think North Korea may need to put a couple of years (till 2018) of work into a modernised 3,000 ton Golf class. The "Golf" can then act basically as a submerging and surfacing test pontoon that can be photographed as if it were a working sub launching more KN-11s.

It may take 2 years longer (2020) for NK to build/rebuild a more convincing Golf submarine. seems to also draw on indicating the R-27 played a big part in the NK missile's evolution.

I don't know the particulars of the fuel mix but most missiles seem to have evolved from:
- mainly liquid fuels (1960s-1980s) eg. the R-27?
- to increasing reliance on solid fuels (for one or all stages) which China may have helped North Korea with.

Solid fuels are particularly important in SLBMs due to the sub's motion (which may dangerously "slosh" liquids) - hence safety and efficiency of the submarine

Solids don't need multi-hour before launch fueling. There may be a very short time frame from Naval or Strategic Force HQ's orders to launch - then maybe 5 minutes (or much less) until launch is achieved.



Anonymous said...

bruce said

All very interesting stuff. But please allow me to point out some facts that are not in dispute.

The R-27 (SS-N-6) is a one stage, liquid fueled missile. The JL-1 is a two-stage, solid-fueled missile.

The SLBM the North Koreans launched was a two-staged, solid fueled missile. If analysts want to say it is not related to the JL-1, that is certainly okay - though it certainly appears to be very similar (though appearances and capabilities are the only ties we have thus far). But it is definitely not a variant of the R-27 (SS-N-6). This is not an assessment. It is a fact. For those who disagree, I ask that you simply study the capabilities of the NK SLBM and compare them to the R-27. You will see this is not the same missile, or anything even remotely similar.

Peter Coates said...

Hi bruce

Thanks for clearing up the inaccuracies of my article.

Do you have 2 or 3 references-links to backup your points?