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Missiles for beginners

Vanessa Burrow
July 5, 2006 - 1:34PM

So, North Korea has tested a long-range ballistic missile with a payload of up to 1000 kilograms and a range of up to 4500 kilometres.

But what does that mean?

Never fear. Theage.com.au has waded through the military jargon to try and produce this brief "Missiles for Dummies" guide.

The number of missiles North Korea tested yesterday has not been confirmed. But most reports agree a Taepodong-2 was fired, along with at least two Nodong-2 missiles.

They're all ballistic missiles, so when the fuel runs out, they fall freely in a pre-calculated path - unlike a jet-powered guided missile, which can be "steered" towards a target.

It's the Taepodong-2 that worries Western leaders, and North Korea's neighbours.

The Taepodong-2 can travel further than any of the country's other weapons because it is a two or three-stage missile - that is, it has two or three compartments for liquid fuel which each burn for about 100 seconds, propelling the missile for up to five or six minutes.

The weapon could easily reach Japan or parts of China and can even travel as far as India and maybe even the northern tip of Australia.

The Taepodong-2 is about 36 metres long and has a diameter of two metres. It has a payload of up to 1000 kilograms, which means that the front portion of the missile that carries the nuclear or explosive charge can be packed with 1000 kilograms.

So, having the Taepodong-2 means the North Koreans could attack another country, or another continent, if they wanted to.

The Nodong-2 is less of a threat, although it would still make a pretty big hole.

It's a kind of Scud missile, a shorter-range ballistic missile not known for its accuracy in hitting a target.

In fact, the North Koreans probably tested the Nodong-2 yesterday in an attempt to divert the world's attention away from the Taepodong-2.

But it failed, and fell into the ocean after 35 seconds anyhow.

theage.com.au

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