Posts Tagged ‘ICBM’

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

July 5, 2017 9 comments

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?