Saturday, August 22, 2009

Colored sharks

Here is another ROK follow-up: over at UPI they have a brief article on South Korea’s Red Shark and its kin: South Korea to produce Red Shark torpedoes.

Missile defense farrago

A report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, released on August 6, comes to the conclusion that the cost of building and operating the controversial U.S. anti-ballistic missile sites in Europe could substantially exceed the original estimate:

After reviewing several proposed missile-defense sites in Eastern Europe, the Army Corps of Engineers has determined that initial construction estimates for sites in the Czech Republic and Poland for $837 million are unrealistic, and that "almost $1.2 billion" is a more accurate figure.
The GAO report does not only come up with its own assessment but also contains also some homework for the Pentagonians: it urges them to develop "accurate, realistic, and complete cost estimates for military construction and operations and support for ballistic missile defenses in Europe”. For more details see the post over at the Nukes of Hazard blog. If you want to put the spending into a historical context you might want to take a look at this chart.

Recently the Obama administration has proposed to emphasize battlefield missile defenses over systems for intercepting strategic ballistic missiles. This would save money while potentially making it more vulnerable to future attack, says a report published yesterday by a Washington-based defense think tank. For more details see NTI’s GSN.

Costs are not the only issue that raises concerns. A group of U.S. and Russian scientists from the East West Institute say that the proposed missile defense shield deployed in Central Europe would be ineffective.

These are some of the reasons why the Obama administration is currently reviewing the plans to field 10 ground-based interceptors in Poland and a radar station in the Czech Republic. The major U.S. defense contractors use this time to offer new toys out of their toolbox.

Raytheon proposed to develop a land-based variant of the SM-3 interceptor originally designed for use on warships by 2013. This interceptor would target short- and medium-range missiles from land. Raytheon also already a scenario for the deployment of the new interceptor:
The U.S. Defense Department is considering the proposed system for inclusion in a European missile shield, according to Raytheon leaders. Russia has long opposed a proposal to field in Poland ground-based interceptors that could target its ICBMs, making SM-3 interceptors a potentially more acceptable alternative for countering an Iranian long-range missile threat.
This seems to be only Raytheon’s viewpoint. U.S. Strategic Command head Gen. Kevin Chilton did not specify whether the Pentagon was considering an SM-3 system as a replacement for the proposed ground-based interceptors.

Raytheon’s rival Boeing has something else to offer: The United States could temporarily place a mobile ground-based missile interceptor in Europe as protection from a potential long-range missile threat, U.S. defense contractor Boeing Co. recommended.
By 2015, Boeing could prepare a two-stage, 47,500-pound interceptor that could be transported by C-17 cargo aircraft and deployed at a NATO site on a trailer-based launch platform, [Boeing vice president and general manager for missile defense]Hyslop said. The interceptor could be fielded within 24 hours and then removed when the missile threat abates, he said.
While these alternative ideas do the rounds and the future of the missile base is still uncertain – the U.S.-Polish agreement has not been ratified by the Polish parliament nor agreed by President Obama - Poland is convinced that another deal will put into effect. Polish Defense Minister Bogdan Klich said yesterday that the first battery of U.S. Patriot missile will be deployed in Poland either this year or next.
“We are negotiating with the Americans and we are getting closer to a conclusion. I hope we will make the final decision in the autumn. There are still some controversial points, but the number of those is decreasing,” Bogdan Klich told Polish Radio.
The agreement to supply Poland with Patriots as was signed in 2008 but in official statements the idea that the delivery was a form of payment for hosting the interceptor base was rejected.
All these issues are no reason for the Missile Defense Agency not to come up with new plans. MDA Director Patrick O’Reilly predicts that the United States will significantly improve its ability to track incoming ballistic missiles from space by 2016:
Currently, U.S. sensors […] are providing data as soon as a ballistic missile boosts after launch. However, a gap exists after boost, forcing MDA officials to look to reacquire a target later in its flight when the U.S. has other capability for tracking.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

more on ROK'S launch

Just a brief follow-up: South Korea suspended Wednesday the launch of its first space rocket with just less than eight minutes remaining in the countdown due to a technical glitch. A new launch date will be announced after consultations with experts from Russia, who made the first stage of the Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 (KSLV-1), also called the Naro-1.

For some background information on Seoul’s space program and bragging see the Yonhap article on the “culmination of 20 years of research and development that started with small, rudimentary solid-fuel machines”.

The Washington Post also has two articles related to my latest entry. The first addresses the question of double standards:

South Korea on Wednesday plans to launch a satellite into space using technology capable, in theory, of eventually delivering nuclear warheads or other weapons of mass destruction.

A successful launch from an island off South Korea's southwestern coast will add that country to an elite club of nine nations that have demonstrated the capability to orbit a satellite and -- if they choose -- to conduct long-range missile strikes against an enemy. But it will probably not attract the same kind of international criticism heaped on North Korea when it recently attempted a similar launch.

ROK’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Moon Tae-young already stated that any comparison between the two missile launches is ‘inappropriate.’ An unnamed U.S.-official put it bluntly: The question is, ‘are they allies or friends, or people who have generally been belligerent?’ A great U.S. philosopher former U.S. president phrased it slightly different: ‘Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.’ Henry Sokolski already aptly raised the question: ‘If we wink at this nuclear-capable rocket launch . . . how in the world can we object to North Korean and Iranian tests without looking like hypocrites?’

Japan seems to have fewer concerns. While having pressed the U.N. Security Council to censure North Korea, it expressed its hope that the South Korean test will be successful.

South Korea is said to have spend an estimated US$200 million to obtain technological assistance of Russia after the U.S. government spurned South Korea's appeals for assistance. Russia is supplying the first stage of the rocket about to be launched.

The second WP article describes DPRK’s softer tone of the recent days. The core statement is:
The reasons behind North Korea's apparent softening in strategy are known only to Kim and his inner circle. But analysts in South Korea have speculated that much of North Korea's saber rattling this year was for internal consumption, as Kim began to prepare the country for a succession process that may hand power to his third son, Kim Jong Un, who is just 26.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Sharks instead of sunshine

We have another indicator that Kim Dae Jung’s sunshine policy has sent out one of its last rays. A last week’s report by the Korean Times strongly underlines that Seoul is no longer trying to hug its northern neighbor until it smiles:

South Korea began deploying 1,000-kilometer-range surface-to-surface cruise missiles in the field earlier this year, according to missile developers and military sources Monday. The missile, a modified variant of the Hyunmoo missile, is capable of reaching as far as Beijing and Tokyo, as well as hitting key targets in the entire North Korean territory, they said.It is the first time that the development and deployment of the long-range cruise missile, dubbed Hyunmoo-III, have been confirmed.
The Hyunmoo-III brings into reach DPRK’s long-range missile sites, including the Musudan-ri site in North Hamgyeong Province. The cruise missile is reported to have a CEP of 5 meters. The state-funded Agency for Defense Development is currently developing a newer version of the missile family: the Hyunmoo-IIIA, with an extended range of up to 1,500km. The new cruise missile is based on the Hyunmoo-I and II which are ballistic missiles with a range of 180 to 300km.

It comes to no surprise that the argument that Seoul brings forward for the deployment of the Hyunmoo-III is the threat posed by North Korea's increasing asymmetrical capability of missile and nuclear weapons. According to the Koran Times article, DPRK has deployed more than 600 Scud missiles with a range of 320-500 kilometers and 200 Rodong missiles with a range of 1,300 kilometers near the Demilitarized Zone dividing the two Koreas.

Missile gap … we have heard this before. Let’s see how long it will take DPRK to justify its own missile program with the same argument. Pyongyang already said that it will closely watch the international reaction on South Korea's planned launch of a carrier rocket with a satellite on board following criticism of a similar launch conducted by Pyongyang. Kim Jong Il has a point because the launch has also a military purpose:

The launch of the Naro-ho will offer a great opportunity for the Sejong destroyer to test and evaluate its [Aegis missile-defense system] performances, since a space vehicle, in general, has almost the same design, components, and technology as those of an ICBM.
The Hyunmoo is not the only field where Seoul is increased its activities: South Korea's defense ministry said on August 13 that newly developed ‘Red Shark’ anti-submarine guided missiles will be deployed on destroyers by 2012 to beef up the country's naval defense. The missiles are capable of hitting underwater targets after first flying over water. South Korean destroyers will begin to carry about 60 to 70 long-range anti-submarine missiles.

It will be hard for Pyongyang to react to these developments in its well-known manner, i.e. by clenching its fist, banging the table and launching some missiles: impoverished North Korea has spent an estimated US$700 million this year on nuclear and missile tests, enough to solve its food shortage for at least two years, South Korean news reports said. Even though the north is reported to have earned about US$100 million through the sale of missile technologies, gunboats and multiple rocket artilleries in 2008, the gap is still huge. The additional income might come from another source: North Korea has apparently agreed to reverse-engineer and to mass-produce Russian-designed Kornet anti-tank guided missiles that it recently obtained from Syria. Syria will allegedly also be the buyer of these missiles.

However, in the last century we saw that another country tried to outspend its opponent only to find itself dissolved in the end.

Image: © Korea Times