In intensifying rhetoric between the United States and North Korea during the past week, President Donald Trump said the U.S. would “destroy” the country if it threatened the U.S. or its allies. Pyongyang’s foreign minister Ri Yong Ho responded that Trump had “declared war” and North Korea reserved the right to take countermeasures, including shooting down U.S. bombers, even if they were not in its air space.
Here the U.S. bomber being referred to, is the B1B Lancer, which has been used by US in show of strength exercises near the North Korean airspace.
Rants apart, it would have difficulty to match words with action, given the inadequate technological capabilities of North Korea.
In this video, Defense Updates analyzes WHY IT WILL BE VERY HARD FOR NORTH KOREA TO SHOOT DOWN A B1B?
Lets get started.
The B-1 Lancer is a supersonic variable-sweep wing, heavy bomber used by the United States Air Force.It is commonly called the “Bone”.
It is one of three strategic bombers in the USAF fleet as of 2017, the other two being the B-2 Spirit “Stealth Bomber”, and the B-52 Stratofortress.
U.S has 100 of these.
The B-1A was originally designed during the 1970s as a high-altitude, Mach 2.0-capable nuclear bomber. However, President Jimmy Carter cancelled the program on June 30, 1977, in favor of air launched cruise missiles carried onboard the B-52, intercontinental ballistic missiles and what eventually became the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit stealth bomber.
This was done after it became apparent that penetrating Soviet airspace at high altitudes in a conventional non-stealthy aircraft was likely a suicidal endeavor.
Stealth makes the B1B hard to detect and the newest input seems to suggest that North Korea has no way to target it.
The B1B’s latest nighttime mission took it farther north of the Demilitarized Zone that separates North and South Korea than any other American bomber or fighter this century.
South Korean intelligence officials told lawmakers in Seoul that Pyongyang didn’t appear to take any action after the U.S. flight.
OUTDATED AIR DEFENCES
North Korea has a mix of old Soviet era Surface-to-Air missiles (SAMs), which includes the S-75, S-125, S-200 and Kvadrat.
All these systems are outdated and represent technology that is 2 to 3 generation older.
Also, these may not be in good working condition. Even when working, are likely to be only nuisance instead of being a solid challenge because of their old radar technology and limited onboard computational power.
In addition to them, since early the 2010s North Korea has deployed an indigenous SAM system, which is called KN-06 by South Korea and the U.S.
The KN-06 is a long-range SAM that bears some resemblance to the Russian S-300 and Chinese FT-2000 is the most capable North Korean air defense system. It has a max range of 150 km.
But even this system is equipped with a Flap Lid type phased array radar, which will find it difficult to have a lock on a B1B that can fly at an altitude of 60,000 ft (18,000 m).
The North Korean Air Force has a fleet of more than 1,300 aircraft that are primarily legacy Soviet models and are predominantly responsible for defending North Korean air space.
The overwhelming majority of Pyongyang’s arsenal is made up of 1950s and 1960s vintage machines, which even includes Chinese derivatives of very old fighters like Mig 17 and Mig 19.
The MiG-29 is the Korean People’s Army Air Force’s (KPAF) most modern fighter and it operates approximately 40 of these.
Though the Mig 29 is a capable fighter but North Korea has been isolated for long with very little access to spare parts and other maintenance infrastructure.
Even for many developed countries, the actual availability of fighter fleet tends to be about 70% of total strength, the situation for North Korea is expected to be even worse.
Also we must have to note that fighter jets are platforms and their effectiveness depends largely on the weapons they carry.
With little to no access to foreign air-to-air missiles, because of sanction and no in-house designs; the Mig 29 is equipped with old weapons technology.
The resource crises have also meant that the Average Flying Hour (AFH) for North Korean pilots is very low. AFH per pilot for the KPAF are said to be only 15 or 25 hours each year, in comparison, most NATO fighter pilots fly at least 150 hours a year.
The very low AFH will ultimately result in lesser prowess in combat skills and North Korean pilots will be found wanting when faced with a well-trained adversary like the modern US air force fighters jet escorting the B1B bomber.