Reports of Cyberwar against N. Korean Ballistic Missiles are Likely False

Many of you might have, by now, come across “news” which suggests that the frequent failure of N. Korean ballistic missiles is somehow due to some elaborate “cyberwarfare” by USA. I am sure you must have seen mouth-breathing idiots.. I mean american patriots.. repeat that bullshit because they heard if from some MSM or some ‘alt-media’ shill.. I mean “reliable news sources”. Anyway, the point of this post is to explain why that idea reeks of propaganda and delusion.

But let us be clear about a few things first. It is no secret that N. Korean missiles, either fired by them or in the 1990s by Pakistan, always had a rather high rate of failure. However the reasons behind this rather high rate of failure is immediately obvious to somebody who has read about the general history of developing ballistic missiles and space launch systems. Long story short- it comes down to the choice of fuels.

N. Korean missiles have been traditionally powered by pretty dangerous (but effective) mixtures of old-style hypergolic liquid propellants. Since N. Korean missiles trace their ancestry to Scud missiles, they have traditionally used the same fuel mixture- namely, kerosene and corrosion inhibited red fuming nitric acid (IRFNA) with UDMH aka unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine as the liquid igniter. Once again, to make a long story short- this particular old-style hypergolic mixture does not scale up well for larger and longer-burning rocket motors

Apart from Russia and to some extent China, nobody has been able to mass produce relatively safe ballistic missiles which use hypergolic fuels of any kind. In fact, the rate of success of early american ICBMS using hypergolic fuels in the 1950s and early 1960s was pretty dismal. While it is possible to build pretty reliable space launch systems using more modern hypergolic fuel combinations, making scores of reliable ballistic missiles which use them requires a lot more experience.

That is why the majority of non-Russian (and now even Russian) ICBMS use solid propellants for their first and frequently also the second stage motors.

Returning back to the subject of ballistic missile control and guidance, let us be clear about a few basics. Firstly, the main guidance systems of such missiles is always internal and almost always based on some form of astro-intertial guidance. In case you are interested about the history of the non-computational side of guidance hardware, here is a link: The Soviet Union and Strategic Missile Guidance. Secondly, the computational part of such systems is quite simple and can be built without using integrated circuits, let alone CPUs.

For example, one of first electronic guidance computers for american ICBMS, known as the D-17B, contained 1,521 transistors, 6,282 diodes, 1,116 capacitors, and 504 resistors. Some of the older Russian designs for flight guidance computers on such missiles even used special rugged vacuum tubes instead of transistors. To put it another way, the flight control and guidance systems of ballistic missiles can be made of very rugged and simple electronic components, especially if you do not require a very high degree of targeting accuracy.

It is basically impossible to remotely “hack” a simple, hard-wired and hard-programmed control and guidance computer in which every discrete component can be repeatedly tested with a multi-meter and oscilloscope.

Furthermore, N. Korea is a pretty paranoid and conservative country. Therefore it is almost certain that they use somewhat primitive but extremely reliable indigenous designs. In any case, they seem to be aiming for targeting accuracy that is between 0.5-1% of distance covered- which is within the reach of such systems. It is therefore my opinion that the frequent malfunctions of longer range N. Korean ballistic missiles are largely due to their inability to scale up an obsolete hypergolic rocket engine technology.

Those problems will however go away once they are successful at building large solid fueled rocket engines. Some of you might know that they have already transitioned away from older hypergolic fuels for their newer short-range (upto 1,000 km) missiles. It is only a matter of time before they do so for their longer-range missiles. If things go the way they are going now, it is possible that they might be able to successfully test and start deploying such missiles in the next 2-5 years.

What do you think? Comments?

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12 Responses to Reports of Cyberwar against N. Korean Ballistic Missiles are Likely False

  1. P Ray says:

    If things go the way they are going now, it is possible that they might be able to successfully test and start deploying such missiles in the next 2-5 years.

    Right there is the window for the next war. Of course, “for the sake of peace”. Funny how the US doesn’t dare to directly attack their ideological opposites, China and Russia …

  2. P Ray says:

    Talking about “cyberwarfare” against missiles with solid state electronics is sheer stupidity.
    Firstly, the missiles do not have enough memory to support a virus,
    Secondly, the devices don’t even run an operating system that is complex enough to have a virus.
    Plus thirdly, if they use vacuum tubes – they CANNOT be affected by EMP – so in the event of an airburst nuke … North Korea’s nukes could still be launched.

    But as the grasp of electronics escapes most tabloid jorunalists, lots of misinformation gets spread.

  3. Pingback: The Koreas | Symptomatic Commentary

  4. A.B. Prosper says:

    Cyberwar? Nah, not even the people on the Donald Reddit buy that lame propaganda /computer recruiting BS

    In any case North Korea doesn’t network things it doesn’t absolutely have to which is good advice for any country.

  5. on a tangent, this’ll give ya a laugh…

    https://altright.com/2017/04/17/the-doxxing-of-louise-rosealma-reveals-link-between-antifa-and-porn-industry/

    Funny but almost predictable.. especially nowadays.

    • P Ray says:

      No penetration clips of her, what she’s done so far looks like the nudie clips a girl would share with her boyfriend on snapchat …

    • P Ray says:

      No penetration clips of her, what she’s done so far looks like the nudie clips a girl would share with her (boy)friend on snapchat.

    • P Ray says:

      Of course, the other funny thing is that

      the white nationalist groups that oppose antifa,
      the majority of male members are usually married to … or in a relationship with … ASIAN women.

      There’s going to be interesting times ahead, when those guys get told they’ve got no legitimacy seeing as they sleep with women of colour.

      And of course, a large majority if not all of those ASIAN women, like nothing better than to down Asian men.

  6. With the thoughts you'd be thinkin says:

    Heard about Silicon valley’s latet fail, Juicero?

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2017-04-19/silicon-valley-s-400-juicer-may-be-feeling-the-squeeze

    Its instructions:

    Yes, isn’t it hilarious that so many “high IQ” people from Sill-Valley invested tens of millions in this company.

  7. Ute1967 says:

    I think focusing too tightly on hacking the onboard systems lacks imagination. Furthermore, OS’s don’t have to be complex to be hacked. Think about Stuxnet, the virus made the Iranian centrifuges self destruct. The centrifuges were controlled with a simple industrial PLC, spin them too fast and destroy the bearings.


    Where did you copy and paste your response from.. just wondering. Also, stuxnet has virtually no effect on the rate of uranium enrichment by Iran. If anything, it made Iranian design better indigenous centrifuges. Also Iranian MRBMs are working just fine..

    FYI… http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/04/19/the-united-states-isnt-hacking-north-koreas-missile-launches/

    It is believed that many of the parts and raw materials for the missiles are being bought by NK from China. NK may be difficult to penetrate, but Chinese companies are most likely within the capability of the USA to compromise.


    Right.. because N.Koreans don’t understand quality control. You may not like the rest of my response to your reply, but I think it is necessary to get people who think like you out of their self-inflicted delusions of control and power.

    There are many ways to make a missile fail. Hack a CNC program at a supplier/machining shop so that it machines defects into a pressurized tank section so that it bursts. Pull an “in transit” switch of any of the turbomachinery parts with a weaker material, or even a blade machined to the wrong spec so it cavitates when pumping under full RPM’s & pressures. FTS control systems could also be vulnerable, as could GNC. An advanced foe ( like the USA) might layer the compromised systems between boost, staging, terminal guidance etc. Don’t sabotage every flight, mix up the failure modes to make it look more random.

    Do you think that they would use CNC when they have no shortage of skilled indigenous machinists? Do you think even most currently deployed american ICBMs were designed in the era of CNC? Then again, history is probably not your strong point. Also spouting acronyms shows your ignorance, not knowledge. Here is a hint.. the older N. Korean missiles work just fine. Most of their problems occur in missiles which are being rushed into deployment AND use somewhat newer hypergolic propellants.

    Sensors are very vulnerable. Engine mixture ratios could be tricked & you end up melting some critical parts. Spoof the tank pressure system and you burst your fuel/oxidizer tanks on the pad. The failure mode doesn’t even have to be internal to the rocket. A little nightime hanky panky in the plumbing section of the GSE equipment could put foreign debris into the fuel lines, and then that debris gets sucked into a turbopump at 20,000 rpm. Sure you can make a GNC from old style vacuum tubes, but why when off the shelf tools exist. There are so many failure modes in a rocket that a complete fault tree analysis or FMEA would be over 1000 pages. An advanced enemy like the USA has the resources to exploit many different paths. It is not unreasonable to think it wouldn’t be worth a try.

    Perhaps jerking off to technical jargon which you do not understand is your hobby.. well to each his own. Maybe you, like many others in USA, you actually believe your own bullshit. Here is what you might not know. They make pretty much all their weapons and components inside their own country- one which western intelligence has basically zero access to. Also, they are more paranoid about this stuff than you can imagine.. can imagine.

    You may well be right that there was no sabotage, it would be effective enough to get inside the heads of the NK leadership, skullfuck their scientists, and make them all paranoid in their missile development work. This could at least slow them down & make them work extra hard on testing and sourcing more systems on their own. The bad part of this approach is that once they learn with certinty how to do it all on their own, they will have a more robust capability.


    Are you really delusional enough to think that N.Koreans are that stupid? You do realize that they are not white american working in silly-valley.. right? They are far smarter and tougher opponents than you realize. Perhaps the scariest outcome of this is going to be them just going for solid propellant based missiles with some liquid propellants in 2nd or 3rd stages. Interestingly, that is the solution which ICBM programs of every other countries have inevitably lead to date.

  8. Ute1967 says:

    That was a lame as fuck rebuttal. Learn to think dipshit.


    To be fair.. you decided to comment on my post. If you actually had the ability to think deeply you would have written your own. On another note, do you remember how USA was going to win in Iraq and Afghanistan on the cheap in 2003.. right after finding those pesky WMDs. How did that work out? A military confrontation between NK and USA would make those two very expensive flaming wrecks of decisions seem almost quaint by comparison.

    1. I say something about not tunnel focusing on OS’s and point out other paths like PLC’s with Stuxnet. You say Stuxnet was BS and didn’t do shit to the Iranians, but they then took the trouble to redesign the centrifuges so they were better. Why would they do that if if was all BS. Stuxnet is widely credited with slowing the Iranian enrichment program back in 2010. No claims that it stopped the Iranians permanently.

    Did it stop the Iranian uranium enrichment program? If not, then it was a failure. Also, it made the Iranian far more willing to master more aspects of the entire enrichment cycle- which was counterproductive.

    2. You don’t know what the fuck you are talking about here. China is NK’s #1 trading partner.
    Recovered missiles have supposedly been found with Chinese ( & others) made parts, which could be a BS frame up report from the WaPo but it would not be surprising if true. Nor does it have jack shit to do with the toughness and resourcefulness of the NK’s. Russian’s outsource some computer parts for it’s rockets, in the USA, Orbital ATK, ULA, Rocketdyne, & even SpaceX have some foreign made content. Outsourcing some capabilities is how smart people, NK’s included, use limited resources to get a job done.

    Ya, I know that. Also most of the recovered missiles are short and medium range (upto 1,000 km) scud based missiles. So I am not surprised. Perhaps you don’t realize that strategic weapons programs of any country have very different requirements (such as no profit motive) than corporations based in USA. That is why ballistic missiles are usually almost completely indigenous. Also only Space X has come close to being somewhat successful in the private sector launch business (in USA).

    3. Make up your mind if the Nk’s are smart & tough or stupid. You bash me for suggesting vulnerabilities that could be exploited in CNC, which is what smart people use, and then go on telling me about how NK’s indigenous machinist crank out precision parts without it. NK’s have CNC for capabilities they want to use if for, others they may outsource. This is smart. Or do you NK’s are too stupid to use CNC? Finally to this point, you are talking completely our of your ass when you state that you know that NK’s failures were due to rushing the missile into service or because of the hypergolic propellant. You do not know either of these. It is your opinion. Tell us how you got access to NK’s failure investigation? You would think those sooper smart, resourceful, tough, NK’s might know how to keep their secrets from an internet blogger, but somehow you managed?

    The simple fact is that modern ICBMs were developed BEFORE stuff like CNC came along or became widespread. In fact, they were developed before integrated circuits were even available. Maybe you might want to read some history.. but I guess that is not your strong point.

    Also the issues with scaling up Kerosene/IRFNA based missiles is well known and was tackled by Russia in the early 1960s. That is why they moved away from that mixture after using it in their first MRBMs to UDMH/N2O4 based ones. As far as NKorean scientists and engineers are concerned, I do not share your implicit belief that they are stupid. Then again believing that the rest of the world is full of stupid people is a favorite pastime of blowhards in USA. You might also recall that this belief has resulted in some spectacular reverses for USA in last decade- right?

    Here are a couple of relevant links: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SS-4_Sandal and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nedelin_catastrophe

    By the way I understand every acronym I used. Sorry if I made you spend a few hours on Wikipedia so you could rebut and bless your readers with your bullshit. Which brings me to…


    Actually, I did not have to look up anything since I have read it for years. Perhaps it is you who has issues with projection.

    4. It seem you are the one jerking yourself off here. All I suggested is that a resourceful enemy of NK, such as the USA, has plenty of pathways to to conduct activities to slow down progress on NK’s missile program. I have not idea, nor did I claim to know anything specific in regards to this. You however claim to know for certainty many things you do not know. i.e the level of western intelligence on NK, & the domestic vs. foreign content of NK’s weapons.

    USA could not defeat NK in the 1950s, when it was the closest to being a hyperpower. Do you seriously believe they can do it now?

    In case you are wondering why I said what I said- ask yourself a simple question- why was USA unable to effectively use signal intelligence in places like Iraq and Afghanistan? The thing is, signal intelligence has hard limits and USA has repeatedly demonstrated that its human intelligence capabilities are well… mediocre at best.

    5. Pot, kettle? Where did I say NK’s were stupid? I make no such claim. Why do you contrast what you claim I say, which I didn’t, with blanket statement about white people in silly valley? You know silly valley has a bunch of very darks skinned indians, moslems, hindus, chinese, korean, eastern european, western european, central africans,, & yes white americans. Same with the tech corridor from Boston to NYC, as well as many other tech centers accross the US. You are a tool to make race an issue in this.


    Oh, I am very aware of the ethnic composition of silli-valley and many other places in USA. Having said that your prior reply had more in common with the BS spouted by some technology evangelist at some startup than anything approaching cold objective reasoning.

    I get the issue with NK moving on to SRM’s.

    and they have already done that for their upto 1k km MRBMs

    When are you going to post some of your spanking toons of your mistress hanging you upside down while she paddles you and milks you off into your own face?

    Correction.. I am the ‘top’ in that scenario. Perhaps you should read what I have written more carefully before you comment on it.

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