Threat Tuesday – KJU at Sea


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 – Loss of USS Baltimore – NOT!

In the Navy! (Courtesy AP Photos)

In this undated photo released by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) and distributed in Tokyo by the Korea News Service on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, second left, rides a boat when he visited Unit 158 of the navy of the North Korean People’s Army. (AP Photo)

The NorK Kid continues his toy travels inspection tours of various military units. Not unusual, but thanks to North Korea Leadership Watch we get a few more details. Here Kim Jong Un is visiting Combined Unit 597. Later in the same day he visited Unit 158 of the Korean People’s Army Navy. A very famous units, as KCNA tells us, because it sank CA-68 USS Baltimore.

According to KCNA:

The history of the development of the unit is recorded with feats which strikingly demonstrated the might of the KPA Navy by sinking or destroying a lot of enemy warships including the battle results unprecedented in the world history of naval battles KPA navymen achieved by sinking the U.S. imperialist heavy cruiser “Baltimore” with just four torpedo boats in the naval battle in Jumunjin during the Fatherland Liberation War.

NorK Propaganda Poster (Wikipedia)

The NorKs apparently even have a display in a museum in Pyongyang which claims the same.

Poor “Engrish” aside (a nearly 70-word sentence), the above is a great example of NorK delusional propaganda. The battle referenced is better known as the Battle of Chumonchin Chan which took place on 2 July 1950. As the Naval Historical Center tells it:

In the early hours of July 2, as the allied fleets converged on Korea, U.S. cruiser Juneau, British cruiser Jamaica, and British frigate Black Swan discovered 4 torpedo boats and 2 motor gunboats of the North Korean navy that had just finished escorting ten craft loaded with ammunition south along the coast in the Sea of Japan. The outgunned North Korean torpedo boats turned and gamely pressed home a torpedo attack, but before they could launch their weapons, the Anglo-American flotilla ended the threat; only one torpedo boat survived U.S.-British naval gunfire to flee the scene. After this one-sided battle and for the remainder of the war, North Korean naval leaders decided against contesting control of the sea with the UN navies. The surviving units of the North Korean navy eventually took refuge in Chinese and Soviet ports.

Victorious KPA Navy - or just a Survivor? (Wikipedia)

So let me get this straight; USS Baltimore was not involved and three NorK torpedo boats were sunk. Yet the fourth boat is heralded as the victor in that same Pyongyang museum.

All this makes one wonder just what stories the young NorKster is being told and what he really believes. Is this really just propaganda for the masses? Does Kim Jong Un believe it? Is he inclined to act based on interpretations of history like this? Has he already done so? All the more interesting in light of reports that Kim Jong Un masterminded the sinking of 26 March 2011 sinking of the ROK Navy ship PCC-772 Choenan.



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!

Threat Tuesday – Can I Drive?

Where do I get the keys? (AP Photo)

In this undated image made from KRT video, North Korea’s new young leader Kim Jong Un appears from a military vehicle at an undisclosed place in North Korea, aired Sunday, Jan. 8, 2012. Kim Jong Un, who was named “supreme leader” of North Korea’s people, ruling Workers’ Party and military following the death last month of his father, Kim Jong Il, was shown observing firing exercises and posing for photographs with soldiers in footage that was shot before his father’s death and aired as a documentary Sunday.(Daylife – AP Photo)

It certainly looks like the NorK propaganda machine is working hard to portray the newest youngster dictator as a vibrant, happening kinda guy. Gone are the days of the Jonger simply walking  around on an inspection. The kid at least climbs around his toys.

But just how much is he in charge? According the the NorK propaganda machine, he was making go-to-war decisions since at least 2009:

Ominously, the younger Kim is also seen shaking hands with officials at a satellite control centre after scientists launched a missile test in April 2009 – and saying he was ready to declare war if the missile had been shot down.

That test firing stoked regional tensions and earned North Korea international sanctions and condemnation.

‘I had decided to wage a real war if the enemies shot down’ the rocket, Kim Jong Un was quoted as saying.

A voice-over described Kim Jong Il as saying his son was in charge of the military’s anti-rocket interception operations at the time.

North Korea has said it successfully sent a satellite into orbit as part of a peaceful bid to develop its space program. U.S. and South Korean officials, however, said no satellite or other object reached orbit, and accused the North of using the launch to test its long-range missile technology.

At the time, Japan had threatened to shoot down any debris from the rocket if the launch went awry. U.S. lawmakers also urged their military to shoot the rocket down. (The Daily Mail)

Threat Tuesday – Jonger Was a Navy Man


The late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il (C) inspects a navy vessel in this undated picture released by KCNA December 26, 2011. Kim Jong-il, who ruled isolated and impoverished North Korea from 1994, died on December 17, 2011, according to the state’s media. (Reuters)

Given the photo was released after his death we are forced to assume that one of the Jongers last acts was to visit a navy base somewhere. Build morale; make them feel important. Note the open-top turrets and the general lack of electronics. The seemingly dark-grey paint scheme may work in twilight against a dark landmass. But really, no matter how you cut it, this is still a 1940’s-era boat.

Threat Tuesday – Mighty Midgets for the Short Guy in Pyongyang

OR so says the Chosun Ilbo:

South Korean patrol boats and corvettes are able to detect a mere 30 percent of submarines at a time when North Korea is increasing the frequency of submarine infiltration drills.

The article continues in typical Korean fashion; many statistics with little background. The problem with so many of the Korean numbers is there is no real basis or understanding the measurement. What is an “exercise?” Are they counting individual subs or days? For instance, if you have two subs out for two days, is it 2 exercises (2x subs), 4 exercises (2x subs x2 days) or what.

There is also a bit of intel “I’m telling you now so you can’t blame me latter” going on here:

This year’s submarine exercises in the West Sea were reportedly concentrated between June and August. “There’s a likelihood that the North will seek a chance for provocation as a lot of North Korean and Chinese fishing boats are busy in the West Sea during the blue crab harvest season” that began in early September, Shin said.

Take a look at the geography and oceanography of the Northwest Islands some time. Makes for a very interesting Harpoon scenario!

The definition of a midget submarine is also interesting. The NorKs have apparently been developing semi-submersible craft with torpedoes. This is part of the detection challenge the article alludes to.


Threat Tuesday – The Jonger Dreams of Clancy

Well, not really Tom Clancy but Larry Bond. Remember Mr. Bond’s 1989 book Red Phoenix? In the book, the North Koreans have advanced weaponry like KILO-class submarines and FULCRUM fighters flown by Russians. Looks like the Jonger wants to make it a reality. According to the Chosun Ilbo:

It is rare that an Air Force chief accompanies Kim on an overseas trip. “This is decisive proof that one of the goals of Kim Jong-il’s visit was to buy new fighter jets from Russia,” a source familiar with North Korean affairs said.

What an interesting scenario; norK Sukhoi’s up against ROK F-15K’s. But it looks like the Jonger will be “shot down”…again;

Visiting China in May, Kim also asked Chinese President Hu Jintao to sell him up-to-date J-10 and J-11 stealth fighters, only to be rejected again.

Threat Tuesday – Reconsidering the J-20

J-20 in Flight (

After a few weeks and the apparent first test flight of the J-20, some of the initial “drama” is settling down.  I am loathe to say that the initial analysis was “alarmist” or “sensationalist” but time does allow one to step back and consider factors that may not have been recognized in the initial euphoria/fear reaction.

Gabe Collins and Andrew Erickson over at China Signpost have taken those few moments and reconsidered the J-20.  Their analysis can be found here.  Read it all.  For you lazy ones who like previews, here are the key judgments:

–China’s J-20 fighter has the potential to be a formidable air combat system in the Asia-Pacific region, but a number of technical hurdles will need to be overcome before mass production can commence.

–Key technical capabilities that we await demonstration of are thrust vectoring, sensor fusion, active electronically scanned radars, and a higher level of tanker and AWACS support. Operating a low-observable aircraft also requires major maintenance inputs.

–The Chinese aerospace industry is making rapid technical progress, but the ability to build late-generation, supercruise-capable engines issue in particular will be a key bottleneck that helps decide the J-20’s initial operational capability (IOC) date as a true stealth platform.

Threat Tuesday – J-20 First Flight and Combat Thoughts

So just what do we call the new Chinese stealthy fighter?  Conventional nomenclature calls for it to be named J-XX, the XX being a yet-to-be-identified number.  Many in the West have taken to calling it the J-20.

Just as interesting is the aircraft nickname.  It appears Chinese bloggers may have been the first to tag the aircraft with the nickname “Black Eagle.”  A black eagle is a Asian bird of prey; certainly fitting for a cutting-edge Chinese fighter.  However, I cannot help but laugh that some American bloggers have taken to referring to the plane as the “Chengdu Chicken.”

Being a wargamer, I am curious how to simulate the airplane in a combat scenario.  The recently published Clash of Arms game Persian Incursion has a simple yet demonstrative air combat system as well as the American F-22 and F/A-18 E/F as well as the Chinese J-10 and J-11A (Su-27 Flanker copy).  So let’s play a little what if….

In the game, if a J-10 tries to shoot down an F-22 it can use the PL-12 Active Radar Homing (ARH) or PL-8 Infrared Homing (IRH) missiles.  Although the PL-12 can usually engage a target in “BVR Zone 3” – ranging from 31-40nm, against a Stealthy target it cannot engage until it gets to “BVR Zone 2” (21-30nm) because it cannot see the target.  At this range, the game rates the PL-12 with a 15% chance of a hit.  If using a PL-8 IRH missile, an engagement must take place within the “Dogfight Zone” at a range of 10nm or less.  Here, the PL-8 is credited with a mere 2% chance of a hit.

On the other hand, an F-22 trying to shot down a J-10 can use its AIM-120C-7 ARH missiles at a range of 41-50nm with a 75% chance of a kill.  In a dogfight, the AIM-9M IRH can be used with a 50% chance.   In a F-22 vs J-10 dogfight, the F-22 has a tremendous advantage.

But if you must engage a stealthy target – like the J-20 – the AIM-120C-7 can engage no further out than 21-30nm or the same range a PL-12 can engage your stealthy F-22.

Now we don’t know what sensor suite is on the J-20.  It may not be that advanced, like  Airpower Australia points out:

The intended sensor suite remains unknown. China has yet to demonstrate an AESA radar, or an advanced indigenous Emitter Locating System (ELS). However, these could become available by the time this airframe enters production. Suitable Russian hardware is currently in late development and/or test.

The problem is the Chinese may be able to offset their poor airborne sensor with ground-based systems.  Again, from Airpower Australia:

In the Western world, most intellectual and development effort in air defence radar and missiles since 1991 has been concentrated into two discrete areas, specifically to provide TMD (Theatre Ballistic Missile Defence) capabilities at the upper end, and C-RAM (Counter Rocket Artillery Mortar) capabilities at the lower end. Capabilities to intercept and destroy high performance low observable aircraft and guided munitions have received little if any attention.

Conversely, Russia has since 1991 invested most of its intellectual and material effort in air defence radar and missile development into two very different areas. At the upper tier, counter-stealth radars exploiting VHF-band technology have been developed and some exported, while at the lower end, the focus has been firmly on providing C-PGM (Counter-PGM) capabilities to defeat Western smart munitions. China has followed the Russian lead in IADS capability development, with indigenous and imported Russian technology.

So there is a good chance that if the J-20 was to come out and fight, our air defenses may not know it is there until the Chinese missile hit.

Interpolating some of the data in Persian Incurison, an F/A-18E/F taking on a J-20 would get to trade shots at the same initial range, 21-30nm. The FA-18 would have something like a 20% chance of getting the J-20 (assuming the stealth is not quite as good as the F-22) whereas the J-20 has a 60-85% chance of getting the FA-18.

Hmm…wouldn’t want to be Hornet driver in that scenario….