Fox News attained satellite images that show what appears to be another launch pad being constructed at the Panghyon Airbase in North Pyongyang in the past week.
According to analysts at Image Sat International, this is the first time that North Korea has decided to rebuild a site that it has used before.
The photos appear to show the development of another launch pad just a few yards away from the one used during the July 4 Hwasong-14 ICBM launch, as well as a newly renovated access road. The satellite images also show the construction of an aircraft hangar, as well as airplanes being moved and stored in hangars on the tarmac.
The construction was spotted just days after the test launch of Hwasong-15, the North Korean ICBM with the longest reach to date that may be capable of carrying multiple warheads, according to Nikkei.
After seeing pictures of the new missile published by North Korean state-run Rodong Sinmun, Chang Young-keun of the Korea Aerospace University said that, compared to its predecessors, the more rounded nose cone of the latest missile may signify that it had been designed with an eye toward a multiple-warhead system. The missile seems to involve a completely new rocket, judging by its size and shape, South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense said November 30.
The missile’s shape may also be related to technology intended to protect its payload from the stress of re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere, said Kim Jung-bong, a professor at Hanzhong University. Heavy use of high-performance material such as carbon fiber could account for the rounded form, Kim said.
The Hwasong-15 is 30cm wider than its predecessor at around 2 meters, one expert said. This suggests the missile contains two engines in the first of its two stages, up from one in the Hwasong-14, said Kim Dong-yup, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul. The increased thrust could put the entire US mainland within the missile’s range without any reduction in the weight of the payload, the professor said.