North Korean missiles are fakes?
Posted: 27 April 2012 10:15 PM   [ Ignore ]
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http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-17867174

New ICBM missiles at North Korea parade ‘fake’

Earlier this month at a parade in Pyongyang, the North Korean authorities caught the attention of a number of western experts by displaying what appeared to be six road-mobile inter-continental ballistic missiles.

It was the first time that this system had been seen in public and it appeared to mark yet another step forward in North Korea’s ambitious missile development programme.

But now, after a careful study of pictures from the parade, a team of German arms experts thinks the missiles are not quite what they seem.

The North Korean authorities clearly intended the parade to impress onlookers with a display of military might.

The six new long-range missiles carried on top of massive, wheeled transporter vehicles certainly provoked interest.

For a start many analysts wondered where these giant vehicles had come from.

There were strong indications that they may actually have been supplied by a Chinese company. Beijing might well be embarrassed to be seen to be supporting Pyongyang’s missile development programme.

But now attention has switched back to the missiles themselves, for, after a careful study of images from the parade, two German missile experts, Markus Schiller and Robert Schmucker, have published a paper suggesting that the North Korean missiles are fakes - elaborate mock-ups and not the real thing.

‘Something wrong’

Markus Schiller explained why the North Korean parade had aroused his suspicions.

“If you take a close look at the displayed missiles,” he said, “there are many details that are plainly wrong, indicating that there might be something wrong with the whole programme.

“Missiles are highly complex weapons. Unlike a satellite launcher, you do not build a prototype that you launch once and then incorporate all the lessons learned into the next prototype.

“With missiles, you produce a whole batch of identical systems, usually with a proven design. Otherwise you have no idea whether the weapon will really work when push comes to shove.

“The displayed missiles all have minor differences in detail that add up to major differences in configuration and design. You will never see this in real missiles,” he said.

His conclusion: The missiles paraded by the North Koreans were mock-ups and for now at least, Pyongyang does not have a functioning intercontinental ballistic missile.

A detailed analysis of the weapons show several problem areas. For one thing, there is no obvious line of separation between the warhead and the third stage of the missile.

There are also basic questions about how it is fuelled. At first glance it looks like a solid-fuel system, which is what you would expect for a road-mobile system.

“But,” Markus Schiller said, “you can see markings on the stages that look like propellant fill or drain valves - you don’t have that for solid-fuelled rockets. And so far, all of the bigger North Korean missiles were liquid-fuelled.

“The technology is totally different, perhaps comparable to a piston engine and a gas turbine, or an electric motor. Therefore, it seems consistent that this missile is liquid-fuelled, and not solid-fuelled.

But he adds: “As long as we have never seen one of these missiles lift off, there still is a third possibility: The missile is neither liquid- nor solid-fuelled. There simply is no missile.”

‘Common practice’

In fairness, the two German experts do note that showing mock-ups of weapons at parades is not an exclusively North Korean deception.

Markus Schiller said that in a way, he was surprised at people’s surprise.

“Showing mock-ups at parades actually is a common practice,” he said. “We know that only inert training devices were presented at East German parades, and I am pretty sure that they did exactly as they had learned from their Soviet brothers.

“You also see mock-ups at parades in Iran or Pakistan, for example. The missiles that North Korea displayed in 2010 - the Musudan and the Nodong - also were mock-ups, but of even worse quality than the new KN-08 mock-ups.”

So, why show such mock-ups at all?

“Because real missiles are precious and could be damaged during parades,” Markus Schiller said.

But another motive, he suggests, might be quite explicitly “to change some details and drive the other side’s analysts crazy, or to pretend that you have something that you actually don’t have. There is a very long history of this last aspect.”

Other analysts agree that North Korea has shown mock-ups of missiles in the past, but that eventually this technology has appeared in real weapons.

So are the six dubious missiles trundled out in this month’s parade a pointer to what may be coming, or an elaborate ruse to confuse western defence analysts?

Either way, the North Koreans have certainly attracted those experts’ attention.

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Posted: 28 April 2012 01:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I read that article myself, thought it was quite interesting. As it points out, trying to decieve your potential enemies with a show of military strength is nothing new. My late Grandad, old soldier, who loved telling stories from his past, told me a that in the North African Theatre of the Second World War it was common on both sides to use all sorts of props to make the enemy think your forces were stronger than they were, to deter an attack or alternatively weaker in certain areas (to encourage attacks where the line was actually strong, rather than where the enemy actually had a fighting chance of a breakthrough.)

Among their tricks were to build wood and canvas, or rubber inflatable, tanks, vehicles and aircraft etc, which to an enemy reconnaisance aircraft’s crew would look enough like the real thing to be photographed and reported as such. Similarly, big, wood and canvas shields were erected over some lorries to make them look like tanks, and over some tanks to make them look like lorries as they drove around. Not only that, but small convoys would sometimes tow a plow-like device that kicked up large clouds of dust as it dragged along, and churned up the earth, to make it look to enemy observers like a much larger group of armoured vehicles was moving around.

Another story I’ve heard is that Fieldmarshall Rommell once ordered a convoy of tanks disembarking at a port to parade down the main street, then circle around a few streets away, and come back along the main street the same way they’d done before, so that to at least the casual observer it appeared an enormous force of tanks was in the port. (I’d have thought any Allied intelligence observers watching the parade would have eventually noticed the serial numbers and unit markings on the vehicles were all the same as previous groups and rumbled the scheme, but maybe the idea was actually to impress local civilians, and other German and Italian units, into thinking the Axis forces were very strong, raising Axis morale and the esteem the locals had for them.)

Again, later in the war, in the runup to Operation Overlord (the famous ‘D-Day’ landings on Normandy), Allied forces ran a whole series of elaborate schemes designed to convince German intelligence that large Allied formations were preparing to attack other points on the French northern coast (Operation Fortitude South), or Norway (Fortitude North), with the implication that the Normandy landings were actually a feint designed to distract attention from a much larger landing. Similarly, Operation Mincemeat deployed a Major Martin, the ‘Man who Never Was’, (in reality an unfortunate homeless Welshman who killed himself in London, but whose body could be made to look like a drowned Marine Major), who was dropped into the Meditteranian by a British submarine, and floated to the Southern Spanish coast, where he was found to have a case chained to him, in which were documents suggesting the 1943 Allied landings in Sicily were actually a feint for much larger landings in Greece, and that a landing of Sardinia would also follow. In both cases the intention was to make the German forces (and Italians in the case of Mincemeat) hesitant to commit too many forces against the Allied landings in case the much larger forces they believed might exist made the suspected landings elsewhere. To an extent it worked, particularly in Norway where large German forces were stationed until the German surrender in 1945, due to the belief that a large Allied force existed which was poised to invade Norway, but also during Overlord, when SS Armoured units weren’t deployed as early as they might have been to deal with the five ‘D Day’ landings in case they were needed to defend Calais from General Patton’s non existant First US Army Group (FUSAG). (Patton didn’t actually land in France until after D-Day to aid the deception.)

There are numerous other examples in history of ruses using visual or audio props etc, including the First World War ‘Haversack Ruse’ at the Battle of Gaza (which is often described as being invented by a Richard Meinertzhagen, who really was a British Intelligence Officer who did have a connection to the ruse, but was not its inventor and wasn’t the soldier who carried it out. Come to think of it Meinertzhagen deserves some mention on this site just by himself, given his impressive history of lying through his teeth about military exploits, ornithology and just about everything else, screwing wiith accepted historical and scientific ‘fact’ in the process in many cases.) See Wikipedia for a quick taste (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Meinertzhagen) or ‘The Meinertzhagen mystery’ by By Brian Garfield for more info, it’s a very good book that.


I realise the above historical ramblings aren’t strictly relevant, but I think they show a bit of context for all sorts of elaborate props and ruses used to decieve other states or military organisations regarding one’s own strength and capabilities. Obviously the DPRK’s motivations are slightly different. Having said that, the new leader, Kim Jong Un and his armed forces have been alarmingly aggressive and warlike of late, so hopefully the ‘fake’ missiles are symptoms of an ‘all mouth, no trousers’ sort of attempt at increasing their influence and prestige, because if they’re for real, there might be reason to worry about the DPRK’s military under their new leader, and what trouble they might cause for everyone else. I suppose if this is all a big ruse designed to frighten South Korea and the West into giving them some respect at the negotiating table (they are, after all dependent on aid from abroad in spite of their isolationist tendencies, and their people are said to be struggling at current aid levels.) that concern about their capabilities and intentionswould be exactly the objective they have, mind you.

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