The North-Korean Nodong missile family
(based on the unknown Soviet R-18* missile ?)

Norbert Brügge, Germany

Update: 05.01.2015

Существует версия согласно которой конструкторская документация и, возможно, некоторые компоненты проекта были переданы КНДР. Якобы на базе проекта Р-18 была разработана ракета Nodong. Нами данная информация не подтверждается, но теоретически возможно, что КНДР получила разработчиков - носителей информации из СКБ-385 (г.Миасс), выезд большой группы которых в КНДР был пресечен в 1990-х годы. При создании ракет Nodong возможно были так же использованы специалисты СКБ-385 т.к. у ракеты прослеживаются общие черты с ракетами СКБ-385 1960-х годов выпуска.

The riddle of the North-Korean Nodong missile was difficult to decode up to now. Pakistan and Iran use the Nodong to build there similar Ghauri-I and Shahab-3 missiles. In North Korea the Nodong vehicle was used for the first space-rocket Paektusan (Taepo-Dong 1). In the meantime upon base of an extended Nodong have builded North-Korea, Pakistan and Iran their next variants of missiles.
The North-Korean Nodong missile is related to the Soviet R-17 (Scud-B) missile. The Scud-B uses TM-185 (Hydrocarbons) / AK-27I (73%HNO3 +27%N2O4) as propellant.
The key to the problem was up to now the kind of the engine used for the Nodong. Recently were found further remarkable photos from the Iranian Shahab/Safir-engine. The engine is similar to the Scud engine. It is however ~140% larger formed. Also combustor and nozzle are different formed (area ratio 10.4 ---- 9.0).
With a meanwhile known diameter the rocket of 1.25 m can be valued a diameter for the nozzle of 60 cm. It is very improbable however, that North-Korea independently has developed a Scud similar stronger new engine.


Previously it was assumed that it could be an engine of the clustered Chinese engine YF-2. The engine YF-2 is used for the DF-3 missile. The propellant is however UDMH/AK-27S.
The mixing proportion of this components requires approximately equal large tanks. That is also the case at the Nodong missile and Safir IRILV, contrary to the Scud-B !

Meanwhile at first by Novosti Kosmonavtiki published sensational photos of the Chinese first stage engine YF-2 from the DF-3 missile. It is now confirmed that four single engines are combined with its own turbopumps. The shape of the chambers and the nozzles are more similar to the smaller Scud-B engine than to the Nodong/R-18 engine. The Nodong engine has greater similarity to the Soviet four-chamber engine Isayev S2.1100 (Burya booster). In addition however clear differences between all engines are to be determined. In any case, this engine YF-2 is a creation of Isayev's design bureau. All the details are typical.

It is reported by KB Makeyev that the development of an operational tactical missile R-18 was stopped in December 1958 in the preliminary planning stage. It should be a  R-17 similar missile with a longer range. Was the development later continued ?

An interesting reference for the origin of the Nodong  is a  drawing for the manufacture of an engine, whose measurements and outlines equal the Nodong engine. It is possible, that this engine belongs to an unknown Soviet  missile R-18, which exactly corresponds to the Nodong missile. Possibly the engine was constructed for the use of UDMH as fuel, as for the Isayev engine YF-2. These missile was not taken over however in the rocket arsenal of the Soviets, probably however exports to North Korea. This is realistic because Cyrillic letters were seen on a Shahab-3 (Nodong) missile.

A single Nodong engine has a thrust of approximately 280 kN (s.l.). That can calculated become with the kind of propellant, the quantity of ~11.151 kg and the burning time of 95 sec (Taepo-Dong-1 launch).
Pakistani Ghauri missile have a quantity of 12.912 tons propellant. It is calculated a burning time of 110 sec. The Iranian Shahab-3M (syn. Ghadr-1) has an equal dimension. The new Iranian missile is once more longer. It is used as first stage for the Safir IRILV. It is based on a Nodong++ missile, which was used probably as the first stage of the unknown North-Korean  Unha-1 SLV.

New insights into the origin and evolution of the North-Korean/Iranian Nodong based missiles und SLVs you can read here:  New insights


A statement to the Nodong missile by Schmucker Technologie, Munich, Germany , 2010
"The Missile Show". Prof. Dr.-Ing. habil. Robert H. Schmucker & Dr.-Ing. Markus Schiller

“In 1993, four missiles were launched in the DPRK. The exact missile types are still not known for sure, but one is said to have been the first appearance of a new rocket that would soon play a central role in the 3rd World arsenals. This missile, designated Nodong by the West, looks like an upscaled derivative of the Scud. Main diameter is roughly 1.3 m compared to Scud’s 0.88 m, and the whole system is accordingly larger, heavier and offers more per10 formance.
In the same year, a number of Russian missile experts from the Makeev design bureau tried to emigrate to North Korea. This was prohibited by Russian authorities, but it is not known if they found another way to the DPRK.
Since 1998, Nodong can be found in Pakistan by the name of Ghauri, and in Iran as Shahab 3, where it first appeared at a military exhibition, littered with numerous Cyrillic markings.
Lucky chance revealed the true origin of the engine. In 2001, a Russian textbook was published in context with a training course for rocket production in Iran. This book contains the drawing of a manufacturing device for rocket engines. The decisive figures of the according engine – nozzle and throat diameter – perfectly match those of the Nodong engine, as photos of the Iranian Shahab 3 engine clearly show. It is a Soviet-Russian engine, and the characteristic details of the Isaev design bureau are clearly visible.
Engineering details and technical data of Nodong are strikingly characteristic for Soviet missile concepts of the late 1950s. At that time, competing design bureaus proposed, pre-developed and tested dozens of different missiles that never reached the state of serial production and disappeared in the fog of history. To give an example of the scale of Soviet rocket efforts at that time: Isaev alone developed more than a hundred different engines, of which several dozens entered serial production.
Thus, it seems clear that Nodong is an early Soviet missile, perhaps the little known R-18 (or R-19).”

Quote, 2012, March 15: “The Scud-engine (S5.2) and the Nodong-engine were both designed at Isayev’s OKB-2. The Nodong is not something North Korea developed by "scaling up" the Scud engine. The book: I know both of the authors of this book which contains technical descriptions for the manufacture of the Nodong engine; they both have seen the "Nodong" engine while working in Iran during the late-1990s. They have stated to me that what they saw was an Isayev engine, produced in Russia.”


Safir-0  intertank section with maintenance hatch


  Nodong TD-1 Shahab-3 Ghauri-I Nodong+ Ghauri-II Ghadr-H  Unha-1/Safir
Length total ~16.0 m ~16.0 m ~16.0 m ~16.0 m ~17.0 m ~18.5 m ~17.0 m  -
Length without warhead/guidance ~11.5 m ~11.5 m ~11.5 m ~11.5 m ~13.5 m ~13.5 m ~13.5 m ~17.0 m
Diameter 1.25 m 1.25 m 1.25 m 1.25 m 1.25 m 1.25 m 1.25 m 1.25 m



Mass propellant (t) 12.912 11.151*) 12.912 12.912 14.670 14.670 14.670 18.790

 Isayev n.n. (1)

Thrust s.l. (kN) 279.8 279.8 279.8 279.8 279.8 279.8 279.8 284.4
Thrust vac (kN) 309.2 309.2 309.2 309.2 309.2 309.2 309.2 313.8
Isp s.l. (Ns/kg) 2383 2383 2383 2383 2383 2383 2383 2422
Isp vac (Ns/kg) 2633 2633 2633 2633 2633 2633 2633 2672
Burn time, nominal (sec) 110 95 110 110 125 125 125 160
Total vacuum impulse (MNs) 34.0 29.4 34.0 34.0 38.6 38.6 38.6 50.2

*) F= (mp * Isp) / t = (11.151 * 2383) / 95 = 279.8 kN


Refueling on-site ensures stable temperature conditions for the fuel



  Propulsion of the North Korean Nodong missile family

Nozzle of Ghauri missile engine (IDEAS 2006)

The Iranian Shahab-3 missile engine

Nodong engine dimensions



Injector plate of Nodong engine



  North Korean Nodong missile (Soviet R-18)

Nodong missile from movie

Nodong/R-18 missile on specially TEL in North Korea's streets
The clear similarity to an extended Scud-TEL is a further reference
 for the Soviet origin of the Nodong rocket

Click here: TEL variations for Scud and Nodong missiles

Rear of Nodong/R-18 missile (first stage of TD-1/Paektusan)

First pictures from the Nodong missile on the parade in 2010, Oct. 10:

Like Iranian Shahab-3 missile with its new conical guidance section + small warhead


  Pakistani Ghauri-I and Ghauri-II missile




  Iranian Shahab-3 missile

Shahab-3 missile launch


Shahab-3 with their different warheads

Shahab warheads (incl. guidence section)

Shahab-3 with biconic RV (BRV)


  Ghadr-1 & Ghadr-H (ex -F) missile



                                                              The Ghadr-H is about 40 cm longer as Ghadr-1                                                                                     

                                                                                                                                                                                                               Smaller fins are typical

Ghadr-H with triconic RV



Ghadr Test-Rocket

Gadr-H (ex Gadr-F)

Just presented as Ghadr-H

  Ghadr-F missile

In 2011 there was a missile exhibition in Tehran and for the first time there are exact specifications for several of Iran's missiles such as the Ghadr-F (now -H) and the Sejil missiles. Also Iran displayed the specifications for the Qiam-1 and Shahab-2 as well. These have been accompanied by images. Also of interest is excellent close up images of the Sejil's engine exhaust area, showing it uses jet vanes.
Here is the link to said information:

In 2012 Iran has presented a short Shahab-3 missile with TRV warhead and short Ghadr fins, which newly is signed as Ghadr-F (!)

Sejil (left) and  new Shahab-3 with triconic WH side by side


Shahab-3 (Ghadr-F)