As the clock winds down on the near-term destiny of the terrible Nuclear Deal with Iran, a long-standing threat from Iran’s ally, North Korea, again raises its ugly head. Will we pay attention? Or also continue to ignore it and its ties to Iran?
Last Tuesday, North Korea threatened to use nuclear weapons “any time” against the United States because of its “reckless hostile policy,” in concert with announcing plans to restart its nuclear production operations. Concurrently, Kim Jong Un’s regime announced preparations to launch a long-range rocket, perhaps to be highlighted in the anticipated October 10th military parade associated with the 70th anniversary of its Communist Workers Party.
Maybe A Bigger, Badder Threat?
Whatever . . . the U.S. is watching developments at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station, where a new larger building suggests possible launch of a longer-range missile than the Unha-3 first used to launch a satellite on December 12, 2012. These recent operations seem designed to limit observation of what is being done.
The Sohae Satellite Launching station is about a 2-hour drive from Yongbyon, North Korea’s major facility for producing nuclear fuel, where new operations are alleged to have begun.
These and related reports focus on the role that the rockets used to launch satellites can be used to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), which is of course a possibility. However, there is an even more ominous possibility, that should not be ignored—as seems to be the usual case.
A satellite could carry a nuclear weapon over the south polar region to be detonated over the United States to produce an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) causing a loss of electricity that would send America back to the 19th century without that period’s agrarian societal support—most Americans would die within a year from starvation, sickness and societal collapse.
Furthermore, these developments should not be separated from considerations of a nuclear Iran—which, barring some unforeseen development, soon will be receiving an infusion of over $100-billion—some of which could be used to “outsource” worldwide terrorist operations, not the least of which might involve its strategic ally North Korea.
Didn’t We See This Play Before?
Almost a year ago—on October 8, 2014, my High Frontier message dealt with this very same issue. Indeed, it quoted reports that suggested that a larger missile might have been launched from Sohae by the end of 2014.
So, it’s “Déjà, vu all over again,” to quote Yogi Berra—but now on the heels of the terrible deal President Obama and the Democrats are making for the America people. I will excerpt from that message to focus in a more pointed way on what is now an apparent and possibly unfolding existential threat to all we hold dear—and to which our leaders still seem as oblivious as then.
A satellite launched from Sohae would simply repeat North Korea’s December 2012 satellite launch from the same site, using its Unha-3 rocket, which—by the way—could carry a nuclear weapon. So a new larger rocket is not needed for this mission. What would we do? Indeed, what could we do? High Frontier has emphasized this vulnerability for the past couple of years, to no apparent effect.
The figure below, from our August 25, 2014 message, illustrates the Unha-3 launch trajectory on the left. Note the short distance to first stage burnout, when a boost-phase intercept is most feasible. The right hand section summarizes an interception strategy to counter the threat—if only we take advantage of our existing ballistic missile defense (BMD) capabilities in an intelligent way, as concurrently alluded to in an Investor’s Business Daily article that I co-authored with Dr. Robert L. Pfaltzgraff a year ago.
What To Do . . . First Improve What We Have!
As, previously argued, our Aegis BMD crews, if authorized, prepared and located on a ship near the Sohae Satellite Launching Station, could use the SM-2 Block IV air defense interceptor to shoot down the satellite launcher during its boost phase. The North Korean launcher is particularly vulnerable while its boosters are burning and it is accelerating, especially during its first stage burn. (See the above figure to get a feeling for possible locations for the Aegis BMD ship near the coast of South Korea.)
Software modifications might be required to intercept a rocket moving upward rather than a rocket moving more horizontally to attack the Navy’s ships—but there is no physics reason why this cannot be accomplished. Needed software modifications should take no longer than those in 2008 that enabled the Navy’s SM-3 interceptor to shoot down a satellite—in something on the order of 6-weeks after President Bush’s go-ahead decision. Click here for an impressive USG video of that important “Burnt Frost” operation.
But the authorization for the crew to accomplish such an intercept presents a serious operations challenge. There simply is not time for the ship’s Captain to consult with his chain of command before physics demands that he must launch his SM-2 interceptor to accomplish an intercept. That authorization must be delegated to him in advance—and he must be ready to act immediately.
Delegate Authority To Shoot!
To aid in gaining such pre-delegation, Dr. Pfaltzgraff and I recommended a diplomatic initiative—the President should announce that unless the North Koreans agree to permit an inspection of the planned payload for such a southern satellite launch, we will shoot it down.
We could indicate a willingness to have the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) accomplish this inspection—perhaps using the technology tools used to verify the START and INF Treaties negotiated with the former Soviet Union in the 1980s and 90s. (Since the administration is committed to accept the IAEA to verify the Nuclear Deal with Iran, this mission should be a piece of cake.)
After the Unha-3 (or another rocket) gains sufficient speed, a nearby Aegis BMD system will no longer be able to shoot it down because it will be moving away faster than the Standard Missile interceptors can catch up. Intercept opportunities then may exist from ships further away—then via a “side shot” of the orbiting satellite as in the 2008 Burnt Frost shoot-down.
(As discussed in the above linked video, the Aegis BMD SM-3 Block IA interceptor was the system of choice to shoot down a dying satellite that threatened to spread toxic fuel over U.S. and other cities. As the SM-3 is modernized, its capability will improve.)
To accomplish that objective additional sensor information would be most helpful if not essential—and a radar site in the Philippines could provide that help. The above figure illustrates how the North Korean satellite overflies the Philippines.
Deploy TPY-2 Radar In The Philippines.
The TPY-2 radar, now in production for deployment with the Army’s Theater High Altitude Area Defense—THAAD (which does not have the range capability of the SM-3) and the Aegis Ashore sites in Romania and Poland, would be most helpful. Such joint U.S.-Philippine operations would constitute a worthy diplomatic initiative.
The administration could engage the Philippine government in the context of the April 28, 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the U.S. and Philippines. Click here for our May 8, 2014 discussion of this diplomatic opportunity, and here for an additional brief analysis of its terms.
With this TPY-2 radar information and data from other sensors—including our space systems and Aegis ships in the Pacific, our Aegis BMD ships may have a shot at the threat satellite before it overflies U.S. territory. Like Burnt Frost in 2008.
Finally, the ground-based missile defense (GMD) system on Vandenberg Air Force Base, California can exploit this same sensor data to take a shot at the approaching North Korean satellite before it overflies U.S. territory.
An Adjunct Plan—Stop It On the Launch Pad.
An adjunct to the above steps should be to prepare to destroy the satellite launch vehicles on their launch pads—as former Defense Secretary William Perry and our current Defense Secretary Ashton Carter originally recommended in their June 8, 2008 Washington Post article, then to deal with North Korean nuclear-armed ICBM threat.
So, Secretary Carter well understands the key issues and is well placed to do something now from his position of authority, not just an “outsider” co-author of a Washington Post article. He should understand that EMP from a southward launched nuclear armed satellite is much more dangerous than from North Korea’s ICBM threat, for which we have deployed at least a limited defense.
And Don’t Forget Iran!
Remember Iran also has launched satellites to the south, as recently as this past February—Click here and here. So Iran has alternate ways to deliver on Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei’s pledge echoed by the chants of his followers: “Death to America,” even as Iran’s “hardliners” allegedly consider whether they will accept the Nuclear Deal.
And remember that the alleged Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is a very bad deal, illustrated by how it was received by Iran, before the congress had completed considering its merits. For example, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, declared that Israel would no longer exist in 25 years—and his announcements were met with cheers from the Mullahs and their followers: “Death to America.”
We should keep track of the names of all who supported this Deal with Iran for posterity’s disdain. And as Andy McCarthy points out, there are also Republicans whose names belong on this list.
Near Term High Frontier Plans.
Whatever the outcome of the continuing efforts to defeat the very bad Iran Nuclear Deal in the near term, we will continue pressing 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, they can play a very important role for resurrecting it over an extended time and supporting the general public’s survival in the meantime. Click here to see a recent Washington Examiner article to infer the urgent importance of assuring this capability for our nuclear power reactors.
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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