"North Korea Using US-ROK Drills as Cover to Carry Out Missile Tests, Experts Say" by Chad O'Carroll for NKNews

ONN Analyst Tianran Xu discussed the diversification of launch locations of DPRK's missiles.

"Tianran Xu, an analyst at the Open Nuclear Network, said that airport testing 'offers ideal support for such a large liquid road mobile missile,' but 'in wartime the (nearby) missile facility would also be an obvious target.' Consequently, Xu said it would be important for DPRK military preparedness to diversify its launch locations. 'It would be a significant step if they launch the Hwasong-17 in less friendly environments,' he explained, 'such as transporting the fully fueled missile on a dirt road.' But whether the ultra-large, 11-axle transporter erector launchers (TELs) used to move the Hwasong-17 around could handle local topography is a question that hasn't yet been clearly answered. 'The size of these TELs limit the areas that they can really operate from - especially with DPRK roads and conditions,' he said, noting that the roads towards remote launch locations might not be able to support the weight of a launcher.


'It appears that the shape of the engine section has been streamlined,' Xu said, adding that it seems to no longer have 'the shape of a skirt - which provides additional stability.' That indicates 'that North Koreans have gathered enough confidence in the stability of the missile, getting rid of the skirt shape could help reduce air drag,' he told NK Pro.


Xu said continued high-frequency DPRK testing of ICBMs could hint at other actions on the horizon. 'It will raise the possibility that the North Koreans will eventually carry out a nuclear weapon hot test on top of an ICBM,' he said. 'China did a missile-bomb hot test after some 10 flight tests of the DF-2A MRBMs,' Xu continued, while noting the 'decision would be highly country-specific, and totally depends on the top leadership, and for now, it is also a highly speculative thought.' "