Threat Tuesday – What Models are Those?

Courtesy NK Leadership Watch

The Un’er – already famous for his toy tours inspection visits – toured a munitions expo in Pyongyang in mid-April. What I found interesting when looking at the pictures was the ships shown. As seen here, all these ships look to be from the US Navy. From left to right I make them out to be an Aegis destroyer, an Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate, a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, and on the far right a Spruance-class destroyer.  So what message was being delivered to the NorKs and what does this tell the world? I also note that if one views the KCNA propaganda film that was also released you can see NorK navy ships, but the scales are such that they look huge (indeed, they are built to be larger than the American ships). Is that the subtle message; the NorK navy is still “bigger and better” than others? Once again, I have to wonder just what “truth” is being fed to the Un’er and how his worldview is being shaped.

Threat Tuesday – NorK ICBM?

The NorKs remain defiant, even after their satellite launch attempt failed. A popular mantra in policy and press circles leading up to the space launch was that the NorKs can use space launch technology for offensive long-range ballistic missiles. The space launch failed and the NorKs are looking to regain lost face. So on April 15, guess what the Un’er rolls out at a big parade for Grand-Daddy?

Courtesy AP Photos (news.daylife.com)

A North Korean vehicle carrying a missile passes by during a mass military parade in Pyongyang’s Kim Il Sung Square to celebrate 100 years since the birth of the late North Korean founder Kim Il Sung on Sunday, April 15, 2012. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un delivered his first public televised speech Sunday, just two days after a failed rocket launch, portraying himself as a strong military chief unafraid of foreign powers during festivities meant to glorify his grandfather, North Korea founder Kim Il Sung. (AP Photo)

Oh, since the AP has basically been co-opted by the NorKs (see One Free Korea here) that caption is less-than-helpful and doesn’t tell the real story. Let’s see how Reuters captioned it:

State media film a rocket carried by a military vehicle during a military parade to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Kim Il-sung in Pyongyang April 15, 2012. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency and YTN TV later cited military sources and analysts as saying the rocket is a new long-range missile, presumed to be a ballistic missile with a range of 6,000 km (3,700 miles). (Reuters)

Joshua over at Arms Control Wonk posted the following details:

Those are two three-stage missiles carried on large, eight-axle vehicles. YTN describes them as being about 18 m long and about 2 m in diameter. That’s much smaller than the TD-2 — not bigger, as the Chosun Ilbo had claimed. (Really, who could imagine a mobile missile almost half the length of a football field?)

Courtesy Arms Control Wonk

Joshua also has an article up at 38 North that he wrote before the April 15 parade that talks about the NorKs getting ready to unveil a new ICBM. Good background information there.

Threat Tuesday – Countdown Continues….

AP Photo

This March 28, 2012 satellite image provided by DigitalGlobe shows North Korea’s Tongchang-ri Launch Facility on the nation’s northwest coast. The image appears to show preparations beginning for a long-range rocket launch in North Korea despite international objections. An analysis conducted for the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies says the image shows trucks and fuel tanks, and work underway on the gantry next to a mobile launch pad. (AP Photo)

Threat Tuesday – NorKs in Spaaaaace!

Those wacky NorKs are going to try again to put a satellite in orbit. Gotta give them credit; they certainly don’t seem to want to give up even after their failure in 2009. They also are apparently trying to be public about this one too. Something to do with “transparency” and being a “respectable” member of the international community. North Korea? Ha!

AP Photo

In this March 20, 2012, satellite image taken and provided by GeoEye, a satellite launch pad in Tongchang-ri, Cholsan County, North Pyongan Province, North Korea, is shown. North Korea last week announced that scientists will send a satellite into space in April on the back of a long-range rocket. (AP Photo)

AP Photo

WIDE VIEW OF TOK101 OF MARCH 23, 2012 – In this March 20, 2012, satellite image taken and provided by GeoEye, a satellite launch pad, a white strip near a junction of three roads seen in the middle, in Tongchang-ri, Cholsan County, North Pyongan Province, North Korea, is shown. North Korea last week announced that scientists will send a satellite into space in April on the back of a long-range rocket. (AP Photo)

NorK 2009 Launch (SatNews)

Press reports are saying this will be a Taepo Dong 2 SLV. This may be the same rocket that the NorKs tried to launch in 2009. The major difference this time is the likely launch trajectory; almost due south according to the NorKs. This trajectory means they don’t have to fly over Japan to get to orbit – a small technicality that has previously upset the Japanese – and is also very useful for an “earth observation” mission like the NorKs have proclaimed.

The problem is that the US and it’s allies don’t see the Taepo Dong 2 as an SLV, but rather as an ICBM. In 2009, the National Aerospace Intelligence Center (NASIC) published their Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat Handbook where they made the case the Taepo Dong 2 is an ICBM. In particular, NASIC stated:

North Korea is developing the Taepo Dong 2 (TD-2) ICBM/SLV, which could reach the United States if developed
as an ICBM. Although both launches of the TD-2 ended in failure, the April 2009 flight demonstrated a more
complete performance than the July 2006 launch. North Korea’s continued progress in developing the TD-2 clearly
shows its determination to achieve long-range ballistic missile and space launch capabilities. The Taepo Dong 2
could be exported to other countries in the future.

That “export to other countries” is a worrisome part given the NorKs proclivity to sell arms to shadier nations of the world. The Taepo Dong 2 might be “old tech” but just how much technology do you need to lob a nuclear warhead at a city?

Threat Tuesday – KJU at Sea

Courtesy news.daylife.com

Seems like the Un’er has been visiting the Navy alot recently. First the East Coast, where he was regaled with stories of sinking American cruisers, and now on the West Coast.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un visits the Korean People’s Army Navy Unit 123 in an undisclosed location in this undated picture released by the North’s KCNA in Pyongyang March 10, 2012 (Rueters)

NK Leadership Watch has many more photos and breaks it down a bit more. KPA Navy Unit 123 is located on Cho’do (Cho Islet or Island). A quick check of GoogleEarth reveals several NorK naval platforms located here.

More importantly, this base feed combat power to the area of the Northern Limit Line, site of the Choenan sinking in March 2011. Given all the NorK rhetoric against South Korea, this visit has to be part of an overall propaganda campaign from Pyongyang.

Threat Tuesday – NorK “Green” Air Force

Courtesy Yonhap Photos

This still image taken from North Korea’s official Korean Central Television Broadcasting Station on Jan. 31, 2012 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-un taking a look at the cockpit of a plane during an inspection of the North’s Air Force unit 1017 honored with the title of the Oh Jung-hup-led Seventh Regiment. According to North Korean accounts, Oh Jung-hup was the commander of the seventh regiment of the North’s founder Kim Il-sung’s anti-Japanese guerrilla unit during the second half of the 1930s and was killed during combat with Japanese troops to safeguard the top commander, Kim Il-sung, in the spring of 1940. (Yonhap)

Kim Jong-Un at NKAF Unit 1017

That’s not a trick of the camera; the plane is actually green! In another view here, we can see that the plane actually has a very interesting paint scheme; green tones on the upper surfaces and blues/grays on the lower surfaces. This scheme is very similar to standard Soviet Air Force summer schemes of World War II.  Looks like the NorKs at least try to keep then antenna surfaces good for  transmitting. And look at the pilot in the brown leather flight suit!

The airplane appears to be an original 9.12 (NATO: MiG-29B Fulcrum-A) variant, most likely the downgraded 9.12B export variant North Korea was reported to have bought from Belarus in 1995. The NorKs are also known to operate the later 9.13 (MiG-29SE Fulcrum-C) with the enlarged dorsal spine.

What you DON'T want to see!

NorK Mig-29’s are rarely seen in public. The first (and maybe most famous occasion) was in 2003 when a NorK MiG-29 intercepted a USAF RC-135 over the Sea of Japan. The aircraft involved appeared to be a 9.13 armed with a drop tanks and what looks like R-60 (NATO: Aa-8 Aphid) short-range air-to-air missiles.

Threat Tuesday – NorK Plane P0rn

THE NORK KID continues touring his toy collection military forces. He started out with tanks and now he is on to airplanes.

Courtesy Yonhap News

In this footage from North Korea’s state television on Jan. 21, 2012, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un tours the nation’s air force unit 354. On Friday, the (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the new leader paid an inspection visit to air force unit 354 and army unit 3870, which were both honored with the title of “O Jung Hup-led Seventh Regiment.” The report marked the third time this year the state media has reported on its leader’s military visits as the young leader consolidates his power in the military-backed regime. (Yonhap)

Sure looks like an old Mig-19.  Let’s see what Wikipedia has to say:

On 20 April 1951, OKB-155 was given the order to develop the MiG-17 into a new fighter called “I-340“, which was to be powered by two Mikulin AM-5 non-afterburning jet engines (a scaled-down version of the Mikulin AM-3) with 19.6 kN (4,410 lbf) of thrust. The I-340 was supposed to attain 1,160 km/h (725 mph, Mach 0.97) at 2,000 m (6,562 ft), 1,080 km/h (675 mph, Mach 1.0) at 10,000 m (32,808 ft), climb to 10,000 m (32,808 ft) in 2.9 minutes, and have a service ceiling of no less than 17,500 m (57,415 ft). The new fighter, internally designated “SM-1“, was designed around the “SI-02” airframe (a MiG-17 prototype) modified to accept two engines in a side-by-side arrangement and was completed in March 1952.

Little long in the tooth, but not totally toothless:

During their service with Soviet Anti-Air Defense and in East Germany, MiG-19s were involved in multiple intercepts of Western reconnaissance aircraft. The first documented encounter with a Lockheed U-2 took place in the autumn of 1957. The MiG-19 pilot reported seeing the aircraft, but could not make up the 2,234 m (7,000 ft) difference in altitude. When Francis Gary Powers’s U-2 was shot down in the 1960 incident, one pursuing MiG-19P was also hit by the salvo of S-75 Dvina (NATO: SA-2 “Guideline”) missiles, killing the pilot Sergei Safronov. In a highly controversial incident, on 1 July 1960, a MiG-19 shot down an RB-47H (S/N 53-4281) reconnaissance aircraft in international airspace over the Arctic Circle with four of the crew killed and two captured by the Soviets (they were released in 1961). In another incident, on 28 January 1964, a MiG-19 shot down a T-39 Sabreliner which had strayed into East German airspace while on a training mission; all three crewmembers were killed.

The MiG-19 was also a mainstay of the North Vietnamese Air Force during that war:

In early 1969, Hanoi made the decision to strengthen its air defenses by creating a third jet fighter unit; the 925th Fighter Regiment. This unit would consist of late model MiG-17s and the newly acquired MiG-19s (nearly all of which were J-6s from the People’s Republic of China (PRC)). The regiment was established at Yen Bai, and by April 1969, nine combat-rated MiG-19 pilots were posted for combat duty. While some of North Vietnam’s MiG-17s and nearly all of their MiG-21s were supplied by the Soviet Union, the bulk of their MiG-19s (J-6 models) were supplied by the PRC, which seldom exceeded 54 MiG-19s in number.

The first use and loss of a U.S. fighter to a MiG-19 (J-6) was in 1965 when a USAF Lockheed F-104 Starfighter piloted by LTC Philip E. Smith was “bounced” by a People’s Liberation Army Air Force aircraft near Hainan Island. His Starfighter took cannon fire which damaged a portion of his wing and missile mount. Smith gave chase and did receive missile tone on the MiG, and within a millisecond of pressing his missile firing button, his Starfighter lost all power. He had to eject and was captured. Smith was held prisoner until released in 1972, coincidentally during U.S. President Richard Nixon’s visit to China in 1972.According to another source, Smith was released in 1973.

North Vietnam’s Air Force used the MiG-19 much later in the air war than the MiG-17 and the MiG-21. MiG-19s, despite their limited numbers, were involved in extensive combat during Operations Linebacker 1 and Linebacker 2 (aka the Christmas Bombing). The NVAF claimed only seven victories over US aircraft, using the MiG-19, all of which were F-4 Phantom IIs. Primarily because of the aircraft’s twin engines, which created a maintenance nightmare, the MiG-19 was not favored by North Vietnamese pilots. While the MiG-17 had maneuverability and the MiG-21 had speed, the MiG-19 had a combination of both, but not to the same degree as the others.North Vietnam used the MiG-19 from 1969 until the 1980s when it was replaced by newer aircraft.

Compared to the F-4 Phantom II however, although lacking mounts for air-to-air missiles, it had the one advantage that the early model Phantoms did not have: it was armed with a cannon. Confirmed aerial victories by MiG-19s while assigned to the 925th FR, which match US records occurred on: 10 May 1972 in which two F-4 Phantoms were shot down by MiG-19s flown by Pham Hung Son and Nguyen Manh Tung. Both NVAF victories over the F-4s were accomplished by cannon fire.Combat results of the 925th FR using MiG-19s, according to the North Vietnamese Air Force were: two F-4s on 8 May 1972; two F-4s on 10 May 1972; one F-4 on 18 May 1972; and two F-4s shot down on 23 May 1972;these losses were in exchange for 10 MiG-19s lost in aerial combat with US jets. The MiG-19 did make history in one manner however; on 2 June 1972 over the skies of North Vietnam, the MiG-19 has the inauspicious honor of being the first recorded jet fighter to be shot down in aerial combat by cannon fire at supersonic speeds, by a USAF F-4 Phantom.

The question is how does it compare to the ROKAF? KF-16s and F-15Ks should eat this one for lunch!