September 4, 2017

Sniffer Aircraft May Have Pointed to North Korea Nuclear Device Being Thermonuclear

Intelligence agencies are using not yet public sniffer test results to conclude the September 3, 2017 North Korean nuclear test was thermonuclear. Further confirmation is based arount the power of the 6.3 magnitude nuclear earthquake leading to a thermonuclear range estimated yield of 100 kilotons or higher (various estimates).

Three or more Japanese Air Force T-4 intermediate jet trainers have already been used as “sniffer” aircraft to collect radioactive dust (eg. tritiumdeuterium and lithium-6 deuteride) and noble gases. The T-4s probably use external flow-through devices to collect particulates on filter paper. This is an advance over using a much larger, labor intensive, US Boeing WC-135 Constant Phoenix aircraft.

Some authorities limit the definition of thermonuclear weapon to a two stage weapon where the detonation of a primary fission stage sets off a secondary nuclear fusion stage. But a broader definition also encompasses a boosted fission weapon - typically a bomb using a small amount of fusion fuel to increase the explosive rate, and thus yield, of a fission reaction.


Photo of North Korean leader inspecting a device which looks like a thermonuclear weapon The photo was released a few hours before the test. See very useful BBC commentatry on physical aspects of the Kim-Bomb photo.

Pete

15 comments:

GhalibKabir said...

China's cat paw visible yet again. Providence knows where this is going to end up. for a country like NK, It is next to impossible to make a boosted fission device or for that matter a full thermonuclear device without constant foreign scientific inputs and being given the benefits of both vertical and horizontal proliferation.

One can only fondly hope that the CN-PK-NK nuclear menage-a-trois does not result in an explosive cloud 'birth' over Seoul or Tokyo or elsewhere.

that things have come this far makes this awful beyond words and the worst part is the unstoppable future bad prognosis.

Peter Coates said...

Hi Ghalib Kabir

I think China and also Russia have assisted their neigbour North Korea in hard to pin down ways.

Once useful article is http://edition.cnn.com/2017/08/22/politics/us-treasury-sanctions-china-russia-north-korea/index.html August 22, 2017 Washington (CNN):

"The US Treasury Department announced new sanctions Tuesday targeting Chinese and Russian entities that help fund and facilitate North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs."

In another way "...North Korea has been accused of crimes such as hacking banks, selling weapons, dealing drugs, counterfeiting cash and even trafficking endangered species -- operations that are believed to rake in hundreds of millions of dollars and are often disguised within licit trade operations. That money helps pay for the country's nuclear and missile programs..."

North Korea selling its newly developed missile and fusion technology to Pakistan is a real worry.

Regards

Pete

Anonymous said...

Hi Pete

Ministry of Defense estimated that the scale of nuclear explosion test by NK on September 3 was equivalent to 70 kilo tonnes of TNT [1], which is three times bigger than those of explosion in Hiroashima/Nagsaki and six times bigger than the former exprosion test NK in last September.


[1] http://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/html/20170904/k10011125511000.html

Regards

Peter Coates said...

Hi Anonymous

If North Korea is now mastering 2 stage thermonuclear technology its may eventually be able to miniaturize it down to a 8 inch (203 mm) artillery shell. Such shells used to be in the US armoury https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W79 .

North Korea could fire such shells, from its 1,000+ artillery pieces, at Seoul.

Regards

Pete

Ztev Konrad said...

Using nuclear artillery is outdated, they were replaced even in the 1960s by shorter range rockets. These avoid the very G of the intial blast from the barrel and the limited diameter of even an 8 in ( 203mm) artillery piece

eg US Sargent rocket first deployed in early 60s, which minimum range of 40km and maximum range of 135km . More importantly it was 790mm or 31 in diameter
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MGM-29_Sergeant
The later Lance US missile was down to 22 in ( 560mm), it too could have a yield of 100kt ( non thermo nuclear) and had improved accuracy , range and importantly mobility

North Korea has substantial shorter/ intermediate range rocket forces, which would allow coverage of the
entire Korean peninsula, which artillery doesnt allow even from sites further back from the border.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Korean_People%27s_Army_Strategic_Force

S O said...

Yeah, well, where do you get the info that NK has 203 mm guns from?
Publicly known their maximum gun calibre is 170 mm.

Furthermore, rocket artillery allows for MUCH more gentle acceleration, and thus much easier warhead design compared to guns. There's no need to develop any nuclear arty shells to threaten Seoul because a simple trailer-launched 300 mm rocket is a much more obvious choice, especially since the nuclear warhead could be accompanied by ordinary rockets as decoys against any hard kill defences.

But nothing of this is of any importance, because the nukes serve no other purpose than the rest of the North Korean state. Their only purpose is to protect the tyrant and his descendants.
To use but a single nuke in anger - regardless how big it is - ensures the tyrant's death, thus North Korean nukes will never be used. They're practically unusable just as the other nukes.

Anonymous said...

Pete,

Sorry for this OT: the Three variants of Saab Kockums A26 SSK:

https://www.navyrecognition.com/index.php/news/defence-news/2017/august-2017-navy-naval-forces-defense-industry-technology-maritime-security-global-news/5533-saab-expands-its-a26-submarine-offer-with-now-three-variants-to-choose-from.html

Peter Coates said...

Thanks Anonymous [at 5/9/17 12:02 PM].

See my comments next article.

Regards

Pete

Peter Coates said...

SO [5/9/17 7:58 AM]

203mm guns (be they based on US patterns or Soviet/Russian https://www.army.mil/article/97965 ) are examples of a FUTURE development avenues NK could go down in NK's fast moving nuclear delivery system evolution.

Pete

Peter Coates said...

Hi Ztev [at 5/9/17 6:34 AM]

Granted nuclear artillery has been phased out of most/all armories,

But the peculiar close range conditions of N and S Korea may make such artillery useful.

NK suffers from having a small number of nuclear missiles - perhaps all launchers identified and tracked by the US/Japan/SK/Russia/China...

Artillery would diversify launcher means - making launcher tracking that much harder (or easier Mr Kim).

[1] Israel may have retained a 1973-4 nuclear artillery (of 175mm) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_weapons_and_Israel#Stockpile

Regards

Pete

Tri-ring said...

Nuclear artillery shell of the 50's utilized the Uranium Gun fission method similar to the Hiroshima type bomb not the more sophisticated Plutonium implosion method.

Peter Coates said...

Hi Tri-ring

So the later, 1970s, W79 Mod 0 might make Kim's day. Concerning the W79 nuclear artillery shell https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W79 indicates:

"The W79 was an American nuclear artillery shell, capable of being fired from any standard 8 inch (203 mm) howitzer e.g. the M115 & M110 howitzer.

The W79 was produced in two models, the "W79 Mod 0" and "W79 Mod 1". Both were a plutonium-based linear-implosion, nuclear weapon.

The "Mod 0" was a variable yield device with three yields, ranging from 100 tons up to 1.1 kiloton and an enhanced-radiation (popularly known as Neutron bomb) mode which could be turned on or off."

Pete

S O said...

"203mm guns (be they based on US patterns or Soviet/Russian https://www.army.mil/article/97965 ) are examples of a FUTURE development avenues NK could go down in NK's fast moving nuclear delivery system evolution. "

This makes no sense whatsoever. Their rockets already do the trick, and much better with less development effort.

Furthermore, nuclear artillery is extremely wasteful with plutonium. It's much harder to pull off with uranium and there's no or almost no fusion share, so you need an awful lot of plutonium for a tiny blast. You could get a 100 kt nuke with little more plutonium than in a 1 kt shell.

Nuclear artillery is also very disappointing in its non-psychological effect. Even 20 kt nukes are quite poor against the nowadays very dispersed troops. Our idea of what a nuke can do is based on what 100-150 kt nukes can do or what a 15-20 kt nuke can do in combination with a wooden city firestorm.

Go, use the bomb effect calculator and look up the old (50's and 60's) literature on what nukes do to troops. A 20 kt nuke that hits a battalion on a road march may cause as few at 10% KIA. That's less than 100 KIA.
https://www.fourmilab.ch/bombcalc/

Peter Coates said...

Hi S O [at 5/9/17 4:26 PM]

Thanks for imparting your sound arguments and (I now admit) greater knowledge.

It goes to prove that if Kim III the Fat wants to be considered a Real Man he should revive nuclear artillery forthwith so he can waste NK's limited Plutonium.

Cheers

Pete

Anonymous said...

Hi Pete

Defense Minister Yoshifumi Onodera told the size of nuclear explsion was presumably 120 kilo tonnes (TNT equivalent). The Ministry of Defense estimates the size of the explosion based on the magnitude (M) of the earthquake announced by the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO). Because CTBTO raised the provisional M from 5.8 to M 6.0, the siz of the explosion was revised from 70 to 120 kilo tonnes. NK might succeed to develop multiple nuclear warhead [1].

[1] http://www.sankei.com/world/news/170905/wor1709050052-n1.html

Regards