EMP Attack Threat - North Korea

I’ll preface this posting with the following:

I don’t believe North Korea has an EMP device, or a nuke large enough to do the job, or a delivery system powerful enough to properly position the weapon. I also believe we possess the ability with THAAD and other systems to destroy any missile launched under threat circumstances.

On the other hand…. I am increasingly wary of that “satellite” they put up recently and its low orbit, 17 second period rotation “blinder”. Why? Because at 300 miles or so of altitude, a small EMP nuke could do some damage. According to an article on SpaceFlightNow.com from Dec 12, 2012, the satellite is near the sweet spot for EMP attacks. “According to McDowell, one of the objects was in an orbit between 307 miles and 365 miles above Earth, with an inclination of 97.4 degrees.” Wikipedia references a key altitude for attack to be in the range of “250 to 312 miles”. Could I be wrong? Of course! So here are some tidbits of info from the other side of the argument. I hope it is just mental business, and not the preface to a electron storm.

So, just how would the NKs accomplish this David vs. Goliath feat? I’ll play the advocate’s role here and present some information helpful to the other side in this discussion.

From the Wikipedia entry is this information on required yields for generating enough gamma radiation to induce the pulse.  Highlights are mine….

Typical nuclear weapon yields used during Cold War planning for EMP attacks were in the range of 1 to 10 megatons (4.2 to 42 PJ)[33] This is roughly 50 to 500 times the sizes of the weapons the United States used in Japan at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Physicists have testified at United States Congressional hearings, however, that weapons with yields of 10 kilotons (42 TJ) or less can produce a very large EMP.[34]

If one compares explosions with different yields, the EMP at a fixed distance from a nuclear weapon would not increase at the same rate as the explosion yield, but at most only as the square root of the yield (see the illustration to the right). This means that although a 10 kiloton weapon has only 0.7% of the total energy release of the 1.44-megaton Starfish Prime test, the EMP will be at least 8% as powerful. Since the E1 component of nuclear EMP depends on the prompt gamma ray output, which was only 0.1% of yield in Starfish Prime but can be 0.5% of yield in pure fission weapons of low yield, a 10 kiloton bomb can easily be 5 x 8% = 40% as powerful as the 1.44 megaton Starfish Prime at producing EMP.[28]

If this information is true, a 3 kiloton weapon, suspected to be the yield of one of North Korea’s test explosions, could conceivably produce 13% of the overall EMP energy of the Starfish Prime event. One of the thinge to remember here is that the NK bombs are fission, not fusion. There is no pre-ionization occurring. Their crude design makes for an unexpected increase in efficiency. To get a bomb into space on one of their rockets, I would make an uneducated guess that the casing is lightweight. Less material to get in the way of energy release.

Now, the NKs have been rattling sabers for years, and are often engaged in this activity in order to squeeze concessions from us and our “allies”. Without periodic grandstanding, their governments loses face with the beat down population. Getting public support is often times best done via nationalistic jingoism, or in this case, “jongoism”. I see this latest round as little more than that, inexpertly conducted by the new little dictator over there, who really has no polish, but quite a load of spit.

For further reading, here are some articles for you.

Investors Business Daily – How North Korea Could Destroy The United States 04/04/2013

But other observers are concerned that a specific target may not be what the possibly imploding North Korean regime may have in mind.

The three-stage missile North Korea launched last December that also orbited a “package,” which experts say could be a test to orbit a nuclear weapon that then would be de-orbited on command anywhere over the U.S. and exploded at a high altitude, releasing an electromagnetic pulse (EMP). That would fry electronic circuitry and the nation’s power grid.

This concern recently has been reinforced by a little-publicized study released in May 2011, titled “In the Dark: Military Planning for a Catastrophic Critical Infrastructure Event,” by the U.S. Army War College that said a nuclear detonation at altitude above a U.S. city could wipe out the electrical grid for hundreds, possibly thousands, of miles around.

Heritage.org – Chaos from the Sky: Why the EMP Threat Is Real 03/12/2013

Modern Survival Blog – Suspect Super-EMP Orbit Over United States 05/08/2013

No one knows for sure of course, but people like Dr. Peter Vincent Pry with credentials from the USAF Weapons Laboratory believes that North Korea indeed may have the capability or may even posses Super-EMP nuclear weapons.

On December 12, 2012, the Kwangmyongsong 3-2 (KMS 3-2) was launched into space on a polar orbit, and is said to be an “Earth observation satellite”. The satellite was not placed perfectly and is evidently tumbling every 17 seconds while it orbits the earth. From an EMP nuclear weapon perspective, the tumbling is apparently irrelevant.

Mews Max – North Korea Tests ‘Super-EMP’ Nuke 06/16/2011

North Korea’s nuclear tests have been dismissed as failures by some analysts because of their low explosive yield. But Dr. Pry believes they bore the “signature” of the Russian-designed “super-EMP” weapon, capable of emitting more gamma radiation than a 25-megaton nuclear weapon.

Pry believes the U.S. intelligence community was expecting North Korea to test a first generation implosion device with an explosive yield of 10 to 20 kilotons, similar to the bomb the U.S. exploded over Nagasaki in 1945. He said, “So when they saw one that put off just three kilotons, they said it failed. That is so implausible.”

The technology for producing a first generation implosion weapon has been around since 1945, and is thoroughly described in open source literature.

The Space Review – Rebuttal to “The EMP threat: fact, fiction, and response” 07/06/2010


Do an ixQuick search on North Korea EMP, filter the results, and read to your heart’s content. There are  a lot of sites with doomsday predictions, and others with some seemingly good data from which to drawn your own conclusions. I’m working on a much larger EMP article. I don’t think it’ll be out before Wednesday. If indeed, the NKs do pop an EMP device, large segments of the US population will be switching over to a do-or-die footing – and reading blogs for prep info will come to a halt. Instead, it’ll be a search for news on where we have broken down, and how that creates entirely new threats. Global politics and ambitions will have then come to our neighborhoods.

As my friend Mary always asks. “Are you ready?”

2 comments to EMP Attack Threat – North Korea

  • This situation has a very high degree of probablility of happening. Just as you indicated. For some it will be too late, for others, they will come through whatever happens with flying colors. The rest will learn some hard lessons, and becoming prepared will become mainstream and big business.

    Just my opinion.


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