If you've turned on the news recently there is no doubt you've seen or heard about the ballistic missile tests conducted recently by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) throughout the last few weeks. The concept of the North Korean government rattling the saber by testing a new missile system is nothing new. The notion of a nuclear armed North Korea is no longer simply a notion as it is no doubt fact. Despite the fact that even the Chinese, who fought alongside the North Koreans against the United States, have condemned their missile tests, I would anticipate that more tests will be conducted and development on a true intercontinental ballistic missile system will continue. To understand these tests, we must first look back at the North Korean missile tests of previous years.
The DPRK missile program began with tests of the Nodong-1 (also Rodong) missile system in 1993. The performance of the Nodong-1 is nothing to write home about, as the missile is essentially a DPRK produced and scaled up version of the SS-1d Scud-C. Development of the system began in 1988 and the first test in 1990 was unsuccessful, with the missile blowing up on the launch pad. In May 1993, the Nodong-1 missile was successfully fired. This missile has a range or between 1000-1500km.
On 5 July 2006, the DPRK test fired their Taepodong-2 long range missile for the first time. This particular test resulted in the missile losing control after 42 seconds of flight and crashing in the Sea of Japan. The Taepodong-2 Missile is not believed by some sources to be "missile" (in the "weapon" sense) technology but rather as "space launch vehicle" technology. This analyst would submit to the reader that most early space launch vehicle systems were intended to be missile systems first and were used for space launches... As such, it is this analyst's belief that the reverse can be equally true. I hold the R-7 Semyorka, the LGM-25C Titan II, the SM-65 Atlas, and the PGM-11 Redstone missiles all used later as space launch vehicles as evidence that space technology and missile technology are always unilateral developments. To my knowledge, the Taepondong-2 has not been successfully tested. In the event it is later tested, the advertised range is between 4000-6000km which puts Alaska EASILY within striking range.
On 22 June 2016, the DPRK successfully test fired their Hwasong-10 "Musudan" missile system. This missile has a range of 2500-4000km and is launched from mobile Transporter-Erector-Launcher systems. These missiles are still liquid fueled which means the mobile TEL's must remain static for some period of time while the hypergolic fuels are loaded onto the missile. The road mobile nature of the TEL makes these missile systems remarkably difficult to track, however the use of a liquid fueled system, particularly hypergolic liquid fuels that require extreme caution in handling, nullifies this advantage to some extent as the missile must remain static while it is fueled which allows government ISR assets to find, fix, and ready activate first-strike, second strike, TACAMO, and missile defense assets before the missiles can be fueled, let alone fired.
We also see the KN-08 long range missile, similar in design and function to the Russian Topol-M ICBM, under development. This missile has a suspected range, if it is ever brought into production, of 1500-12,000km. This would easily enable the North Koreans to strike Washington, D.C. which is just over 11,000km from Seoul. Should DPRK forces utilize their missile base at Nodong, for example, a missile shot most anywhere on the east coast should be within range, as Nodong is closer to the Eastern Seaboard than Seoul (RoK). Again, this missile has not yet been successfully tested.
Closer to the current tests is the Pukguksong-1 Submarine launched ballistic missile. This SLBM system has been tested at Sinpo Shipyard off their vertical test stand, submersible barge, and a Sinpo class Diesel Electric Ballistic Missile Submarine. The submarine is visible on Google Maps at Lat/Long (40.025426, 128.165595). Just 207 feet Northeast of the sub is the submersible test barge at Lat/Long (40.025880, 128.166033). The vertical test stand is at (40.018128, 128.156585). Again, these are all open source visible on Google Maps at the preceding coordinates. The missile has a range between 500-2000km. This missile is solid fueled. The Sinpo class submarine that these missiles have been tested from is similar to, but smaller than, the old Soviet Golf class of submarines that were modified to launch Scud type missiles. Further, 10 Golf class submarines were purchased from Russia by DPRK for scrap and it is the belief of some in the intelligence field that the North Koreans are attempting to get these boats back into service. Considering the DPRK refinement of the Scud with their Nodong missile systems, I would be willing to bet that they are entertaining the idea if not outwardly working on such a project. The Sinpo class submarine has a maximum range of 1500km and does not have air independent propulsion. It is unknown to this analyst if the boat has a Snorkel device which would allow it to run on diesels while at periscope depth or the boat must fully service to run the diesel engines that charge the batteries. This surfacing makes boats of this type highly susceptible to air and surface warfare assets although when submerged and running on electric motors this type of boat is fairly quiet. Some analysts have stated that this is built off one of the "scrap" Golf class boats but that is, based on the boats dimensions, quite difficult for this particular analyst to believe. A modified hull doesn't become 20 meters shorter and 2 meters narrower, at least not when pressure hulls are involved.
The first missile of recent testing was an updated Pukguksong-2 missile. Unlike other systems, this land based, road mobile TEL launched missile. The new Pukguksong-2 is solid fueled and utilizes a cold launch (rocket motor ignites after missile leaves launch tube) system which is far less likely to damage the TEL than a hot launch (motor ignites inside launch tube) system. This missile has a suspected range of 1200-3000km. The new TEL is tracked as opposed to wheeled. The biggest change for this missile from previous DPRK missile systems is the use of solid fuel rocket engines to propel the missile. With solid fuel, there is no fueling time (with the exception of the rare split fuel systems which use a solid fuel and a liquid oxidizer or vice versa) and thereby far less time for ISR assets to detect the missile being prepared for launch.
Yesterday, 6 March 2017, 4 ballistic missiles were fired by the North Koreans simultaneously. I have found no open source intelligence that indicates what type of missile was fired. I do not attempt to be some kind of expert on this but if I had to venture a guess, I would say that odds are the missiles fired were either addition Pukguksong-2's or Hwasong-10 Musudan's. I say that based on the missiles' flight distance. If I had to pick between the two, I'd bet more on the Pukguksong system as the solid fuel system would be far safer to fire and far less likely to be detected (and thereby rattle the cages of foreign intelligence agencies that much more) by foreign assets than a liquid fueled system.
This situation is highly fluid. Rest assured that Centurion ASG's Intelligence Department will keep well advised of this situation and prepare as detailed and frequent of reports as possible based on open source intelligence. We'll do the gathering and analysis (read: the hard part) for you.
Check back here and on our weekly Intelligence Summary (IntSum) page frequently for continuing coverage.
Prepared by CASG Intelligence Analyst; 1623HRS EST 07MARCH2017
The Bahamas are a popular destination for American college students on Spring Break. It should be noted that while the Bahamas are generally safe for tourists, like any other foreign country, there are things you should know because "you ain't in Kansas anymore."
One would be well advised to first note that you are subject to the law of the land in such country as you are visiting. Your constitutional rights as an American mean nothing outside of this country. It is not uncommon for Americans to be severely beaten by foreign police and this is usually due to the American in question thinking they can get away with the same things in a foreign land that they can get away with when they're stateside. This usually results in a swift and painful lesson to the contrary. Understand, you are a visitor in their land and subject to their laws and regulations before you disembark on foreign soil and behave accordingly.
When traveling to the Caribbean area, particularly for Spring Break, the two biggest opportunities for legal trouble that American college students have to contend with are alcohol and narcotics related activities. The Bahamian government takes all narcotics related offenses VERY seriously, including marijuana. While modern American college students are typically pro-legalization and many use the substance anyway, a foreign police officer is far more likely to answer your "But it should be legal..." by slapping the taste out of your mouth than carefully explaining that "Should be legal doesn't mean it is legal..." as an American police officer would. Possession of any narcotic is a very serious offense in the Bahamas and will most likely result in an expensive adjudication process and a lengthy jail sentence, even for small amounts of narcotics. Plainclothes law enforcement in the Bahamas are known to routinely proposition tourists about purchasing marijuana. Those who conduct the transaction are arrested. Because the islands are used as a trans-shipment point by many drug cartels, there is a large amount of narcotics on the islands. Consequently, where there's a large amount of narcotics, particularly if cartels are involved, there are a large number or heavily armed criminals that don't want witnesses around. Many cartel "sicarios" don't care that their organization made money off you because you bought dope... all they care about is that you saw them make their drop and this could be very hazardous to your health. Drug traffickers, from street level nickel and dime bag dealers to the cartel "Jefe," are all particularly dangerous people that one should avoid contact with. Even if you are the type that sees nothing wrong with marijuana use and choose to do so (highly advised against it due to the significant legal burden such drug use can bring upon you) it is strongly advised that narcotics be avoided in foreign lands. Jails in the United States with all of your Constitutional Rights are bad enough... in a foreign land, lockup really is that much worse.
Alcohol related offenses are the bane of law enforcement everywhere. If you got a patrol officer from every jurisdiction in the world together and asked "What's the dumbest call you've ever got?" every single officer in the room would start their story with "One night we got a call about this damn drunk...." Drunk people tend to make cops mad on sight. In the United States that means more likely to get a ticket or get locked up. In a foreign land, that means "Very likely to spit your own teeth out." The potential for injury or alcohol poisoning bring up a few medical issues that will be discussed later as well. If you're going to drink, do so responsibly. That means NOT driving, NOT acting a fool, and NOT drinking to the point of intoxication. Don't be a drunken boor. Despite what your frat friends tell you, you're not doing anything but pissing people off. Remember all them cartel guys from the last paragraph? Yeah you do... Are you sure you want to piss them off? I'll answer for you... No you don't. What "drink responsibly" also means is staying in a group who will look out for you. At least one person in that group should be stone cold sober. May they can talk that cop out of beating you down for your boorish behavior.... Maybe they notice that guy talking to one of the girls in the group slipping something in her drink... You're in a foreign country and a slip of situational awareness may very well have immediate and long lasting consequences. Impairing substances, such as alcohol or drugs, degrade this so if you're going to get intoxicated, do so in a group and at least one person needs to remain completely sober. Intoxicated young women are targeted for sexual assault or kidnapping worldwide almost as a matter of routine so especially watch the women in your group and you may very well have to be "that asshole" who cuts them off and makes them go back to their accommodations for the night. This also means you now get to pull guard duty, one to make sure they stay in their rooms and two to make sure that no one unauthorized tries to get into those rooms. While this may sound harsh, would you rather have your female friends mad at you because you made them quit drinking and then ran off the guy they wanted to have sex with (same could apply to a female making a male go back to his room and running off the skank he was trying to put it to that night... I speak from the primary perspective of a man looking out for a woman because I'm a man who was raised to protect women at all costs) or would you prefer explaining to her friends and family that she was raped or kidnapped because you didn't have the stones, wherewithal, or both to look after her? I know which choice I'd make.
Going further with alcohol and drugs, don't do risky things if you're going to imbibe. This includes swimming or using excessive amounts of alcohol or drugs. Your American insurance policy will not be accepted by Bahamian doctors who routinely require foreigners to pay cash in full up front before they perform medical services. While I recommend getting traveler's insurance for sure, I also recommend preventing likely mechanisms of injury and illness. If you do get hurt badly, medical evacuation to the United States typically costs around $15,000 per the US State Department.
Avoid scooter and jet ski rental businesses. While many are legitimate, a large number of them have been linked to assaults, kidnappings, and sexual assaults including against US citizens. If you do choose to use these establishments, never allow yourself to be alone with the operator or an employee if at all possible. DO NOT operate anything with a motor while intoxicated.
Exercise good personal security practices. Just because you're on vacation doesn't mean the criminals are..... quite the contrary in fact. Avoid traveling alone. Avoid dimly lit areas. Pay particular attention to what's going on around you and who is around you. If someone seems to be around more often than not and you don't know them, begin escape and evasion procedures starting with a Surveillance Detection Route (if you need to make a right at this upcoming street, go up one more block and make a left, then a left on the next street taking you back to the one you needed to be on in the first place and turn left on that.) to determine if they're actually following you or not. If they appear to be following you, immediately go to the first well lit public place you can find and call the nearest Consulate or Embassy and have them contact law enforcement for you. Avoid secluded beaches. That pretty thing you want to do bad things to in that secluded cove may be working with someone else who is already there waiting for you... That attractive man of your dreams may be walking you to his kidnapper buddy because you're worth a lot of money at auction to them. If a person offers you a package, reject it unless you can verify what's in it. It may very well be a gift they want to give you but it may also be a couple of kilos of coke they think you can get into the United States for them too... and if you're not the wiser, they don't have to pay your for one, two you can't snitch them out, and three if you get caught they have total deniability.
As with traveling anywhere, good common sense, good situational awareness, and a little bit of thinking before acting will keep you safe in the Bahamas. Use your head, keep your wits about you, and have a good trip.
-CASG Intelligence Analyst