not albright, but theodore postol

NK Missile Claims Are ‘A Hoax’
Nina Burleigh, Newsweek, Aug 11 2017

As Pres Trump escalates his war of words against NK and its leader Kim Jong Un, a team of independent rocket experts has asserted that the two rockets the rogue regime launched in July and described as ICBMs are incapable of delivering a nuclear payload to the CONUS, and probably not even to Anchorage, Alaska. MIT rocket expert Ted Postol and two German experts, Markus Schiller and Robert Schmucker of Schmucker Technologie, published their findings Friday in a paper they titled NK’s Not-Quite ICBM Can’t Hit the Lower 48 States. We saw an early version of the paper. Postol is professor of science, technology and national security policy at MIT who has advised the Pentagon and Congress on missile-related defense projects. Schiller and Schmucker are missile engineers with the Munich-based company who have previously analyzed NK missiles, and in 2012 determined that the country’s supposed ICBMs were fakes. Schiller has worked on missile analyses for NATO, the EU, the German and Austrian armed forces and other institutions in Europe. Schmucker has worked at NASA and served as a UN weapons inspector in Iraq. The authors wrote:

From the point of view of NK political leadership, the general reaction to the Jul 4 and Jul 28 launches could not have been better. The world suddenly believed that the NK had an ICBM that could reach the West Coast of Pindostan and beyond. But calculations we have made, based on detailed study of the type and size of the rocket motors used, the flight times of the stages of the rockets, the propellant likely used, and other technical factors, indicate that these rockets actually carried very small payloads that were nowhere near the weight of a nuclear warhead of the type NK could have, or could eventually have. These small payloads allowed the rockets to be lofted to far higher altitudes than they would have if loaded with a much-heavier warhead, creating the impression that NK was on the cusp of achieving ICBM capability.

Postol called the missiles a hoax during an interview with Newsweek, although Friday’s report doesn’t use that language. The scientists wrote in a draft version of their report shared exclusively with Newsweek:

The reality is the NK Hwasong-14 is a sub-level ICBM that will not be able to deliver atom bombs to the CONUS.

The scientists based their analysis on publicly available information about the trajectories of the missiles lofted on Jul 4 and Jul 28. They determined that defense and other analysts who decided the NK missiles could carry the weight of a nuclear payload were focused on the rocket motor’s ability to place the rocket on maximum achievable range, as opposed to maximum achievable altitude. In other words, the independent analysts believe that the NK rocket scientists engineered the power of their rockets with an eye toward gaining height, without demonstrating that their devices had the range or thrust to fly far enough horizontally while carrying the extra weight of a nuclear bomb to hit a target in Alaska or the CONUS. The independent analysts also wrote that the two July missiles carried reduced payload weights in order to increase the altitude of their trajectories. Based on what the analysts know about the NK rocket, they estimated that in order for the missiles to reach Seattle while carrying a nuclear bomb, the payload would have to weigh 300 kg, and in order to reach Anchorage, the bomb would have to weigh less than 500 to 550 kg. The authors concluded:

Since it is extremely unlikely that a first generation weaponized NK atomic bomb would weigh substantially less than 500 kg, we conclude that neither variant of the Hwasong-14 missile could deliver a first generation NK atomic bomb to the CONUS.

Their analysis deviates from an anonymously sourced DIA report published in the WaPo earlier this week suggesting that NK have miniaturized atomic bombs that their rockets could loft into the CONUS. But based on an examination of what was purported to be an atomic bomb that NK displayed in 1998, as well as on available intelligence about bombs that have been developed in Pakistan and Libya, and taking into consideration available information about the material resources and abilities of NK’s scientists, the independent analysts conclude:

It is overwhelmingly likely that it would not weigh less than 500 kg.

The authors warned the rocket tests demonstrated that the NK missile technology was advancing, and that the country will eventually produce missiles with sufficient payloads to deliver atomic bombs to the CONUS, but that is “probably years away.” Another independent expert, Michael Elleman of the IISS, said:

Our report is the first to identify the engine propelling the NK rockets, which will allow researchers to narrow down their assumptions about the missile’s capability. They have greater fidelity, in other words. But the weight of the payload in the July missile tests remains uncertain.

In a separate statement attached to the article, Postol, an expert in ballistic missile defense, stated that while existing ballistic missile defenses “will never work reliably,” there is still time to develop a defense system with available Pindo technology.

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