Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Missile Launch

7:03 PM/PDT

Spoke with a senior defense analyst, who's worked the NK missile program for years. According to this source, there were indications of possible problems with the TD-2's upper stage, or perhaps its payload, in the week before the launch. Those problems may have delayed launch plans for Pyongyang, although atmospheric conditions--and a desire to steal the media spotlight from the space shuttle--were contributing factors as well. At this point, it's unclear if the apparent, pre-launch problems were contributing factors in the TD-2 failure.


4:43 PM/PDT

Media outlets now reporting 6 missile launches, including a single TD-2. More launches could be in the offing. BTW, I'm hearing reports of possible problems with the TD-2 when it was still on the launch pad.

3:01 PM/PDT

Where did it land..that is the next question regarding today's TD-2 launch. With the long-range missile apparently failing 40 seconds into flight, it is possible that debris from the TD-2 fell on Russia. That may be why UN Ambassador John Bolton is pushing for immediate consultations on today's missile launch.

2:39 PM/PDT

U.S. military is confirming three missile tests...two short-range (probable SCUD) and one long-range, i.e. the TD-2. Early analysis indicates the missile "failed" 40 seconds into its flight. That would be within the intercept envelope for Aegis-equipped U.S. naval vessels in the Sea of Japan. However, there is no confirmation (yet) of any attempt to knock down the missile.

2:07 PM/PDT

News accounts as to what transpired in North Korea are all over the place. I've seen reports that North Korea fired four SCUD-type missiles; others suggest the TD-2 was also launched, and failed in mid-air. Time to take a breath, sit back and see what actually transpired. A combination SCUD/TD-2 launch is entirely possible, particularly if Pyongyang was trying to get the U.S.'s attention and/or confuse our collection assets and missile defense systems.


1:46 PM/PDT

Updated information indicates the two missiles fired by North Korea were not ballistic, suggesting that they were probably short-range anti-ship missiles, fired from coastal sites. Japanese sources indicate the missiles landed in the Sea of Japan. Cobra Ball typically doesn't cover anti-ship or cruise missile tests, although its unknown if that platform was on station today. The launch of two, non-ballistic missiles might have been part of a "firepower demonstration," perhaps a prelude to the TD-2 launch.


Fox and CNN are reporting that North Korea has test-fired a missile within the last 45 minutes. The missile was apparently NOT the long-range TD-2, which has been sitting on a launch pad for weeks. There had been speculation in the intelligence community that Pyongyang might launch a sort-range SCUD before firing the TD-2. Today's launch might have been intended to provoke a U.S. response, including flights by U.S. RC-135 reconnaissance aircraft. That, in turn, could allow the North to attempt an intercept or even a shoot-down of those platforms. On a less provocative scale, the first launch could be designed to put our "Cobra Ball" recce aircraft in a poor position to cover the TD-2 launch. Upper atmospheric winds are now reportedly favorable launch of the long-range missile.

There are no reports (yet) of any U.S. attempt to engage the missile. Details to follow.


John (Useful Fools) said...

What would it take to protect our recon aircraft? Can we fly fighters from Japan or SK? If NK swarmed that force with large numbers of fighters, it would start a much larger war.

Since it is obvious to everyone that recce aircraft are vulnerable, and the Norks have a history of grabbing recon assets (Pueblo, the ELINT aircraft shot down around the same time), what are our options.

BTW, Japan just (2025Z) reported a second missile fired.

John (Useful Fools) said...

Isn't it nice of the Norks to celebrate the Fourth of July by setting off fireworks?

Seriously, today is the *obvious* day for them to launch these things, since they desire attention. Hmmm... I wonder if my roof could take a hit from a re-entry vehicle?

Making The Wheels Turn said...

As serious as this is, it's actually kind of funny....

I really expect to see Bobby Lee (of MadTV), who does a pretty passible North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il, come out and start to spin this "successful launch" and how it has terrified all of us "Western Imperialists"....

Sometimes, I wonder if these guys really aren't just trying to "play the fool" so we let down our guard and forget how dangereous these guys can really be.

John (Useful Fools) said...

One wonders...

We might have the capability to jam the telemetry (although this would require very high power, or a platform in just the right place at the right time). That would produce amusing results. Hmmm...

The airborne laser would have done a good job on the thing during boost phase (when it failed), but that would have been a lot harder to keep secret.

John Dunshee said...

If they fell in the Sea of Japan, are they in international waters, and can we (or should we) recover them?

Red River said...

Cobra Ball is not the only recon asset in Theater.

The only operational F22 unit is in Alaska and there are B1s at Okinawa. Both can do recon and ECM. The F22 can fly very high and can engage at supersonic speeds.