Breaking News
Close
Investing Pro 0
NEW! Get Actionable Insights with InvestingPro+ Try 7 Days Free

Analysis: North Korea looks to risky pre-fuelled missiles to reduce launch time

GlobalJan 11, 2022 06:05
Saved. See Saved Items.
This article has already been saved in your Saved Items
 
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: People watch a TV broadcasting file footage of a news report on North Korea firing a ballistic missile off its east coast, in Seoul, South Korea, January 5, 2022. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

By Josh Smith

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea's recent claims of testing hypersonic weapons overshadowed its pursuit of a potentially risky rocket fuel system that analysts say could allow the nuclear-armed state to deploy and launch its missiles faster during a war.

Most of the country's largest ballistic missiles use liquid fuel, which typically requires them to be loaded with propellant at their launch site before they can be fired - a time-consuming step that makes them easier to spot and destroy.

Pyongyang has also pursued solid-fuel technology, but so far most of those engines have been used on smaller, short-range missiles.

Recent tests suggest North Korean military scientists are pursuing a third option: a "missile fuel ampoule" system to seal the liquid propellant and oxidizer tanks within the missile's airframe, allowing them to be fuelled at the factory and ready to use.

"This would obviate the need for in-field fuelling, which could increase the responsiveness of North Korean liquid propellant missiles," said Ankit Panda, a senior fellow at the U.S.-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "They are still quite a ways off from switching to an all-solid force so this could be a useful interim pursuit."

North Korea said it first used such ampoules in September, when it claimed to have tested its first hypersonic missile, capable of carrying a warhead that can glide at more than five times the speed of sound.

At the time, state media quoted a top official discussing the significance of "turning all missile fuel systems into ampoules."

That suggests North Korea "intends to continue to retain and improve its liquid-propellant ballistic missile force for the long term rather than shift to an all-solid force," said 38 North, a Washington-based organisation that monitors North Korea.

The same type of rocket booster with an ampoule system may have been used last week in a second hypersonic test. North Korea launched another missile on Tuesday, but technical details on the type of rocket involved were not immediately available.

'DRIVING AROUND WITH A BOMB'

The volatility of the fuel-storage system the North Koreans are pursuing casts doubt on its military usefulness, said Markus Schiller, a missile expert based in Europe.

Those rocket engines use nitrogen tetroxide (NTO) as an oxidizer and unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine (UDMH) as fuel. Both are highly toxic as well as "hypergolic," which means they react violently when in contact with each other.

That explosion is channelled through a nozzle to power the rocket. But the chemicals can be highly vulnerable to shocks and temperature.

"You are driving around with a bomb," Schiller said. "The moment the missile tanks rupture because you hit a pothole, or because someone shoots at the missile, all will be gone in a thick red cloud."

NTO, meanwhile, freezes at -11°C (12.2°F) and starts boiling at +21°C.

"If you are sitting in the woods on a Korean winter night... waiting for launch command, the NTO will freeze in your pipes, and start freezing in your tanks. Your missile will blow up at launch," Schiller said. "Also, you don't want to risk launching a missile on hot summer days, with the oxidizer boiling in the tank."

North Korea said the Wednesday test verified the "reliability of fuel ampoule system under the winter weather conditions", suggesting it is seeking to ensure the stability of such systems.

Unlike most other countries that have used such a system, North Korea does not appear to be using canisters to protect and insulate the missiles.

"This seems to confirm that 'ampoulization' is not canisterization but akin to the Soviet/Russian practice of preloading submarine-launched ballistic missiles with propellants at the factory and maintaining the fuelled missile as a sealed unit for loading into the launcher," 38 North concluded in a report on Friday.

The report said that developing more stable propellants would allow missiles to remain fuelled on a day-to-day basis.

Analysis: North Korea looks to risky pre-fuelled missiles to reduce launch time
 

Related Articles

Add a Comment

Comment Guidelines

We encourage you to use comments to engage with users, share your perspective and ask questions of authors and each other. However, in order to maintain the high level of discourse we’ve all come to value and expect, please keep the following criteria in mind: 

  • Enrich the conversation
  • Stay focused and on track. Only post material that’s relevant to the topic being discussed.
  • Be respectful. Even negative opinions can be framed positively and diplomatically.
  •  Use standard writing style. Include punctuation and upper and lower cases.
  • NOTE: Spam and/or promotional messages and links within a comment will be removed
  • Avoid profanity, slander or personal attacks directed at an author or another user.
  • Don’t Monopolize the Conversation. We appreciate passion and conviction, but we also believe strongly in giving everyone a chance to air their thoughts. Therefore, in addition to civil interaction, we expect commenters to offer their opinions succinctly and thoughtfully, but not so repeatedly that others are annoyed or offended. If we receive complaints about individuals who take over a thread or forum, we reserve the right to ban them from the site, without recourse.
  • Only English comments will be allowed.

Perpetrators of spam or abuse will be deleted from the site and prohibited from future registration at Investing.com’s discretion.

Write your thoughts here
 
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
 
Post
Post also to:
 
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
1000
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Thanks for your comment. Please note that all comments are pending until approved by our moderators. It may therefore take some time before it appears on our website.
 
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
 
Post
 
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
1000
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Add Chart to Comment
Confirm Block

Are you sure you want to block %USER_NAME%?

By doing so, you and %USER_NAME% will not be able to see any of each other's Investing.com's posts.

%USER_NAME% was successfully added to your Block List

Since you’ve just unblocked this person, you must wait 48 hours before renewing the block.

Report this comment

I feel that this comment is:

Comment flagged

Thank You!

Your report has been sent to our moderators for review
Our Apps
DOWNLOAD APPApp store
Investing.com
© 2007-2022 Fusion Media Limited. All Rights Reserved.
Risk Disclosure: Trading in financial instruments and/or cryptocurrencies involves high risks including the risk of losing some, or all, of your investment amount, and may not be suitable for all investors. Prices of cryptocurrencies are extremely volatile and may be affected by external factors such as financial, regulatory or political events. Trading on margin increases the financial risks.
Before deciding to trade in financial instrument or cryptocurrencies you should be fully informed of the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, carefully consider your investment objectives, level of experience, and risk appetite, and seek professional advice where needed.
Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. The data and prices on the website are not necessarily provided by any market or exchange, but may be provided by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual price at any given market, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Fusion Media and any provider of the data contained in this website will not accept liability for any loss or damage as a result of your trading, or your reliance on the information contained within this website.
It is prohibited to use, store, reproduce, display, modify, transmit or distribute the data contained in this website without the explicit prior written permission of Fusion Media and/or the data provider. All intellectual property rights are reserved by the providers and/or the exchange providing the data contained in this website.
Fusion Media may be compensated by the advertisers that appear on the website, based on your interaction with the advertisements or advertisers.
  • Sign up for FREE and get:
  • Real-Time Alerts
  • Advanced Portfolio Features
  • Personalized Charts
  • Fully-Synced App
Continue with Google
or
Sign up with Email