North Korea successfully flight-tested the Hwasong-14 for the first time on July 4, 2017. The missile was launched from Panghyon Airport and landed in the Sea of Japan inside Japan’s exclusive economic zone setting alarm bells ringing around the world.
The Minuteman family of missiles has served as the backbone of the U.S. land-based nuclear strategic force since 1962. The Minuteman III began development in 1964 and entered service in 1970.
In this video, Defense Updates compares the NORTH KOREAN HWASONG-14 WITH THE UNITED STATES MINUTEMAN III on 5 important parameters and draws an unbiased conclusion.
Lets get started.
Like the Hwasong-12, the Hwasong-14 is transported on a transporter-erector vehicle (TEL), but launched from a detachable platform on a concrete pad. This has several operational ramifications. It will increase the time required to launch the Hwasong-14, and limit the number of launch locations to pre-sited and pre-constructed launch pads.
Minuteman III is designed to be launched from missile silos.
A missile silo is a vertical cylindrical structure constructed underground, for the storage and launching of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs).
Both the missiles are depended on pre assigned sites for launch and hence are vulnerable against preemptive strikes. In current situation, the Minuteman III has advantage since the missile silos are very well build and should be able to protect the missiles from to a decent extent. Since, Hwasong-14 launch platform are not concealed, even a modest strike could disable its launch.
Hwasong-14 is newly developed and is still an experimental one. Debate continues over if Hwasong-14’s reentry vehicle, which will carry the warhead, is capable of surviving the stresses associated with ICBM flight and reentry. The missile still needs further design optimizations and testing before it is deployed.
Minuteman-III missiles are regularly tested with launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base in order to validate the effectiveness, readiness, and accuracy of the weapon system, as well as to support the system’s primary purpose, nuclear deterrence.
It has nearly 100 percent reliability.
Minuteman-III is a more complete and far better tested system, giving it a major advantage in this category.
The Hwasong-14 is a two-staged liquid fueled version of the single-stage Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM), which North Korea first tested in May 2017 to a range of around 4,500 kilometers.
The missile’s first stage engine appears similar, if not identical, to the Hwasong-12. The second stage is designed to increase its range.
Minuteman III is three-stage solid-fuel rocket engines. The first stage is Thiokol TU-122, second stage is Aerojet-General SR-19-AJ-1and third stage: Aerojet/Thiokol SR73-AJ/TC-1.
Solid-fuel missile can stand ready for extended periods of time with little maintenance, and then launch on command. In comparison, missile designs using liquid rocket propellant required a lengthy fueling process immediately before launch, which leave them open to the possibility of surprise attack.
Minuteman III has an upper hand hand due to the better readiness of the system.
A multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV) is a ballistic missile payload containing several warheads, each capable of being aimed to hit a different target.
Hwasong-14 is not enabled with MIRV and hence one missile can deliver only one nuke.
Minuteman III was the first true MIRV capable missile. It can carry a maximum of 3 warheads.
Clearly Minuteman III has a distinct advantage in this category.
The most important parameter of a missile the range.
Based on its July 28 performance, the Hwasong-14 is expected to have a range of over 10,000 km if flown on a range-maximizing ballistic trajectory.
Minuteman series of missile gained range with incremental version with Minuteman III acknowledged to have an operational range of 13,000 km (8,100 miles) though the exact range is classified.
Keeping in view the better range, Minuteman III has an advantage in this category.
As evident from the overall score Minuteman III is a more capable missile compared to Hwasong-14.
Hwasong-14 has demonstrated the increasing capabilities of North Korea in the field of long-range missiles and the pace of development has caught the world by surprise.
With Hwasong-14, North Korea has cleared a major threshold and has become one of only few countries to posses an ICBM.
Minuteman III is the only land-based ICBM in service in the United States and has been kept relevant even decade after of its initial deployment with technology upgrades. Minuteman III will remain one of the most powerful deterrence for any adversary.