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The Military Technology

Are Some of North Korea's Long-Range Missiles Fakes? 322

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-a-faaaaaake! dept.
gbrumfiel writes "North Korea has not been shy in announcing plans to destroy the United States, but questions remain over whether it has the nukes or the missiles to do so. Now NPR reports on open-source intelligence showing that one of the North's most 'advanced' weapons might actually be a decoy. Six KN-08 missiles were paraded last year, but each showed differences in the way they were assembled. Is it all a bluff? Or are the missiles part of a real program?"
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Are Some of North Korea's Long-Range Missiles Fakes?

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  • Duh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AmiMoJo (196126) * <mojo@NOspAm.world3.net> on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @07:18AM (#43663811) Homepage

    Obviously the ones they parade are just shells. Do you think the US/USSR paraded armed nuclear missiles down the streets back in the day?

    • Re: Duh (Score:4, Interesting)

      by peragrin (659227) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @07:23AM (#43663839)

      Damn straight they did. And every communist lived in peace with their neighbors.

      • That's nice. I like a happy ending.
      • Damn straight they did. And every communist lived in peace with their neighbors.

        It's nice that people can still believe fairytales, but not so nice when they involve the "peaceful" nature of communism. There is a little history you left out, such as:

        The Soviet suppression of the workers strike in East Germany in 1953, the Soviet invasion to put down the Hungarian revolution in 1956, the Soviet led Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 to crush the "Prague Spring - Socialism with a Human Face," and the Soviet invasion of communist Afghanistan.

        The Soviet Invasion of Afghanista [heritage.org]

        • by Firethorn (177587)

          It's nice that people can still believe fairytales, but not so nice when they involve the "peaceful" nature of communism. There is a little history you left out, such as:

          I think your sarcasm detector is broken. Peragrin's post pegged mine.

    • Re:Duh (Score:5, Informative)

      by MachineShedFred (621896) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @07:51AM (#43664031) Journal

      The thing is, it isn't just the shells. There are major differences between what was paraded around, like the length of stage assemblies, and where fuel valves are.

      They could be iterative design mockups for producing the real thing, or it could be a massive display of horseshit for propaganda.

      • Re:Duh (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Charliemopps (1157495) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @07:57AM (#43664067)

        They could be iterative design mockups for producing the real thing, or it could be a massive display of horseshit for propaganda.

        Or... what's more likely... both.

      • Re:Duh (Score:5, Interesting)

        by IndustrialComplex (975015) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @08:35AM (#43664401)

        What do we do with prototype units in the US?

        We clean them up, paint them, and turn them into static displays for putting outside of VFWs.

        Of course the missiles used in a parade are going to vary, it is a huge waste (and security risk) to have your actual assets all placed in one location and out in the open. This isn't surprising at all.

      • by Hentes (2461350)

        Or decoys misdirecting attention from the real ones.

      • Re:Duh (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Hadlock (143607) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @09:16AM (#43664743) Homepage Journal

        There were 13 iterations of the Saturn V, they didn't even have the same paint job, let alone configuration. The first stage had anywhere between 7 and 12 helium tanks inside of the kerosene tank depending on the version. About the only similarity between each rocket was the diameter of the last stage, where it met with the Apollo capsule. Each engine was different, custom built.

    • No doubt an analysis of the tires in the pictures would show that each "rocket" weighs 200-300 kg....
    • by Sockatume (732728)

      Unfueled nuclear missiles with no payload, yes. They're light, safe and easy to transport.

    • Re:Duh (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Richard_at_work (517087) <richardprice AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @08:24AM (#43664311)

      I'd say that if these were the real things, they are training rounds - versions of the weapon designed to be of the right weight, size and bulk of the original, but have nothing at all to do with actually being able to be used as a real weapon.

      Every military has them for every weapon they have in their stock - there are training rounds for nuclear warheads, cruise missiles and even Trident ICBMs.

      The crews have to be taught how to handle the weapons, and you do not do that on a live round.

    • Also obviously they are parading a variety of missiles which may have different purposes (Nuclear, Satellite, Conventional etc.)
  • by rvw (755107) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @07:22AM (#43663833)

    I just read those two lines under that nice picture.

    Some analysts say the half-dozen missiles showcased at the military parade were fakes.

    So the ones they showed in a parade are fakes. Now how smart do you have to be to decide to use fakes in a parade? I mean, you have maybe only two of them working, maybe only one, or maybe even six in good condition. Why take the risk that something happens while showing them off? Showing them in a parade means they are not ready to use if the US or the South attacks. (How unlikely this might be to us, they have a different perspective.) The decoys might be empty ones that will be used later. That each of them has differences only shows that they are working on them.

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      The whole point of the parade was to demonstrate that they had the weapons, though. Why hold the parade just to show off obvious fakes?

      "We have matched your capabilities with papier mache and toilet roll tubes. Resistance is futile."

      • by SJHillman (1966756) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @07:39AM (#43663949)

        Much the same reason Iran has released videos of its super mega awesome tech (which turned out to be toys and stock movie footage)... propaganda and posturing.

      • by whoever57 (658626) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @08:11AM (#43664203) Journal

        The whole point of the parade was to demonstrate that they had the weapons, though. Why hold the parade just to show off obvious fakes?

        You ignore the target of the message. They were not trying to show the US that they had missiles, they were trying to show their own population that they had missiles.

        • by Sockatume (732728)

          Precisely my point. As far as we know - and I'm inclined to believe - they don't actually have working missiles yet. They have a PR exercise.

          • by TWiTfan (2887093)

            Oh, they definitely have them. It's just a question of how well they work and what their range is.

      • The whole point of the parade was to demonstrate that they had the weapons, though. Why hold the parade just to show off obvious fakes?

        How combat ready do you think the aircraft (or missiles) at Wright Patterson AFB museum are?

        Even the Blue Angels aircraft are modified and couldn't be used in combat right away (without modest retrofit ~72 hours).

        • by Sockatume (732728)

          Yes, but some of us have seen actual USAF fighters in flightworthy condition, which is more than can be said of North Korea's armaments.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Now how smart do you have to be to decide to use fakes in a parade?

      You've gotta be pretty dumb, because the point of parading them is to show off that you have them, not that you can build models.

      Why take the risk that something happens while showing them off?

      If you can't manage to hold a parade without breaking a rocket, what's the chances you'll be able to launch it without breaking it?

      Showing them in a parade means they are not ready to use if the US or the South attacks.

      Showing fakes in a parade means they don't have real ones.

      • Why take the risk that something happens while showing them off?

        If you can't manage to hold a parade without breaking a rocket, what's the chances you'll be able to launch it without breaking it?

        When he said "Why take the risk that something happens while showing them off?", he meant "Why take the risk that an attack happens while showing them off, and you can't use the missiles because they're stuck on a parade float in safe mode instead of being in a lauch-ready status?", not "What if they break?".

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          When he said "Why take the risk that something happens while showing them off?", he meant "Why take the risk that an attack happens while showing them off, and you can't use the missiles because they're stuck on a parade float in safe mode instead of being in a lauch-ready status?", not "What if they break?".

          You can't just toss these things off, anyway. The USA has the best surveillance equipment on (and orbiting) the planet, and you can bet your ass they'd be the first things we'd attack. They're not useful if someone manages a sneak attack. Thing is, you don't make a sneak attack against another nation any more. Getting ready to perpetrate violence against another country involves a lot of logistics that can be perceived by other countries well in advance even without surveillance satellites.

          • True. But if you have only six missiles, do you want them on parade, or in a silo, ready to fire?
      • If you can't manage to hold a parade without breaking a rocket, what's the chances you'll be able to launch it without breaking it?

        Every time you take a piece of equipment out, you risk breaking it. Even here in the US when procure equipment we procure spares to cover for the inevitable breakage.

        The Presidential Limo got stuck in a driveway the other month, do you think the Secret Service is poorly trained? You don't think something like a mechanical failure on a caisson couldn't occur during a parade?

        You

      • Let's think about this for a second.

        If you take down your missiles for a parade thus rendering them unable to be used , and your enemy has the knowledge of the parade, can you guess when your enemy will attack?

    • So the ones they showed in a parade are fakes. Now how smart do you have to be to decide to use fakes in a parade?
      ...
      Showing them in a parade means they are not ready to use if the US or the South attacks.

      Maybe they were just en-route to another facility. They needed the police / military presence to secure the route anyway, and decided, hell, let's make a day of it and have a parade too.

      I could be completely wrong; However, I find your lack of doubt in your own unproven hypotheses disturbing. There's a pretty easy way to find out if the missiles are real. Just ask our intel agents on the inside. Or, you know, read their computer logs we've probably got. There's no way of us knowing for sure, but IMO:

    • by TheCarp (96830)

      The thing is, if they actually had such missles, then fakes are easy. They just pull out some of the prototypes and show those off. The thing is, the prototypes and mockups would be expected to be largely similar to the real thing, and not so wildly different.

      Not only that but, why worry so much about hiding the secrets of the technology when they are playing catch-up? Hide them from... who exactly?

      They have to know that such weapons are, actually, useless to them as anything but parade toys, as much, if no

      • The thing is, the prototypes and mockups would be expected to be largely similar to the real thing, and not so wildly different.

        I've done my share of military product demos. Prototypes and mockups WILL be different than the real thing. You tend to re-use your demo models for a LONG time because they are not cheap.

        One of the units I used for a physical display was just a shell of the unit that was the first test run through the CNC mill and coating process.

        Differences:
        1. The connector for the final unit w

    • Why take the risk that something happens while showing them off? Showing them in a parade means they are not ready to use if the US or the South attacks. (How unlikely this might be to us, they have a different perspective.)

      I hope they don't have a different perspective. If they do, we should pretty much nuke them ourselves right now---our tolerance for their rhetoric is couched in the belief that it really is just talk. If they were seriously convinced that they were on the verge of war, willing to use nukes against us or South Korea or Japan, and willing to take just about anything as provocation, we would not want to be following a policy of "let them get the first nuke fired off at us before we do anything."

      Why take the risk that something happens while showing them off?

      The reason fo

  • It wouldn't surprise me if much of what the DPRK has put on display are mockups. A bit of craftsmanship and just enough engineering to keep the suckers from visibly shaking and flexing during a parade is a lot cheaper than the real thing, and does 90% of what you need a missile to do.

    On the other hand, it's possible that the newer stuff are all custom one-offs. SCUDs they probably have an assembly line for. I'm not sure if they've really had enough launches to wring the bugs out of anything higher performan

    • by Imrik (148191)

      On the other hand, it's possible that the newer stuff are all custom one-offs. SCUDs they probably have an assembly line for. I'm not sure if they've really had enough launches to wring the bugs out of anything higher performance, a point at which they can freeze a design and say this is the definitive [cobert]Type-O-Dong[/cobert], model X.

      If the only problems were differences between the missiles I'd agree, but the missiles had other oddities in their construction even when looked at individually.

      • Given that each one is a little different, my first guess would be that they're prototypes for testing different things. The US has certainly built enough non-functional or partially-functional prototypes over the years. And if you don't think we've paraded around prototypes for the masses, just go look at the space shuttle Enterprise - it never made it into space, but we still put it on display.

    • If anything, I'd expect purpose-built mockups to exhibit greater uniformity than would mockups built from the discards of an actively iterating R&D project, or functional prototypes from a reasonably late stage of an R&D project...

      Even substantially less expensive gear, with a much stronger incentive for mass production(small arms, light artillery, that sort of thing) handled by well reputed defense outfits with a century of experience tends to have enough 'Block A vs. Block B' and different revisio

  • by TWiTfan (2887093) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @07:31AM (#43663899)

    It only takes ONE to start a major war.

    • There's no history to back that up. However, history would suggest that it only takes two to end a major war. So maybe N Korea is just preparing to end three wars.

      The only reason you know the above isn't true is because it's more logical than what N Korea usually comes up with.

      • by Sollord (888521)

        So because we have no recorded history of someones using a nuke to start a war means we won't have a major war if just one is used?

  • by stevegee58 (1179505) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @07:37AM (#43663937) Journal
    Say what you will about North Korea, you still have to admit those guys sure know how to put on a parade.
    • Say what you will about Kim-Jong Un, but he has shown great dedication in how to have a cake and eat it, too. He has already mastered the latter part of that!

      • I understand they deliberately fattened him up with a high carb diet so he'd more closely resemble his grandfather.
        • Actually his dead grandfather is the eternal president still, they keep the country together by cult worship of him, "cleanest race" and blood purity propaganda, and the worst death camps on earth for the last 50 years such as Camp 14, where children are born as slaves for life under "three generations of punishment" .

          Its unfortunate that these Nuclear and Chemical weapons headlines obscure the human rights violations. Currently there is a UN commission investigating NK for crimes against humanity. Afte
  • by tippe (1136385) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @07:42AM (#43663967)

    Close inspection of the nose of the missile shows the warhead's surface is undulated. Some analysts suggest the wrinkles mean the material is a thin metal sheet, unable to withstand flight pressures.

    Maybe they're speed ridges, you know, to make them go faster. Sort of like speed holes on a sports car, but different...

    No, in case I fooled you, I'm not a rocket scientist.

  • Look, I don't know for sure if they are faked, and neither does anyone else. If they are real, all of the world leaders need to be removed and punished for allowing it to happen. But let's suppose for a moment that they ARE fake. I do know that the idea of blackmailing or threatening mass devastation using fake WMDs is evidence of either very sick (and stupid) minds indeed, or a bankrupt response policy on the part of the civilized world. We know this has been done before. Saddam Hussein did his level best

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      I do know that the idea of blackmailing or threatening mass devastation using fake WMDs is evidence of either very sick (and stupid) minds indeed, or a bankrupt response policy on the part of the civilized world.

      You mean like when we claimed Hussein had WMDs although we knew he didn't? Yes, that was sick, and morally bankrupt. And done for profit.

      • by fnj (64210)

        You need to read up. SH made up his fake WMDs as deliberate policy. He actually essentially confirmed this later. He made them pretty convincing. Pretty much all intelligence worldwide was fooled. Yes, the response was just as crazy as the provocation. I thought I made all this clear.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          Pretty much all intelligence worldwide was fooled.

          This does not even approach the truth. Pretty much all intelligence worldwide was skeptical, and we knew that even as we declared that he definitely had WMDs. Revisionist view of history is revisionist.

          Yes, the response was just as crazy as the provocation. I thought I made all this clear.

          You did not even make your views clear, and your views do not define the situation.

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by Cassini2 (956052)

            Saddam Hussein thought he had chemical weapons, and definitely wanted them.

            George Bush said he had chemical weapons.

            Most of the worlds intelligence agencies, including the CIA, were quietly saying they were no chemical weapons. Some of these agencies had their results taken out of context by their superiors.

            If I run outside my house, stark naked, on a city street, carrying a fake gun, screaming "I have a gun!!!" The police will probably shoot me. After a while, that was what happened to Saddam Hussein

            • by drinkypoo (153816)

              Saddam Hussein thought he had chemical weapons, and definitely wanted them.

              There is no evidence that Saddam Hussein actually thought he had chemical weapons. And since he was kept drugged up the whole time he was on trial, nobody ever got any conclusive answers to anything. He managed to get some good zingers in during the trial anyway.

              George Bush said he had chemical weapons.

              So, two of the least credible people on the planet said that Saddam Hussein had chemical weapons, and that's supposed to be convincing?

              If I run outside my house, stark naked, on a city street, carrying a fake gun, screaming "I have a gun!!!" The police will probably shoot me.

              Probably. But if you run outside your house stark naked with no gun in sight (and clearly, nowhere to conceal one)

              • by Sockatume (732728) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @08:56AM (#43664591)

                Be carefuly with that analogy. There's no question that Hussein actually had chemical weapons until the '90s. We sold him the fucking things, and the capability to make more, before the Gulf War, and the UN implemented a disarmament treaty in the aftermath. Whether he was following that threaty - and what risk any remaining weapons might present - was central to the Iraq war. It's not like, apropos of nothing, Western powers decided he must have weapons of mass destruction.

                Of course there's a preponderance of evidence that whatever his ambitions, he simply did not have the weapons or the capability to make them. That is, there was evidence of absence, not absence of evidence.

                • by drinkypoo (153816)

                  Be carefuly with that analogy. There's no question that Hussein actually had chemical weapons until the '90s. We sold him the fucking things,

                  I know that, and I've made the point that we "had the receipt" more than once here on Slashdot. However, as you say:

                  Of course there's a preponderance of evidence that whatever his ambitions, he simply did not have the weapons or the capability to make them. That is, there was evidence of absence, not absence of evidence.

                  We knew that what we had sold him was no longer around and we had no evidence that he had actually managed to use what we sold him so really, there was no evidence that he had WMDs and we knew that. There was all evidence that it was possible for him to get WMDs but if that is the bar then we're all fucked.

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by fnj (64210)

            Alas, it is you who are revisionist. Try checking the facts [snopes.com]. Deal with it.

          • by Sockatume (732728)

            Even a charitable analysis of the situation would suggest that a mixture of "motivated reasoning" (bullshitting yourself to a predetermined conclusion) and/or sheer staggering incompetence was necessary for Hussein's posturing to be read as a credible, actual threat.

            Even if he hadn't been complying with his disarmament agreement (which, lest we forget, was partly necessary because Western governments had been selling him chemical weapons and manufacturing equipment for years) that's a political issue for th

    • by Hatta (162192)

      Yes, regime change in Iraq was so easy, we should do it all over the world! All it takes is a snap of the fingers...

      Wait, wait, who's the psychopath here?

  • for the love of god (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Charliemopps (1157495) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @08:04AM (#43664141)

    Seriously folks... they HAVE nukes. We know this. They've detonated them underground, we've detected the flash. It's fact. (unless both they and our own government is lieing to us... a distinct possibility)

    Do they have missiles that can launch them? Who gives a shit? Any ballistic missile they would have would be trivial for our military to shoot down. They do, however, have very sophisticated submarines. All they need to do is load one of their nukes on a sub and sail it into a major harbor anywhere in the world and viola, world catastrophe. This is the threat we should be worried about. The whole missile thing is just sabre rattling, irrelevant of their real capabilities. They'd need thousands to overwhelm our defenses.

    • The real bummer would be that a nuke in a harbor would truly piss off the surfers for the amazing wave it would create.. and all of the surfers are out in the ocean, not the harbors.
    • I know that they had detonations, but I also remember reading that they weren't picking up enough radiation to prove that it was a nuclear explosion and not just large stockpiles of traditional TNT. The explosions were small for a nuclear blast as well, well within the range of what a mass of traditional explosives could do.

      This definitely does not prove they _don't_ have nuclear arms, but doesn't it at least cast a bit of doubt?
    • by Sockatume (732728)

      How do you pick up the flash from an underground nuclear test, exactly? The current concensus is that it could just have easily have been faked.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DerekLyons (302214)

      They do, however, have very sophisticated submarines.

      Sophisticated, maybe, but there's no real evidence of that openly available. Not to mention, what those that aren't obsolete or (at best and being generous) obsolescent and aren't extremely short ranged miniature boats are short range coastal submarines. The numbers may be impressive to the non professional, but their capabilities shouldn't be.

      All they need to do is load one of their nukes on a sub and sail it into a major harbor anywhere in th

  • by nimbius (983462) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @08:10AM (#43664191) Homepage
    the american military has done this crap for 40 years. Threats are received, the enemy is downplayed and underestimated, they suddenly do something wildly advanced and unpredicted. Russias Tupolev was said to be incapable of intercontinental long range flight until we saw it soaring around canada, and at nearly twice its estimated speed. Insurgents basically scrolled through drone video like it was cable TV while we insisted they were just simple sand people. Iran was a perfectly acceptable state-sanctioned boogeyman. it was just itching for 'liberation' or 'freedom' or whatever pretext we need to re-establish regional power until they managed to land our drone at their airport of choice. yet we never seem to shit any big bricks, we just keep plodding away.

    now we have north korea. from TFA:

    North Korea has demonstrated its ability to build short- and medium-range missiles, and it has launched a small satellite into space. But neither of these achievements would necessarily allow it to reach the U.S. with a warhead.

    so how many more steps will have to be completed before we land a competent assessment that north korea can send a warhead to the US? are we seriously going to entertain the idea that a country capable of launching a satellite into space is just 'faking it' when it comes to missile technology? Parent posts are probably correct: you're absolutely insane to parade real missiles in a public square if the goal of those missiles is to be highly mobile and undetectable in the face of a nation thats demonstrated numerous times its willingness to violate foreign sovreignity in the pursuit of furthering its interests.

  • We've probably got a bunch of fakes too: they make good decoys for those who would try to attack or steal our weapons. They're probably better-made, but they're fakes all the same.

    The real question is, does North Korea have any of these long-range missiles that aren't fake?

  • by istartedi (132515) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @10:48AM (#43665575) Journal

    Google "Quaker gun". According to Wiki that phrase dates to the American Revolution; but I bet It's the oldest trick in the book. I bet we can find storis of the ancients doing fakes. There was an entire fake army division prior to D-day in WW2, along with the real ones. My favorite WW2 fake was the bomber with a tail gun that had a double-length barrel with an unusual looking flame arrestor on it. It was either an ordinary gun or a broken tail gun. The Germans didn't want to mess with it though, because it was pretty bad looking.

  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday May 08, 2013 @12:00PM (#43666285) Homepage

    There's a good chance that the missiles shown in a parade were fakes. Many early missile designs didn't travel well. The US Atlas ICBM had walls so thin it had to be pressurized to keep it from collapsing. When not pressurized, it had to be held in a fixture that kept it under tension. North Korea's missiles are roughly at the Atlas level of technology - they're liquid fueled. Putting them on off-road trucks is not too useful, since they have to be accompanied by liquid oxygen trucks. They need a launch complex.

    The Atlas was a good booster. Variants of the design were used into the 1990s. (There's a current "Atlas" booster, but it's a full redesign.) North Korea clearly has boosters in that league - they've launched several. They're just not well suited to parade displays. So it's quite likely that, for parade purposes, dummies were used.

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