Thursday, April 26, 2012

North Korea Parading Missile Fakes?

Is North Korea parading fakes for the world to see, but lacking any real capability to field the equipment? That's the conclusion of a team of missile technology experts who have reviewed the photos and video of missiles paraded before Kim Jong Un during the 100th anniversary of his grandfather's birth earlier this month.
But the weapons displayed April 15 appear to be a mishmash of liquid-fuel and solid-fuel components that could never fly together. Undulating casings on the missiles suggest the metal is too thin to withstand flight. Each missile was slightly different from the others, even though all were supposedly the same make. They don't even fit the launchers they were carried on.

"There is no doubt that these missiles were mock-ups," Markus Schiller and Robert Schmucker, of Germany's Schmucker Technologie, wrote in a paper posted recently on the website that listed those discrepancies. "It remains unknown if they were designed this way to confuse foreign analysts, or if the designers simply did some sloppy work."

The missiles, called KN-08s, were loaded onto the largest mobile launch vehicles North Korea has ever unveiled. Pyongyang gave them special prominence by presenting them at the end of the parade, which capped weeks of celebrations marking the 100th anniversary of the country's founding father, Kim Il Sung.

The unveiling created an international stir. The missiles appeared to be new, and designed for long-range attacks.
The missiles appear to be a mish-mash of variations on a single missile design. That could have been intended so as to give misinformation to experts peering down on those missiles but it just as likely could be that the North Korean fabricators couldn't get the details right.

The missile carriers, which apparently are based on a Chinese design, were far larger than the missiles they were carrying, which could indicate the North Korean intention to build still larger missiles, but it also shows that the North Koreans are an indeterminate period of time away from fielding a credible long range missile force capable of hitting the US. It could still hit US interests overseas, but the country remains a regional threat for all of its bluster.

North Korea took more than a decade between showing off the previous generation of missile, the Taepodong-2, at a military parade and actually putting on a launching pad.

North Korea has thus far failed to successfully launch any of its long range missiles in four attempts since 1998. Some experts suggest that the only way North Korea could field an ICBM is if someone gives it to them because of the lack of industrial capabilities to do so. I think that's overstating the problems facing the North Korean regime and underestimating their capabilities to circumvent sanctions in place. We do so at our peril.

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