I think what you mean is that the NORKs will mount a couple of missile lanuchers on a ship, float it round to Canvey Island and unleash a Musudan or 2..
Last week, UK prime minister David Cameron raised a few eyebrows when he insisted North Korea has the capability to launch a missile strike against the the US and the UK. Just like Blighty was once warned of Saddam Hussein's terrifying Weapons of Mass Destruction, the PM forewarned: “North Korea does now have missile …
A ship is rather less stable than that stuff we call the ground.
A ground based missile, on a mobile launcher on a ship will be far less likely to be launched at a proper attitude that would permit a well controlled flight toward its programmed target.
The last review I looked at for NK's missiles said that they could potentially reach Hawaii at the most and with an embarrassing number coming apart at the seams en route, falling harmlessly into the ocean.
Still, let's examine what is at stake.
NK threatens to strike the US with nuclear arms. In short, threatened to strike the only nation on Earth to ever actually use a nuclear warhead in war. That in and of itself isn't very wise.
Meanwhile, let's examine China and its long history of maintaining satellite nations as a buffer against invasion. Then, consider its sponsorship of the NK government for generations. Now, let's examine the PRC's statement that it won't tolerate troublemakers in its regional sphere of influence.
That last is a very, very, very clear message to NK.
Stop it or you'll get spanked and sent to your room without supper.
Incidentally, UDMH may be stable but it's not altogether friendly. It is both acutely and chronically poisonous, carcinogenic, may damage DNA, is corrosive with some substances, is highly explosive, can be absorbed via the skin, and stinks. It is also one of the most commonly used rocket propellants.
Concerning the missiles, no-one in their right minds would use them without proper prior testing. Not that the Nork leadership need necessarily be collectively in their right minds, but this humble non-expert would rather expect a very public qualification test to come from all of this - sold obviously as a dire warning to the imperialist cowards down south and across the ocean - followed by a conclusion that all was well now, as the imperialists were frightened into desisting from their planned agression. Cocktails (of the moderately poisonous kind) for the generals, everyone else go on as before.
The downside is, assuming the above took place, *after* the test NK could claim to own an operational, intermediate-range missile. Still no cause for concern in the UK, but possibly in Japan and certainly in South Korea (although that would only be one concern among many).
Mine's the one with the UDMH detector in the pocket.
Although a few dead rocket scientists is no loss to the serene progress of the glorious state, you do need to be careful about how many you kill off. They're hard to train, and the ones with experience of making things work are very valuable - as they're likely to get things to work again next time.
Unfortunately along with a chronic lack of health and safety, I've also read suggestions that failed missile tests tend to get you (and your family) sent to a camp (if you're lucky). So they may have found a way of getting rid of their best people that doesn't require accidental poisoning.
I agree. Even the most rabid dictator is aware that rocket scientists don't grow on trees and I imagine that successful ones are treated like royalty. If for no other reason, KJ knows that without decent scientists, he is royally boned.
....but then again, Western Civilsations are royally boned without decent scientists and we don't exactly pay ours well.
Also, can we get a "royally boned" icon please?
"Given North Korea's record on human rights, do you think the regime gives too hoots about the welfare of a few rocket technicians?"
No, but missiles like that are also a complete bastard to store in a ready-state. It's a bit out of my field, but I seem to recall that the Russians had enormous problems when the money for their ICBMs started running out and they were left with unstable and dangerous tubes of chemicals sat in not-well-enough-ventilated holes in the ground.
Keeping lots of rockets like that on a war footing isn't viable when you're short of know-how and money.
Putting them on-target is of course another problem. Given that Iraq couldn't hit jack-all in Saudi with their Scuds and that even short range rockets fail to do much to Israel, I somehow doubt that NK could even hit Alaska, let alone anything of worth there. When you toss a missile into an area of countryside you've got what... about a 1% chance of hitting anything made of brick. As London found out in WW2: The threat of missiles is mainly a fairly empty terror one. More of an annoyance and something that bolsters resilience and morale rather than breaks it.
Close only counts with horseshoes, hand-grenades and thermonuclear weapons, but NK haven't weaponised those yet, either. That said, chemical or biological rockets could be horrific, but unless you can drop them right on an urbanised area AND you do so in the right weather AND the rockets work as intended, then the threat is much lower. In truth the world has seen far more failed chemical weapon attacks than successful ones. And launching one would pretty much ensure that Nk's generals earn themselves places on playing cards and a 'targeted strike' (or whatever we're calling deliberate assassination with smart-bombs these days).
Basically, medium-range conventional surface to surface bombardment missiles are a sabre for third-rate military nations to rattle, and little more. Why do you think that barely anyone else bothers with such toys.
Well, remember, ribosome, what Winnie said about us Americans.
We'll eventually do what is right. After exhausting every other possibility. :/
I'll always regret one thing. Being too young to have ever met Churchill and especially, being able to take him out for a few drinks.
But then, the laws of the universe prohibit such.
For, together, the Swiss would be at war with both of our nations and even the penguins would war with us after such an excursion. ;)
No, I'm not politically incorrect. I'm just plain "wrong", once I'm started.
So horribly that politicians keep their distance from me, lest my influence rub off.
Which is a good thing. I can't tolerate politicians.
'Incidentally, UDMH may be stable but it's not altogether friendly. It is both acutely and chronically poisonous, carcinogenic, may damage DNA, is corrosive with some substances, is highly explosive, can be absorbed via the skin, and stinks. It is also one of the most commonly used rocket propellants.'
Yesyes, we know al that. But is the Apple warranty system any good in NK ?
* Sorry, could not resist.
UDMH is the stuff that's so nasty it resulted in a series of fires and explosions of Titan missiles in their silos. One exploded when a technician dropped a spanner on to the rocket's skin. It was armed at the time. The warhead was blown out of the silo and landed almost intact nearby.
Nitrogen tetroxide also nearly killed the crew of the Apollo half of the Apollo-Soyuz test mission when a reaction control system malfunctioned during re-entry and bled fumes into the capsule. I seem to recall the crew suffered 'bleached lungs'.
"Right minds" doesn't appear to apply to NK's strategy.
But suppose their goal is to throw the worlds economies into disarray and supplant Seoul amidst the confusion.
They wouldn't need to launch missiles themselves, though it might please them to; all they need do is provide missiles and warheads to more sincerely irrational (!) regimes and see the counter-blows fall attenuated and diffuse elsewhere, while they act closer to home.
"Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven," that sort of thing. Considering what NK has done to its own people... Hell might just fit.
What you have to remember here is that whilst rocket science for established, large players like Russia and America does seem relatively easy and reliable, it only got that way through exhaustive, repetitive testing with a large element of trial and error. Rocket engines are very energy-dense structures; any slight mistake can turn a few million quid's worth of finely-tuned machine into a very big firework. The major players' systems are reliable only because they were very heavily tested, both on static rigs and as near-finished machines on missile testing ranges.
North Korea, on the other hand, is taking supposedly fully tested systems and is then pratting about with them. Bundling four engines into close proximity does not produce a unit four times as powerful; unless they have tested for little things like vibrational resonances caused by four units on the same chassis (safe for one, but four? who knows?), extra heating on rocket exhausts that on the original one was safely radiated away but cannot be now because of 3 other engines close by and other similar sorts of gotchas.
North Korea is strapped for cash. It can afford to keep a few pampered officials and of course the Great Leader in clover indefinitely (whilst the bulk of the population starves), but it cannot afford the sorts of extensive testing that is needed to go from a part-finished rocket system to a finished, polished product. It is a wonder that it has even managed to develop a vaguely-working nuclear weapon, even if the last few tests have either been fizzles or frauds based on conventional high explosives packed into tunnels.
It is therefore extremely unlikely that any of the North Korean show-piece rockets are capable of anything save sit on a launcher vehicle, empty of fuel and completely unarmed, as a threat credible only to the hard of thinking. Even if these morons do manage to get a warhead of some sort to hit American soil, what on earth do they think the reaction to this will be? One fairly spectacular terrorist event was sufficient to launch America into a long, and frankly extremely bloody war (bloody on the part of the Taliban anyway; the one thing they seem good at is dying for their cause), and this was just terrorism. An actual act of war perpetrated against one of the most belligerant nations on the planet and certainly the most militarily capable is outright suicide.
The only thing to really consider here is this: are the North Koreans really that stupid?
I think that's the biggest problem here..........they may well be that stupid.
As you say, nobody in their right mind would even launch a rocket at this point (any launch would probably be taken as hostile and an attack on someone), but the NKs have shown themselves to be pretty stupid (or brave depending on how you look at it) in the past.
I think a Nork missile test at this point is probably the least bad outcome. As the US have hinted. They've already had a round of UN sanctions for the last nuclear test - so there wouldn't likely be any more just yet. At which point everyone can step back and claim honour is satisfied.
Although should the missile go off-target, or even look like doing so (there's not much room that doesn't overfly Russia, China, Japan or South Korea, it might get shot down, and that could make things all kinds of interesting. Although although, would the Norks be able to tell? They must be used to their test rockets going bang by now, so if an AEGIS destroyer shot one down, out of their radar range, they might not even notice...
The other alternative to end this could be another shelling incident, or attack on a US, Japanese or ROK ship. While the South didn't retaliate last time, I've read several suggestions that this was a pretty serious political trauma, and so the current government has promised to retaliate forcibly. At which point we get into escalation, and you're at the mercy of the least stable government. Then we have to hope the North is run by a ruthless but sane bunch of calculating murdering bastards rather than a bunch of loony murdering bastards.
@I ain't Spartacus.
Unfortunately, it has been reported that the Japanese navy have been ordered to intercept any rocket launch (using Aegis and SM-3). The NKs could even launch something and then claim it had been shot down regardless of reality. They're certainly pushing much harder than they have previously and those on the other side (ROK, USA etc.) are being much more aggressive than before as well. ROK has promised to retaliate heavily for any offence.
I guess time will tell. Problem is, how do you tell the difference between a test launch and an attempt to land a rocket someone important (such as Japan or South Korea etc.)?
Japan didn't shoot down the last one, that went over its territory. I presume the AEGIS radar can give a quick enough solution that they'll know the vertical (as well as horizontal) trajectory quickly enough to make that decision. After all, they didn't shoot the last one down, and I'm sure they had ships in place - as it was flagged well in advance.
So unless Japan wants to increase tension further, you'd hope they'd hold back. I guess that depends on the length of time the rockets burn for, before going inertial, and the positioning of the ships.
Of course, nothing stops North Korea from claiming their failed tests were shot down. But in the past they've preferred to claim success, even when their wasn't. Anyway, if they want to be provoked into war, shelling South Korea is easy enough to arrange - or sending some commandos in by submarine (both of which they've done several times before). That comes down to what their motivation is in this. There's plenty of people happy to line up and say this is just Lil' Kim protecting his position against internal rivals - but I'm not sure we've got any proof of that. There were pundits as late as ten years ago saying how Medium Kim was only causing trouble to shore up his internal position, and try to live up to Daddy - and I'm not sure they had any more evidence for that than they do now.
"The NKs could even launch something and then claim it had been shot down regardless of reality."
Given the number of RADAR arrays pointing at it and that they'd be recorded, that lie would only work against its own people. The US/Japan could pretty easily prove it wasn't them.
But then NK mainly cares about posturing for its own people anyway. It's like someone missed up Marx and Orwell when organising their libraries.
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I would think that the bigger risk is that the NORKs will launch a missile, perhaps targeting some offlying island, and it will go haywire & drop onto Pyongyang, whereupon some overzealous generalissimo or politico will declare it a US first strike and hit the Big Red Button for everything aimed at S.Korea. All hell then breaks loose on the peninsula, and the price of the Galaxy S4 goes though the rof.
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About the only thing I do believe about the whole story is that yes, they could well be that stupid.
If they are, they'll be squashed like a bug. I certainly don't see how they can pose any serious military threat to the USA. I certainly can't see any reason they'd be interested in the slightest in Blighty so quite whether this involves us at all is a complete mystery. Hasn't the government here got some real problems to be dealing with?
"If they are, they'll be squashed like a bug"
The Norks are just trolling, they love those phrases like that, it allows them to become more rabid (unless this is troll--baiting, of course).
Even the Chinese are going WTF? as the Norks try to do the usual school bully thing and get slapped first .
They don't pose any serious threat to the US - in the U.S. but they are trying to get some local action going which discredits the U.S. elsewhere on the planet. Norks have a supply of local cannon fodder to play with but I'm not sure they could even manage a hit on Israel to get the hard-line Islamic support they'd need to really kick things off.
I'm glad that the U.K. is at 'popcorn' status but I could do without some of the local bigwigs sucking up to the big boys.
Probably the biggest place at risk is South Korea. A missile could easily be intercepted if they tried to hit somewhere like Guam, Japan or the US but if the got them close enough to the border and let rip, they might actually have a chance of hitting something.
Also, even if they can't do a full nuke, what about the potential for a dirty warhead? Is that a possibility?
"Also, even if they can't do a full nuke, what about the potential for a dirty warhead? Is that a possibility?"
It achieves nothing. It does no military damage and it totally undermines the idea that NK is the true and proper owner of SK. What's the point of seizing irradiated turf? Dirty weapons are for panicking civilians and that's about as far as their use extends.
They could do it, but a more likely threat is a chemical or biological one.
You're totally right about it really being rocket science; and yes, anything can and will go wrong. That's precisely what they have demonstrated quite publicly (to outsiders, not within NK) withe heir Unha missile a few times.
In fact, their current approach is somewhat comparable to what the Russians (and even the Merkins) did in the 1950s: Trial and error, except the Norks have at least those space powers to copy the theory and basic designs from. They only need to make their own addtional errors. Still, there's nothing to say they may not eventually succeed in making one of those contraptions work.
You laugh, but that kinds of attitude is a problem. I remember before Iraq 2 hearing people say "I wish we'd just go and get it over with. It's been on the front of the papers now for months."
Really quite a worrying attitude: "Let's have a war, because I'm tired of not seeing footballer stories on the front of my toilet reading."
Yep. The danger here is that if it does go nuclear, something could wrong, causing China and/or Russia to get involved against the US. It doesn't strike me as at all impossible that an ICBM from the US could accidentally hit either of those countries instead of NK. Then what would happen? Something as a bad as this: http://www.johnstonsarchive.net/nuclear/nuclearwar1.html ? Half as bad? Quarter as bad? Does it make a difference?
I, for one, don't want to find out.
Near as I can tell, if NK does something really stupid, then it'll know what Poland felt like in 1939. The Chinese have a large base and are doing live fire exercises to remind lil' Kim to back down. Should he do something stupid, presumably the Chinese will stream in from the North, and Allied forces from the South and meet in the middle. I really don't expect a shooting war between the Chinese and US. With that said, AFTER Pyongyang falls, NK will be in a situation like with Germany after WWII. Lot of discussions and arrangements, partitioning, and such. All of it sub-optimal, and hampering re-unification efforts undoubtedly.
If they all go to war, and it ends up with a division again along the 38th parallel, with the Chinese taking responsibility for repairing the north, and the US taking responsibility for rebuilding the south...... :-(
I really wish that was more unimaginable than it is...
.... to something Titanic and Colossal
I salute the glorious leader's virtual grenade mastery and am thoroughly amazed at the West's compounding ignorance in the field.
Or if they be not ignorant of the methodology/epistemology, their crass incompetence with ITs Super Tools.
I would expect that to be the most likely vector. Why spend time faffing around with your unreliable chemical rockets when you could ship a load of nukes out of the country and have them on standby around the globe.
That said, presumably the powers that be check all shipping containers that leave the country, and while the odd bit of contraband might slip through I can't imagine an operational nuke would.
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