Reality Check

In the absence of much trace of understanding, in any faction of our news media, of the basics of physics and the technical side of weapons systems, here is a list of what the Dear Young Leader has – and what he does not have.  This list is based solely on public media reports and the Internet, NSA please note.

He has:

  • Nuclear bombs, apparently about 60, has enough material to manufacture more, and he’s tested them at least nine times.  So, he has bombs.
  • Missiles to throw them with, he’s demonstrated a long reach now, could reach perhaps anything in the western USA – such as the mountains of Colorado, or Las Vegas.  (Probably not Vermont, yet.)
  • And according to an intel estimate revealed yesterday, they have – reportedly – now compressed their bomb design into a package small enough to fit on top of a missile.

What he does NOT have, yet:

  • A warhead (enclosing capsule) for the top of said missiles, with proven capability to be guided to land at or anywhere near a desired location, when flung on a flat long-reach trajectory.
  • A warhead with proven capability to survive re-entry into the atmosphere on that flat trajectory.  (Time is a factor here.)
  • A bomb design inside that warhead with the proven capability to detonate at the precise fraction of a second that it needs to, just before it slams back into the Earth – or indeed, to detonate at all after the rigors of re-entry.  (These are not trivial – both vibration and heat are abundant.)

Until these are acquired, they don’t really have ICBM’s – but we do.

How long will it take for the DYL to acquire these latter capabilities?

I don’t think that anyone knows.  One guess is one to two more years.  And acquiring those latter capabilities will require very  public testing.  So, we will know.

For comparison, our Trident missiles carry up to 8 warheads each, and each can be independently targeted at separate targets, with reasonable reliability.  The acronym for this is MIRV.  By contrast, the last I checked the Chinese have one big bomb on each of their missiles; they recently  tested a MIRV (with 10 warheads) but there is no evidence that this capability is deployed, e.g. installed on a weapon in a silo.

In summary, for nuclear weapons we have a sharp sword capable of inflicting precise damage in many locations at once, the Chinese have larger blunt instruments capable of hammering enormous damage upon fewer locations, and the Hermit Kingdom has nothing.  Yet.


11 Responses to Reality Check

  1. KevinNevada says:

    Followup post:

    The scariest nuclear situation in the world is right now is not in eastern Asia but southwest of there.

    Pakistan. Our own dear ally. Great folks, stalwart friends.

    Both India and Pakistan have nukes now, and word is that the Pakistani side – burdened with a horribly inept and corrupt civilian government – has deployed their nukes outside of “national command authority” (AKA their heads of state or government).

    The Pakistani nukes are in the hands of four army group commanders, along the Indian border, for their use at discretion – if some ugly day they find themselves losing a real war along that border with India.

    No one is talking about this, much. But it’s a fucking scary situation.

  2. bluthner says:


    Yes the situation on the subcontinent is extremely scary. Most of the gamed analysis of that theater results in either zero warheads detonated or else approaching 100.

    100 detonated warheads detonated in that theatre would be enough to make The Road into a documentary, ie induce climatic conditions to end human civilization.

    How does the song go? There may be trouble ahead…

  3. My worry level that NK will launch any kind of attack on the US or anywhere else right now is close to zero.

    My worry that Trump will get it into his head that he must either strike first or be characterized as a “loser” is an entirely different matter.

    As a practical matter, as I suggest on the other thread, the only real impediment to carrying out a direct order, from Trump, to launch a nuclear strike would be insubordination in the military chain of command.
    There are no civilian override provisions that I’m aware of.

    I mean, it’s nice and all that the US has the best military gee-whizzery anywhere, but when it comes to the way Donald fucking Trump sees and evaluates the world, I’m not sure how, or even if, that helps.

  4. KevinNevada says:


    my point in reviewing the capability that is deployed in the Trident subs, was to contrast it with the lack of equivalent capability, yet in the hands of the Dear Young Leader. They really don’t have a reliable weapon system there – yet.

    I always say “yet”.

    And the other point is that the remaining, missing elements cannot be developed in a secret lab as some damned surprise. They have to be tested in public. A flat trajectory, with a longer re-entry path is something they haven’t flow yet. That is where the targeting problems arise, and the durability problems, and the timing ones also.

    We, and the Russians, and to some extent the Chinese, have solved these challenges. It is rocket science, but solvable rocket science. But testing is essential. We spent years and billion$ on ours, so have the others. There is no substitute for such testing. And it has to be very public.

    That final bit is the point missing from the press coverage, so far as I see.

    Lacking this, any order to launch our nukes at North Korea would be an act of mass murder.

    And the military CAN refuse to commit mass murder. In fact, they really have to refuse.

  5. Lacking this, any order to launch our nukes at North Korea would be an act of mass murder. And the military CAN refuse to commit mass murder. In fact, they really have to refuse.

    Well OK, we’re on the same page, and you’re helping me make my point, which stated another way is that the only thing standing between humankind and the possible bitter fruits of our president’s famous and lifelong petulance, ignorance, vindictiveness and narcissistic egomania is the willingness of a very small handful of military flag officers to disobey a direct order from their legal commander-in-chief.

    Because once it gets past those generals, the command chain is almost certainly going to operate as advertised.

  6. Expat says:

    I found this describing the process of deciding to and actually launching US missiles. It is predicated on the assumption that the USA is already under attack and that a decision has to be made in seconds or a few minutes.

    What would happen in a non imminent threat situation?

  7. What would happen in a non imminent threat situation?

    Good question.
    So far as I’m aware, Trump is the only US president to ask what’s the point of having nukes “if we can’t use them”.

    Trump has never said anything which leads me to think he’d have a problem with “first use”, and he’s said a whole bunch of stuff that suggests he’s not horrified by the idea.
    Indeed, he just suggested that it would be what NK should expect if it continues to “make any more threats”.

    Let’s review that, just for grins. The president of the US has just told another nation that they will be visited by “fire and fury, and frankly, power” if they continue to talk smack.

    That, plainly, is fucking madness.

    I have no idea what protocols are in place to deal with a president with sensibilities like this one. I suspect we’re not the only people talking about this.
    At least I sure hope not.

  8. KevinNevada says:

    Expat: if we are not under any direct attack, the situation changes a lot.

    For one thing, haste isn’t needed and is highly unwelcome.

    For another, a launch of WMD’s against a target that poses no current, immediate threat to the US really is murder, it’s illegal and the military is obligated to disobey illegal orders.

    While typing this, I took a break and scanned several websites on this subject. T

    And that imperative rises in importance as one ascends the chain of command.

  9. KevinNevada says:


    I’m sure it’s being discussed over shots of whisky in more than one military office, today.

  10. Expat says:

    It’s interesting that when I Googled US Nuclear Launch Procedure a lot of the links predated the election and were pretty obviously aimed scuppering Trump.

  11. Expat says:

    …..and Kevin is right. It takes pretty much the same technology to bring a human safely home from space as it does to drop a functioning nuke on target. NK ain’t there yet.

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