January 13, 2016

North Korean SLBM Test - Ignition as well as ejection?

The portly Kim Jong-un may have witnessed the Dec 21, 2015 test, depicted by North Korean media. The sloppy quality of the above photos and Youtube (below) makes ignition only a contentious possibility (Photos via (South) Korea Times, January 8, 2016)

More bad news on North Korea's accelerating nuclear weapon program and specifically on North  Korea's December 21, 2015 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) ejection test. World powers remain powerless.

In its January 4, 2016 report Washington Free Beacon only had sufficient information to indicate an ejection test had been conducted with no evidence of subsequent ignition of the missile's first stage rocket motor

In a new report of January 8, 2016 Washington Free Beacon has received extra information from North Korea indicating first stage (rocket motor) ignition occurred (see above Youtube). If true this means North Korea has progressed further along secure lethal nuclear missile delivery than first feared by Western intelligence.

However the sloppy quality of North Korea provided still photographs and the poor quality Youtube makes ignition only a possibility. The inherent dangers of being near a missile test puts in doubt Kim Jong-un's actual presence so close to the test.

The actual submarine type thought to have ejected the SLBM is known by propaganda name "Gorae" (Whale) which may be:

-  the newly observed (1,500 ton) Sinpo class. My estimate is that the Sinpo owe's much to the (2,000 ton) Zulu V class design

-  or less likely, due to varying tonnages the 1,500 ton Sinpo may be an original or new build of the (3,000 ton) Golf II class design.

Whether the North Korean test missile was more based on a Russian SS-N-5 or SS-N-6 is also contentious.



Nicky said...

I suspect the North Koreans are using the old Soviet Era Golf-class submarine. 10 were sold to North Korea as scrap but I suspect they were working in secret to get them back an operational again. I would not be surprised if the North Koreans got their Hands on the old Hotel class Submarines and tried to bring them back alive as well.

Peter Coates said...

Hi Nicky

Happy New Year.

Yes North Korean use of a Golf-class with some reverese engineering seems highly likely. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golf-class_submarine

The Golfs can be seen as a poor man's "SSBN" noting the Golf's are only diesel electric (D/E) powered and only carrier 3 missiles in the fin.

In contrast the Hotels https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hotel-class_submarine were nuclear propelled and I think it unlikely that the Soviets would have supplied any to the NKs in the 1960s.

Submarine reactors are extremely expensive and high tech. Something that even the Indians haven't mastered yet.



Nicky said...

Hi Pete,
So how likely did the North Koreans reverse engineered and brought back to life the Golf-class and what Variant of the Golf class SSB have they reversed engineered. How easy would a sonar tech be able to find them.

Peter Coates said...

Hi Nicky [Jan 11, 5:51AM]

I estimate the NKs renovated around 3 of the old Golf SSKs up to SLBM capability (call them "Golf SSBKs"). The NKs probably used/are using contractors/traitors from Russia and maybe China in this renovation effort.

It would be unnecessary to reverse engineer whole Golfs but mainly reverse engineer some modern features (especially electonics and engines) then integrate them into the three Golf SSBKs.

These Golfs SSBKs are probably very noisy due to their obsolete shapes. This deficiency is made worse for NK by many Western, Chinese and Russian sensors (including sonar) being cued against the Golfs and against other potential NK nuclear missile launch points.

Due to easy detection of the Golfs SSBKs NK would likely pursue a stategy of keeping them in NK (missile and aircraft) protected waters - much as China has done with its noisy https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Type_094_submarine Jins.



Anonymous said...

My guess is those NK SSBKs will just get out of port (along with some fishing boats) and stay in the Yellow Sea. The shallow depth and the fast rising sea bed on the Korean side will make it a noisy environment and partially helps masking their noises. They can just shut down, lay there until it is time so it may not be so easy to find them