The world’s favorite naughty boy, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, showed off a some new naval toys this weekend. He watched a firepower demonstration where a “new” antiship cruise missile, which some in the press call the “KN-01”, was launched. The missile looks to be a near-copy of conventional Russian designs. If one looks close, you can see a radar reflector set up on the target (gotta make sure you get a hit for the big guy or you’ll end up a dead guy yourself).
While searching the ‘net for images of the new Chinese aircraft carrier I came across a Chinese blog concept for a ballistic missile-carrying submarine-aircraft carrier mothership. ‘Nuff said.
The US Air Force’s X-37B small spaceplane is scheduled to launch on 25 Oct. OTV-3 will mark the third flight of this secret system.
Of note, the South Koreans are scheduled to attempt to launch their KSLV-1 on 26 Oct.
For up-to-date tracking of launches see Spaceflight Now.
China is now officially an aircraft carrier-operating navy with the commissioning of Liaoning on 25 Sept 2012. Though much has been written, I direct you to Andrew Erickson’s column in the Wall Street Journal, “Introducing the ‘Liaoning’: China’s New Aircraft Carrier and What it Means.”
Andrew (and many others) point out that the Chinese have yet to meet a major milestone; landing aircraft on the deck. Just one day after being commissioned, photos appeared on the ‘net that may indicate that landings have already happened (see “Who left skidmarks on the flight deck of China’s new aircraft carrier?“)
But does China really need an aircraft carrier? Yet elsewhere in Foreign Policy is an argument entitled “Shipping Out: Are Aircraft Carriers Becoming Obsolete?“ I will be the first to say that the arguments put forth are very simple and the author shows little real understanding of naval matters; not to mention apparent ignorance of anti-ship ballistic missiles. For a far better analysis of the Chinese naval threat I recommend the latest edition of Ronald O’Rourke’s Congressional Research Service report China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities—Background and Issues for Congress. On the issues of China’s aircraft carriers, the report points out:
Although aircraft carriers might have some value for China in Taiwan-related conflict scenarios, they are not considered critical for Chinese operations in such scenarios, because Taiwan is within range of land-based Chinese aircraft. Consequently, most observers believe that China is acquiring carriers primarily for their value in other kinds of operations that are more distant from China’s shores, and to symbolize China’s status as a major world power. DOD states that “Given the fact that Taiwan can be reached by land-based aviation, China’s aircraft carrier program would offer very limited value in a Taiwan scenario and would require additional naval resources for protection. However, it would enable China to extend its naval air capabilities elsewhere.” (p. 20-21)
Regardless of the threat, it will be fun to play out a wargame scenario using Liaoning. Indeed, the Oct 2011 issue of The Naval SITREP from Clash of Arms featured a Harpoon scenario “The Wisdom of Shi Lang” (Shi Lang being what the west originally thought the carrier would be named).
Take a peek at this article over at the Foreign Policy website. Time to get Harpoon 4.1 out and start generating some scenarios! Hmm, Sea of Dragons was published in 1997. So much has changed an update is urgently needed.
If the author is right, and the key factor is the human equation of combat, then no wargame is going to accurately simulate the battles. Without very detailed (and despised) rules for when to break off combat most wargames are “fought to the death” or past the point where a rational commander would stop fighting.
The battleship USS Iowa approaches the Port of Los Angeles where it will become a floating museum in the San Pedro section of Los Angeles, California, May 30, 2012. The battleship USS Iowa served the United States for six decades and carried the late President Franklin Roosevelt across the Atlantic to his historic meeting with Winston Churchill and Josef Stalin in World War Two. Despite extensive repairs, the 887-foot gray dreadnought is being moved by tug from Richmond, California because a U.S. Navy contract forbids the powerful battleship to be fully operational outside of navy control. Reuters Pictures
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.
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?
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?)
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)
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!
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)
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)
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?