I have two teens and a tween at home and as such I’ve become much more familiar than I would like with the Hunger Games trilogy, both books and movies. In the last installment of the novels, the character Peeta Malark has been brainwashed and his memory replaced with fake memories. Whenever he has a particularly strong memory he asks someone who was would know “real or not real.” That is pretty much the way I felt watching coverage of the military parade in North Korea yesterday.
Two new missiles were unveiled (see my colleague’s post on the subject). The first was the submarine launched ballistic missile Pukkuksong-1. While this was the first time we’ve seen it in a parade we know it exists because it has been tested and the test of that missile has been monitored by Western intelligence.
Then we have this one:
— Georgi Kantchev (@georgikantchev) April 15, 2017
— NK NEWS (@nknewsorg) April 15, 2017
And then there is this observation:
— Nathan J Hunt (@ISNJH) April 15, 2017
TEL is shorthand for Transporter Erector Launcher. That is the prime mover, i.e. the truck, carrying the missile.
This is what that vehicle was designed to carry:
The weapon is 25% longer than the weapon that TEL was designed to carry. So yes, there are questions about what they had to do to the suspension system. And there are questions about what they had to do to the engine and drive train. Paved roads are a rarity in North Korea and to move weapons this size, off road, would require significant upgrades to engine and drive train. And have they upgraded their entire fleet? Or just the TELs with the new missile? Or is it something else entirely?
Back in 2013, North Korea also rolled out a brand new missile for the world to see. After initial fright by the arms control community, a more prosaic and quintessentially North Korean stunt was revealed:
The North Korean long-range missiles that jangled nerves across the world when paraded through Pyongyang last month were ‘almost certainly’ fake, government experts and independent researchers have claimed.
The weapons, which were showcased in a lavish show of military muscle to mark the 60th anniversary of the Korean war armistice, were heavily criticised by researchers who insisted they would be unable to fly let alone unleash a deadly attack on the US.
The experts came to the conclusion, following an investigation by NBC News, after studying a series of high-definition photographs taken during the parade, held on July 27.
In 2012, they rolled out another new missile:
Earlier this month at a parade in Pyongyang, the North Korean authorities caught the attention of a number of western experts by displaying what appeared to be six road-mobile inter-continental ballistic missiles.
It was the first time that this system had been seen in public and it appeared to mark yet another step forward in North Korea’s ambitious missile development programme.
But now, after a careful study of pictures from the parade, a team of German arms experts thinks the missiles are not quite what they seem.
The North Korean authorities clearly intended the parade to impress onlookers with a display of military might.
What makes this doubly suspicious is how the parade was broadcast:
Journalists said earlier they were not allowed to carry phones to the parade, but CNN apparently allowed a live shot. https://t.co/O2pO8B4Y2M
— Martyn Williams (@martyn_williams) April 15, 2017
Which wasn't aired on @cnni only US
— Paul Gilbert 🎧 (@PaulGilbertDj) April 15, 2017
Given North Korea’s history of using dummy weapons in parades to impress the unwary and the fact that this new missile has never been tested leads one to believe that what we are looking at is a mock up designed to scare the bejeezus out of credulous US audiences. So I’m voting “not real.”