March 20, 2016

Meanwhile, In, Over and Underneath the DPRK

In the course of discussing the recent photo-op involving Kim Jong Un and a nuclear warhead mock-up, Jeffery Lewis makes the following observation...


 
One of the big questions about North Korea’s nuclear program is whether or not North Korea can design a reentry vehicle that will protect the warhead during its journey from launch to target. The KN-08 missiles that North Korea paraded in 2012 and 2013 were almost certainly mock-ups. Although the quality of the mock-ups improved between parades, the nosecones were particularly unconvincing. North Korea has now shown a reentry body that looks like early US and Soviet ones. The reentry body still hasn’t been tested, but this is the first credible reentry vehicle design that North Korea has displayed.

 

Well, that last sentence may need to be amended now ...





Now that the doughy despot has announced further missile and warhead tests (at least one of which appears imminent), there is some speculation that one of the upcoming tests might be a combined affair.  That is, there is concern that the North Koreans might launch an ICBM with a live warhead on it  against a test range in the DPRK resulting in an above ground nuclear test. 

Such a test would crank the violation of international propriety up to 11 and would, no doubt, result in very harshly worded letter written by the most august of calligraphers and transcribed onto gold leafed bond paper. However, it would give the Norks a rock solid credibility to their small deterrent. Even in the days when the U.S. was conducting over 900 above ground nuclear tests, America only conducted one such test. There were some small antiaircraft missile tests, a single shot fired from a cannon and a handful of ballistic missile tests where the target point was almost directly overhead, but only one long range ballistic missile fired with a live nuclear warhead.. That was shot Frigate Bird of Operation Dominic which involved firing a Polaris missile from a submerged submarine at the ever hapless Johnston Island.  Interestingly, the Chinese only conducted one such test as well. Thus one can assume that such a test would be rather challenging.

  It's unclear how much of this concern is based in actual intel rather than prattle, but given that North Korea's missile program has a checkered history, such an endeavor has the potential for truly spectacular bedlam. 

Posted by: The Brickmuppet at 10:30 AM | No Comments | Add Comment
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