Over Two Dozen North Korean Missiles Launched By Russian Forces on Ukrainian Targets – Reports

Ukrainian Attorney General Andriy Kostin reported that Russia had employed at least 24 North Korean supplied ballistic missiles in recent strikes on the country between December 30 and February 7. Areas targeted included Zaporizhzhia, Kiev, Kharkiv, and multiple targets in the Kirovohrad, Poltava, Donetsk, and Dnipropetrovsk regions. Ukrainian reports indicate that their warheads weighed up to 1000 kg, approximately twice as heavy as those deployed by Russian Iskander-M ballistic missile systems. White House reports on January 4 revealed that North Korean missiles with 900km ranges were being deployed by Russian forces, which indicated that the class deployed was the KN-23B. It was speculated since mid-2022 that Russia could seek to acquire this Korean asset for its own forces, with its specifications being the most impressive of any tactical ballistic missile class deployed anywhere in NATO or Russia. The KN-23B has an estimated range of over 900km, with reports of its warhead size varying from 1000kg to 2500kg. 

The KN-23B was first test fired on March 25, 2021 under supervision of the Academy of Defence Science. The smaller baseline KN-23 missile first tested two years prior, which although smaller is still significantly larger and longer ranged than its Russian-made counterparts, is also speculated to have been deployed in the theatre. The KN-23B uses a ten-wheel transporter erector launcher, while the original KN-23 and the Iskander-M both used eight-wheel launchers, with all three designs prized for their high mobility and short launch times. A key similarity between the KN-23 and the Iskander-M is that they launch missiles along semi ballistic depressed trajectories with apogees of around 50 km, while being able to conduct extensive in flight manoeuvres throughout their flight paths. This makes missiles extremely difficult to detect or track, while allowing them to use their fins to manoeuvre much better than missiles on standard ballistic trajectories. Acquisitions of ballistic missiles and various artillery assets from North Korea, which has among the largest productive capacities in the world, provides Russia with a key means of expanding its capacity for launching strikes on Ukrainian targets. This supplements the significant progress made expanding its own output of both ground and air launched ballistic missiles. Arming Russia has provided Pyongyang with a means of both earning significant revenues from arms exports and undermining the interests of its adversaries in the Western world with which it has been in a state of conflict for decades.