Home > Critical Thinking, Current Affairs, Dystopia, Musings, Philosophy sans Sophistry, Reason, Secular Religions, Skepticism, Technology > A Quick Analysis of the First North Korean ICBM Test: July 5, 2017

A Quick Analysis of the First North Korean ICBM Test: July 5, 2017

One of the joys of blogging is the ability to point to one of your older posts and say- “I told you so”. As some of you might recall, a little less than three months ago I had written a post about how the narrative about USA disrupting North Korean missile tests through cyberwarfare was fake news. At that time, one credulous or delusional commentator spent lots of time trying to prove otherwise. Well.. we know who was right.

As it turns out, I am also right about the reason why some of the missile tests by that country in the first few months of this year were unsuccessful. To refresh your memory, I has put forth the idea that North Korean scientists and engineers were experiencing issues with using potent hypergolic fuels since they had very limited experience with them in the past. It now appears that they have mastered the use of rocket engines which use those more potent fuels. Don’t believe me? Well just look at the first picture below.

The combination of a clear, almost transparent, rocket plume and that yellow-orange clouds surrounding the rocket as the engine starts up is the signature calling card of hyperbolic propellants- specifically an engine that uses UDMH + N2O4, as opposed to IRFNA and Kerosene or solid propellants like HTPB-based mixtures. To put it another way, they have mastered the use of modern hypergolic rocket fuels including the ability to build engines (and associated plumbing etc) to handle them.

And this brings us to the second question, namely, what is the range of this missile? As late as yesterday evening, the delusional officialdom of USA was unwilling to definitively call it an ICBM. Perhaps they were having some trouble accepting the reality that yet another non-white country had successfully mastered the tech to build an ICBM. It seems that they have now accepted that it was an ICBM but are still trying to make the bullshit claim that the missile can only hit Alaska as opposed to the Alaska and the west coast of mainland USA. So here is another picture to help you understand the next point I am going to make.

While this photo might appear somewhat ordinary, it gives two important characteristics of the missile in question- apart from the obvious fact that it is road mobile and hence very hard to destroy in any preemptive strike. Note that the missile is about 13-16 meters long and 1.5-1.8 meters wide (first stage). As it turns out, those dimensions, having a hypergolic first stage and the fact that it is road mobile tell me that it weighs somewhere between 30 and 50 tons. My best guess is about 35-40 tons. So why are those figures important?

Well.. as it turns out, these dimensions and weight are very similar to a family of submarine-launched ICBMs developed and deployed by the former USSR in the early 1970s. SLBMs of R-29 Vysota family, specifically the first (and oldest) version of that series have a very strong resemblance to the North Korean ICBM which was tested yesterday. Interestingly, unlike hypergolic fuel using ICBMS of other countries, those developed by USSR (and now Russia) can be stored in their fueled and ready condition for years.

Here is why I think they chose to base their ICBM on the R-29 (aka SS-N-18 “Stingray”). Firstly, they probably had access to the technology, blueprints and consultants who developed that missile series. Secondly, it is a relatively light and proven design that can be stored in the ready condition for a few years at a time. Thirdly, though neither highly accurate or capable of carrying especially heavy warheads, it can easily project a single warhead with a combined mass of over 1.5 ton to about 8,000 km (you can convert that number to miles, if you want to).

It does not take a genius to figure out that building a slightly larger (10-15%) version of the R-29 with a slightly lighter warhead (700-800 kg) allows it to reach the 10,000 km mark. I strongly suspect that the North Korean ICBM is a slightly larger version of the R-29 with similar, but not identical, flight characteristics. Moreover it is pretty easy to adjust engine burn times, propellant loading etc to increase the maximal velocity by the few hundred meters per second necessary to make it go a couple thousand extra km.

To make a long story short, that North Korean ICBM can most certainly put a warhead on Seattle, Bay Area or maybe even Los Angeles-San Diego urban aggregation. Of course, we can always get many smartly dressed and hair-styled “experts” on TV to say otherwise, but then again these same idiots were also telling us that it would be many years before North Korea would successfully test an ICBM. Of course, it is unlikely that North Korea is going to use such ICBMs unless provoked to do so by the USA. Then again, it is USA you are talking about.

What do you think? Comments?

  1. P Ray
    July 6, 2017 at 12:44 am

    Admitting it is an ICBM, AND reacting in a more panicked way will signal that those missiles are the real deal, and other countries not sharing the Kool-Aid that the US should be the only superpower … might want to get in touch with North Korea to improve their defences against “democracy” (in quotes).

    So now it will just be more of the “does this guy not have a life?” and “we must have hamburgers with North Korean leadership” downplaying, rather than real military action.

    Of course, there will be an influx of pretty Korean girls (read: spies) into North Korea soon.

    Yes, it is so hard to say that NK is incapable and capable at the same time.

  2. Rum
    July 6, 2017 at 6:44 am

    Let’s see: The Germans had worked out the “plumbing” for liquid O2/Hydrocarbon engines in the 1940s. The US and Russia were flying LOX/Liquid Hydrogen engines by the 1960s – with specific impulse to die for. And all of this with bamboo slide-rulers instead of digital computers.

    Those are such inconvenient facts.

  3. July 6, 2017 at 5:01 pm

    You are patting yourself on the back a little too much. That commenter who exchanged barbs with you 3 months ago pointed out you had no information to make any of the claims you were making regarding the potential to use cyberwar against the NK missile program. Nor did you have any information relevant to the cause of the many NK launch failures to make blanket statements as to the state of NK’s technology & manufacturing proficiency. You also diverged into dumb-ass racial statements against white people, just as you do in this posting, which is disappointing for a blogger who touts critical thinking.

    The course of events have shown who was right..

    Your touchdown dance regarding the NK’s first successful test ( after several past failures) of what looks like a newer hypergolic fuel is not quite what you predicted. You predicted the NK’s would move to solid rocketry ( SRM’s) for missiles with a range greater than 1000km. In spite of the details surrounding your prediction, what you noted in the clear burning plume is of interest. Not only does it indicate a move to a more storable propellant ( and only marginally better potency/ISP), but it also does look like they may have a regenerative cooling nozzle vs. ablative/radiative.

    A majority of early Titan-1 and Titian-2 launches ended with the missile exploding or otherwise failing.

    The range of this new missile is the more interesting question, and it will continue to be a matter of guessing until NK demonstrates that range in a real test. The downside is that a full demonstration of the capability could precipitate an attack from the USA. NK’s will leave the full capability of the missile unknown to everyone but their own military. Everyone else ( no matter their race) is either giving it their best guess, or pursuing an agenda for or against war.

    Or you could just use the wealth of data from tests by other nations to get an estimate.

    You have some weird issues with your racial hatred of white people, as well as being very condescending and racist against North Koreans/Asians while you extoll them as superiors to whites.

    As an example of this, you say:

    “…the delusional officialdom of USA was unwilling to definitively call it an ICBM. Perhaps they were having some trouble accepting the reality that yet another non-white country had successfully mastered the tech to build an ICBM. ”

    Then you go on to point out the following:

    “Here is why I think they chose to base their ICBM on the R-29 (aka SS-N-18 “Stingray”). Firstly, they probably had access to the technology, blueprints and consultants who developed that missile series.”

    So have the super smart non-white NK’s mastered liquid fueled rockets themselves, or did they have to copy white Russian designs, as well as employ white Russian mercenary engineers to show them how to build it for themselves?

    My guess is that the specs of the missile components are very similar to the older R-29s. Having said that it is possible that the actual components might be altered versions of their templates.

    Finally, I think you were inconsistent & failed in your attempt to compare this newest NK missile to a sea launched missile ( SS-N-18) and then call bullshit on the argument over “is it an ICBM”?. A sea launched ballistic missile is basically an IRBM. When an IRBM can be launched a hundred km’s off the USA’s coastline, it can pretty much threaten the entire nation. You confound the ability to target the USA as the sole domain of ICBM’s, then say that NK missile is an SLBM/IRBM that can be made into a ICBM with some “simple” changes. ( also bullshit).

    The older versions of the R-29 were developed as SLBMs which could be used as road (or rail) mobile ICBMs. However, it was mostly used as an SLBM by USSR in the 1970s and 1980s. Having said that, it clearly has the range to hit west coast USA (lower 48) from NK (~9000 km with a 800 kg single warhead) even in its original configuration.

  4. Rum
    July 6, 2017 at 5:10 pm

    Remember the Saturn 5 ? That is, the moon rocket. It weighed about 3 million kg on the launching pad. Within 60 seconds, it was breaking the speed of sound – in a pure vertical ascent. In 1968.
    Americans, in general, try harder than anyone else to contain their natural, violent urges.


    • P Ray
      July 6, 2017 at 10:32 pm

      Didn’t they use White Nazi scientists to get their moon rocket programme going?
      But then again we are talking about the USA, that repeatedly denied Anne Frank visas to go there.

    • P Ray
      July 6, 2017 at 10:41 pm

      9 Nazi Scientists Who Helped Build The American Space Program
      Jeremy Bender Feb. 19, 2014, 9:42 AM 37,524

      As World War Two drew to a close, the United States rushed to collect as many former Nazi scientists as possible through a secret mission called Operation Paperclip. As some had been branded war criminals at Nuremberg, the U.S. military whitewashed the backgrounds of many scientists in an attempt to justify hiring them.

      Knowing that trouble was brewing already with the Soviet Union, these scientists were employed by the U.S. in a wide variety of roles — including, at times, experimenting with LSD.

      Below are some of the most influential former Nazis who played unquestionably large roles in America’s emerging technological dominance during the Cold War.

  5. Mr Roar
    July 8, 2017 at 12:44 am

    The idea that NK could hit even the east coast of USA is laughable, given the available data. There’s a huge difference between the 3000 odd miles that the bay is from NK and the 560 odd miles they’ve got the rocket off their shores. Don’t want to get too hypothetical but if you could (and had an Kim Jong mindset), wouldn’t you drop a dummy rocket basically on the beach of San Fran and then laugh as the world deficates itself?

    • July 8, 2017 at 4:26 am

      ===> Mr Roar: You have no comprehension whatsoever of what you are talking about. What is laughable is the certainty you speak about NK missile capability when your ignorance of the mathematics and engineering behind missile trajectories is so self evident.

  6. P Ray
    July 12, 2017 at 11:32 pm

    Now it is being reported that “North Korea’s ICBM doesn’t have re-entry ability”.

    I’m not sure how important re-entry is, considering an airburst nuke creates an EMP.

    Somewhat related: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starfish_Prime
    While some of the energetic beta particles followed the Earth’s magnetic field and illuminated the sky, other high-energy electrons became trapped and formed radiation belts around the earth. There was much uncertainty and debate[by whom?] about the composition, magnitude and potential adverse effects from this trapped radiation after the detonation. The weaponeers became quite worried when three satellites in low Earth orbit were disabled. The half-life of the energetic electrons was only a few days. At the time it was not known that solar and cosmic particle fluxes varied by a factor 10, and energies could exceed 1 MeV. These man-made radiation belts eventually crippled one-third of all satellites in low Earth orbit. Seven satellites failed over the months following the test, as radiation damaged their solar arrays or electronics, including the first commercial relay communication satellite, Telstar, as well as the United Kingdom’s first satellite, Ariel 1.[11][12][13][14] Detectors on Telstar, TRAAC, Injun, and Ariel 1 were used to measure distribution of the radiation produced by the tests.[15]

    In 1963, it was reported that Starfish Prime had created a belt of MeV electrons.[16] In 1968, it was reported that some Starfish electrons had remained for five years.[17]

    Looks like North Korea has some kind of deterrent now …

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