“I agree with the intel community that we assess that they [the North Koreans] have the ability, they have the weapons, and they have the ability to miniaturize those weapons, and they have the ability to put them on a rocket that can range the [U.S.] homeland.” ~ Adm. William Gortney, Northcom Commander, responsible for defending the United States from long-range missile attack, in an October 8, 2015 address to the Atlantic Council.
On January 6, Pyongyang’s official media announced the successful detonation of a Hydrogen Bomb (H-Bomb) in time for Kim Jong Un’s upcoming birthday. The delighted newscasters even produced a handwritten directive purportedly from the “Great Leader” himself: “Let’s start 2016 with the thrilling sound of a first hydrogen bomb blast!”
Many have dismissed North Korea’s fourth nuclear test as a failure. See linked early Editorials by the Washington Post, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, which argue we should worry about the threat and point to the issues of proliferation, but largely dismiss North Korea’s claims of success with this test, based on immediate administration pronouncements. So far, the only alternate view I have seen reported is that of my colleague Dr. Peter Vincent Pry, in an article by Michael Maloof in World Net Dailey.
The New York Times, in reflecting views of many for rejecting North Korea’s claims, gave an immediate summary of reasons for doubting North Korea’s claims. However, I also would argue along with Peter, “Not so fast—there may be more than meets the eye!” Consider the following major misperception.
Among other things, the Times quoted the White House in stating that initial data from its monitoring stations in Asia were “not consistent” with a test of a hydrogen bomb — and referenced the 1971 U.S. detonation of a hydrogen bomb deep beneath the Alaskan tundra in 1971, which set off a colossal upheaval of rock and earth, a magnitude 6.8 seismic event.
In contrast, South Korea estimated that the bomb detonated on Wednesday was a magnitude 4.8 event — smaller even than the magnitude 4.9 reported after the North’s last nuclear test, in 2013. (This recent test was North Korea’s fourth over the past 9 years.)
The unmistakable implication is that H-Bombs involve much greater energy release than demonstrated by the recent North Korean test. And indeed they can. But that fact misses a key point—they need not!
In fact, much lower yield H-Bombs are potentially much more threatening than the “traditional application” of very high yield ones. And we should not ignore the fact that this recent test, like North Korea’s previous nuclear tests, could be of just such a weapon. To reinforce this contrary perspective, let’s take a short trip down memory lane.
The Neutron Bomb of the 1970s.
In the 1970s, I had the privilege of working with a number of patriots to consider how best to deter the Soviet Union — including as it threatened our allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), as well as the United States homeland. It was clear that the Soviets were not on the same strategic page with us.
Our arms control efforts — under the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) regime, including SALT I and the 1972 Antiballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty — failed to halt the Soviet build-up of its strategic forces. In reflecting on this fact and that we had discontinued modernization of our strategic nuclear forces, then Defense Secretary Harold Brown lamented, “We build, they build; we stop, they build.”
Furthermore, the growing Soviet-Warsaw Pact “Red Army” then was assessed to threaten an invasion of West Germany — e.g., with a heavy tank advance through the Fulda Gap (See below.); and the Soviets began deploying nuclear-armed intermediate range ballistic missiles — the SS-20s that threatened all our European allies. (The SS-20s prospectively also threatened our allies in the Far East, notably Japan.) U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Shy Meyer later testified the consequences of President Carter’s policies were that he was leading a “hollow army.” And our Air Force and Naval forces also were deteriorating. We were in a condition not unlike the current one.
That is the world that President Ronald Reagan inherited — and he withdrew the Carter administration’s SALT II Treaty (which the U.S. Senate never approved) and halted all negotiations until after his administration initiated a major strategic modernization program based on the 1970 studies mentioned above, as well as complementary efforts to restore our Army, Navy, Marine and Coast Guard forces to a viable fighting capability. As he wisely said, he wanted to negotiate from a position of strength. And so he did, with well-known successes that led to the end of the Soviet Union within a decade.
But I digress from my main message this week, which has to do with a low-yield thermo-nuclear weapon or H-Bomb, called a neutron bomb or enhanced radiation weapon (ERW). The concept for ERWs was invented years earlier (in the late 1950s) by a colleague in those studies of the 1970s that guided the Reagan Revolution, Sam Cohen. Regrettably, Sam passed in 2010 at age 89—or else I’m sure he would be engaged in this debate. See his very informative New York Times obituary, including references to his several books about the neutron bomb.
Suffice it to say that his ideas were tested in the 1960s, developed and deployed on the Safeguard ABM system (which was shutdown after a brief operational period in 1975 and dismantled) and exploited in the 1970s to help counter a Warsaw Pact invasion, developments in which he played a very significant role.
The basic idea was to attack the tank invasion with an ERW, which would kill the troops within the tanks without creating much physical damage. From Encyclopedia Britannica:
“The bomb might have a yield, or explosive strength, of only one kiloton, a fraction of the 15-kiloton explosion that devastated Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945. Its blast and heat effects would be confined to an area of only a few hundred metres in radius, but within a somewhat larger radius of 1,000–2,000 metres the fusion reaction would throw off a powerful wave of neutron and gamma radiation. High-energy neutrons, though short-lived, could penetrate armour or several metres of earth and would be extremely destructive to living tissue. Because of its short-range destructiveness and the absence of long-range effects, the neutron bomb might be highly effective against tank and infantry formations on the battlefield but might not endanger nearby cities or other population centres. It could be launched on a short-range missile, fired by an artillery piece, or possibly delivered by a small aircraft.”
In the 1970s, the ERW/neutron bomb was ready for full development and deployment (e.g., as the Lance short-range missile warhead—see below). Whether to actually deploy it became a political “hot potato” heavily debated in the United States and especially in West Germany during the re-election campaign of Chancellor Helmut Schmidt.
Finally, Chancellor Schmidt was re-elected and he approved the deployment in 1978 — only to be embarrassed when President Carter then reversed his earlier advocacy and rejected its deployment. Later, President Reagan again sought deployment as part of his efforts to confront the growing Soviet threat — and this time Chancellor Schmidt rejected it. See the February 4, 1981 New York Times account of this sad history. The fully developed ERW went in the stockpile, eventually to be dismantled by the Bush-41 administration after the end of the Cold War.
Implications for Interpreting North Korea’s Recent Test.
So . . . what is my point in telling this tale?
Note the size of the payload on the above Lance short-range missile, intended to carry the ERW/neutron bomb . . . and wonder for a moment: “Is there any technical challenge for placing an ERW on the front end of a longer-range ballistic missile . . . or on a satellite?” Just an appeal to the common sense of non-technical ordinary Americans, if not the “powers that be” in Washington who are ignoring this threat.
According to a list of all U.S. nuclear weapons, the yield of the Lance W-70 warhead might range between 1 and 100 kilotons, with the lower end of the range associated with the neutron bomb capability advocated by Sam Cohen. Bear in mind that Russia, China, France, Israel, and others have the above-discussed decades-old knowledge to design and develop ERWs. And recall that the Little Boy atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima involved only a 13 kilotons yield.
Moreover, the electromagnetic pulse (EMP) from less than a 100 kiloton high altitude burst could cover most of the United States with devastating consequences. And if the ERW were designed to maximize gamma ray production rather than neutrons, a much smaller-yield ERW could be as, if not more, consequential. Even from yields as low as North Korea’s four underground tests over the past decade.
This ERW technology no doubt is the basis of Russia’s Super-EMP weapon discussed by Russian generals with the EMP Commissioners in 2004, according to Dr. Peter Vincent Pry in his January 6, 2016 Newsmax article “N. Korea’s H-Bomb EMP Threat to US.” Most important, the generals’ main purpose was to warn that “design information on their Super-EMP weapon had ‘accidentally’ leaked to North Korea.”
Thus — they said — North Korea could develop a Super-EMP weapon “in a few years.”
That was over a decade and four North Korean underground nuclear tests ago — all of low yield, a signature of an ERW designed to maximize the electromagnetic pulse produced by the interaction of the bomb’s gamma radiation with the Earth’s geomagnetic field. And Peter lists several additional reasons that the Russian generals’ warning, repeated subsequently, should be taken seriously — indeed should have been taken seriously years ago.
Hopefully, our intelligence community knows things I don’t, and perhaps they are justified in ignoring the possibly that this recent North Korean test was of a Super-EMP weapon. But the intelligence community has been wrong before, and we have been rudely surprised.
In my opinion, prudence demands that we should take seriously that the possible EMP threat from North Korea may be nearer term than we have so-far credited them — especially since that possibility currently poses an existential threat to the United States.
As I have urged repeatedly since High Frontier first brought up the EMP threat from North Korea in our December 20, 2012 message—which referenced an early Washington Times article by Peter Pry, we should take immediate initiatives to end our vulnerability to North Korean ERW threats — whether from a ballistic missile launched from a vessel off our coasts, especially from the Gulf of Mexico, or against a satellite detonated ERW as it passes over the United States.
Our September 22, 2015 message summarizes what we should do ASAP re. the satellite threat from the South — and our October 13, 2015 message reported that the Commander of Northern Command Admiral William Gortney emphasized that this threat was urgent and so we again recommended “quick fixes.” Still, to the best of my knowledge, the “powers that be” have done nothing and continue to court disaster.
In addition to the “quick fixes” for countering the satellite threat, we should defend against ballistic missiles launched from vessels off our coasts, especially from the Gulf of Mexico. See our December 15, 2015 message for my most recent discussion of this possibility. No research and development is required, just funding (and direction) to deploy at several military bases around the Gulf of Mexico the same Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense (BMD) system that is now operating in Romania and which is scheduled to be operational in Poland in 2018. This message also summarizes other ways that Aegis BMD can be employed to counter EMP threats.
In considering the off-shore threat, note that North Korea recently claimed to have successfully launched a ballistic missile from a submarine (Click here for North Korea’s video of the launch.). Of course, they could just as well launch an EMP attack from a surface vessel like the one over two years ago that the Panamanians caught smuggling two nuclear delivery-capable SA-2s from Cuba. (See our July 19, 2013 message.)
What About Iran?
Whatever North Korea does, Iran seems sure to follow. They are strategic partners. If they have not already arranged to share the needed technology for building nuclear weapons — including an ERW capability, they can be expected to purchase it. Reportedly, Iranian scientists have been present at North Korean nuclear tests, and North Korean scientists are in Iran, helping them develop long-range missiles, and perhaps their “final solution” for America.
Incredibly, the Obama administration will enable — potentially accelerate — this likely event under its recent terrible nuclear deal with Iran, unless something happens to block the removal of a reported $150 billion in sanctions that will provide Iran with ample funding to trade with North Korea.
The Obama administration is intent to execute this unsigned, unverifiable executive agreement that legitimizes an Iranian pathway to nuclear weapons. However, some Democrats are reportedly getting cold feet, given that Iran again demonstrated its disdain for keeping its agreements with two nuclear capable ballistic missile launches that violated United Nations resolutions with which they had concurred.
Moreover, given the aspirations of Secretary John Kerry’s unwise concessions (for which we got nothing) Iran recently provocatively launched rockets within a mile of the USS Harry S Truman in the Strait of Hormuz. Peace in our time, you think???? (Note: Not a single Republican voted to sustain President Obama veto of an Act to block the deal—which should have been a treaty requiring support from an acknowledged unachievable vote of support from two-thirds of the Senate.)
But unless something fundamental changes, Iran will get the bomb and present the same threat to the “Great Satan” America as posed by North Korea. Shia Iran’s concurrent threat to the “Little Satan” Israel also is looming and the prospects for many Sunni nations in the Middle East contribute to the growing instabilities of the Middle East.
Notably, we are pursuing the same failed pathway with Iran that we followed with North Korea — probably to the same end. President Bill Clinton’s “Framework Agreement,” which he promised would terminate North Korea’s nuclear program — and its continuation ever since, had little effect on North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons. It seems we are slow learners.
The countermeasures we adopt to protect the American people from North Korea can be logically extended also to protect us from Iran — with one important difference.
We can assume with some justification that traditional deterrence will work with North Korea’s Dear Leader. In my opinion, I do not believe that to be the case with Iran’s Ayatollah, who may be willing to accept our retaliation if he believes he can kill most Americans and establish a global caliphate extending from the Middle East — all to hasten the return of the Mahdi, you see.
Among other things needed to re-establish some degree of global stability, we must persuade the “powers that be” to counter the growing existential EMP threat! Stay tuned . . .
Since the National Defense Authorization Act for 2016 reinstated the EMP Commission, this year can be very important in providing the Commissioners with ample information on the plans and programs that have been initiated or are being initiated to protect the electric grid against all threats. This information, coupled with an evaluation on what has been accomplished since the last Commission report (in 2008), should enable Commissioners to provide important advice to the leaders in congress and the executive branch on what can be done to expedite the protection of the American people against this existential threat to the electric grid.
Urgently needed is a serious assessment of all aspects of the threat to the electric power grid. It would be best for administration “powers that be” to provide a workable architecture for Commissioners to evaluate along with assessing the progress being made toward providing needed protections for all Americans.
Pray for better leadership this year. We have been here before, most recently with the “malaise” of the late 1970s — with Ronald Reagan at the helm, we made our way back to an America that made us proud. Pray we can find a way to repeat that return to the American dream that has previously stirred so many — and kept us free.
Include a prayer that we preserve this the greatest nation in History for our posterity.
And stay tuned!!!
Near Term High Frontier Plans.
We will continue to inform our readers of the looming threats we confront — and where appropriate urge them to engage in countering that threat. We will press for building the most cost-effective ballistic missile defenses possible and working with South Carolina folks to build a coalition to engage constructively with private citizens and their local and state representatives and other authorities to work with the SC National Guard in understanding and responding to the existential threats to the electric power grid.
We are especially focused on the nuclear power reactors that produce 60-percent of SC electricity—and more generally 20-percent of the nation’s electricity. If it can be assured that they “operate through” a major blackout of the electric power grid — and I believe it can, then these reactors can play a very important role for resurrecting the grid over an extended time and supporting the general public’s survival in the meantime.
What can you do?
Join us in praying for our nation, and for a rebirth of the freedom sought, achieved and passed to us by those who came before us.
Help us to spread our message to the grass roots and to encourage all “powers that be” to provide for the common defense as they are sworn to do.
Begin by passing this message to your friends and suggest they visit our webpage www.highfrontier.org, for more information. Also, please encourage your sphere of influence to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter.
Encourage them to review our past email messages, posted on www.highfrontier.org, to learn about many details related to the existential manmade and natural EMP threats and how we can protect America against them. I hope you will help us with our urgently needed efforts, which I will be discussing in future messages.
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