EMP Threat From North Korea, 2013

By: Dr. Peter Vincent Pry


North Korea’s third illegal nuclear test on February 12, 2013, was followed  by increased international sanctions, that prompted escalating threats from  North Korea to make nuclear missile strikes against U.S. allies, South Korea and  Japan, and the mainland United States.  President Obama denied that North  Korea could deliver on these threats, claiming that North Korea does not yet  have nuclear armed missiles–despite assessments to the contrary by DIA, CIA,  and NATO.

Three months earlier, on December 12, 2012, North Korea successfully orbited  a satellite, the KSM-3, thereby demonstrating the capability to deliver a small  nuclear warhead to intercontinental ranges–against any nation on Earth.   The Congressional Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from  Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack assessed that Russia, China, and North Korea  (with help from Russia) have probably developed nuclear weapons of special  design that produce a low explosive yield and high gamma ray output in order to  generate an extraordinarily powerful EMP field.  The Russians term these  “Super-EMP” weapons.  Independently, South Korean military intelligence and  a Chinese military commentator in open sources credit North Korea with having  Super-EMP warheads.

The design characteristics of a Super-EMP warhead are such that it would  likely be small enough for delivery by North Korea’s Unha-3 space launch vehicle  or its Taepodong-2 ICBM.

North Korea during its December 12, 2012 launch of the KSM-3 satellite  apparently practiced making against the U.S. a surprise nuclear EMP  attack.  During the Cold War, the Soviet Union developed a secret  weapon–the Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (FOBS)–disguised as a  peaceful space launch vehicle, that could orbit a nuclear warhead like a  satellite, to make a surprise EMP attack.

The FOBS would launch southward, away from the U.S., and orbit a nuclear  warhead on a satellite trajectory over the South Pole, attacking the U.S. from  the south.  During the Cold War and today, U.S. Ballistic Missile Early  Warning Radars and anti-missile interceptors are all looking north.  U.S.  National Missile Defenses are blind to the south and not prepared for an attack  from that direction.

The first warning of a FOBS attack would be the nuclear EMP burst which could  paralyze military communications and forces and would have catastrophic  consequences for the electric grid and other civilian critical  infrastructures.  The Congressional EMP Commission assesses that a nuclear  EMP attack that causes a protracted nationwide blackout lasting a year or more  could kill up to 9 of 10 Americans from starvation, disease, and societal  collapse.

The trajectory of North Korea’s KSM-3 satellite had the characteristics for  delivery by FOBS of a surprise nuclear EMP attack against the United    States.  The satellite was launched to the south, away from the U.S.,  transited the South Pole, and approached the U.S. from its southern  blindside–at the optimum altitude for placing an EMP field over all 48  contiguous United States.

President Obama, despite public dismissal of the North Korean nuclear missile  threats, nonetheless conducted B-2 bomber demonstrations over the demilitarized  zone and strengthened National Missile Defenses (but not in the  south).

Amidst the nuclear crisis with North  Korea, on April 10, 2013, the KSM-3  satellite was near the geographic center of the U.S., at optimum altitude (if  KSM-3 was a nuclear weapon) for placing an EMP field over most of the  continental United   States.

On April 16, 2013, the KSM-3 satellite was over the Washington, D.C.-New York  City corridor–the optimum location and altitude for placing a peak EMP field  over the area most likely to blackout the Eastern Grid.  The Eastern Grid  generates 75 percent of U.S. electricity and is indispensable to national  survival.  The peak EMP field would also have maximized damage to  Washington and New York, the nation’s political and economic centers.

Perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not, on April 16, 2013, on the same day North  Korea’s KSM-3 was over Washington and New York, saboteurs unknown attacked the  critically important Metcalf transformer substation outside San Jose, that  services a 470 megawatt power plant and the Silicon  Valley.  Had the  attack on Metcalf destroyed the transformers, cascading failures might well have  blacked out much of the Western Grid.  U.S. military operations in the  Pacific, and against North Korea in a major war, depend upon West coast power  projection capabilities.

Power projection to the Pacific and Asia cannot be sustained if the Western  Grid is in blackout.

Three months after Metcalf and the KSM-3 orbit over Washington-New York City,  a North Korean freighter that transited the Gulf of Mexico was intercepted  trying to enter the Panama Canal carrying, hidden in its hold under bags of  sugar, two nuclear-capable SA-2 missiles on their launchers.  The missiles  had no nuclear warheads.  But North Korea’s demonstrated capability to move  nuclear capable missiles into the Gulf of Mexico is eerily similar to the EMP  Commission’s nightmare scenario of a rogue state launching a nuclear EMP attack  from a freighter operating off the U.S. coast.

An EMP attack launched from a freighter near the U.S. coast could achieve  surprise, minimize the possibility of interception, and be executed anonymously  to escape retaliation.  Deterrence and retaliation depends upon knowing who  executed the attack.

The nuclear crisis of 2013 may have been an elaborate training exercise by  North Korea for an all-out Cyber Warfare Operation against the United  States.  The Congressional EMP Commission found, and as explained in May  2013 congressional testimony of former CIA Director R. James Woolsey, in the  military doctrines of Russia, China, Iran and North Korea, Cyber Warfare is not  limited to computer viruses and hacking–but includes sabotage, like the Metcalf  attack, and nuclear EMP attack.  The objective is to destroy the enemy by  collapsing the civilian critical infrastructures–communications,  transportation, banking and finance, food and water–and especially the electric  grid, which sustains all the infrastructures, and modern civilization.

All the elements of a total Cyber Warfare Operation were present.  Every  day the electric grid and other critical infrastructures experience hundreds of  attacks and probes by computer viruses and hacking.  The Metcalf attack on  April 16 may have been practice for a much larger and more ambitious sabotage  campaign against the electric grid, as Jon Wellinghoff, former Chairman of the  U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and many experts believe.  The  April 16 orbit of KSM-3 over Washington and New York, in the perfect position  for an EMP attack on the Eastern Grid, is an astounding coincidence, if it is a  coincidence.  Three months later, the presence in the Gulf of Mexico of a  North Korean freighter carrying nuclear capable SA-2 missiles completes the  picture, and checks all the boxes for an all-out Cyber Warfare Operation.

What is to be done?

Former Director of Central Intelligence Woolsey and I have written in the  Wall Street Journal that it is too risky to tolerate North Korean launches of  their Unha-3 space launch vehicle or their Taepondong-2 ICBM–we should blow  them up on the pad in a surgical strike.

During President George W. Bush’s Administration, former Secretary of Defense  William Perry and Ashton Carter, until recently President Obama’s Deputy  Secretary of Defense, both advocated such a policy.  They urged President  Bush to surgically destroy North Korean long-range missiles under  development–because it would be too dangerous to allow North Korea the  capability to deliver a nuclear weapon against the United States.

Now that North Korea has Super-EMP weapons, and the capability to deliver  them, preventing their launch of  weapons or “satellites” over the United    States is even more imperative.

More important than ever, vital to national survival, is protecting the  electric grid from EMP and the other elements of an all-out Cyber Warfare  Operation.  Bills enjoying strong bipartisan support are before Congress  designed to protect the grid–the GRID Act, the SHIELD Act, and the Critical  Infrastructures Protection Act.  But these have been stalled, blocked from  a vote, by lobbying from the electric power industry, especially the North  American Electric Reliability Corporation.

State initiatives to protect the grid from EMP and other threats have been  more successful and appear to be a promising way to achieve progress.   Maine and Virginia have already passed initiatives to study protecting their  State grids.  Florida, New York, New Mexico, Utah, Oklahoma and Indiana  have movements afoot to introduce grid protection initiatives, instead of  waiting for Washington to act.

Finally, Ambassador Henry Cooper, former Director of the Strategic Defense  Initiative, has excellent ideas about how we can quickly bolster National  Missile Defense with Aegis cruisers and Aegis ashore interceptors to patch the  holes in our defenses–especially to the south.  Ambassador Cooper is our  nation’s foremost expert on missile defense.  During the Cold War he was  deeply involved in efforts to protect our military forces from EMP.


14 thoughts on “EMP Threat From North Korea, 2013

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  7. To be published in local newspaper “The Garden Island.”

    When the CD Sirens Go Off

    We all like the sounds of the Civil Defense sirens at 11:45AM, first day of each new month. That proves that the sirens will sound when there is a warning (threat) to our way of life. What we don’t like to hear, is the wailing of the sirens, when it is NOT “siren test” time. Of course the first thing we do when sirens go off . . . warning or false alarm? . . . is to listen to “local” KONG and/or KKCR FM radio. Then the truth usually comes out.

    So when we do hear the Civil Defense Sirens go off, what might this mean? (1) Tsunami warning, (2) Hurricane warning, or (3) Solar storm warning.

    Hey, wait-a-minute: what does this 3rd warning really mean? Well, the Solar storm warning is something new to most of us. For Tsunami warning, we know to head for higher ground, if we are near sea level. There is usually adequate warning after the sirens go off . . . some hours of watching and waiting. For Hurricane warnings, we usually have been watching the storm build up to hurricane strength for days and the siren says it may be a matter of a few hours before the hurricane hits. For a (3) Solar storm warning, the time from a sun “flare” to earth is about 18 hours. So there is time to protect some of our electronics before it hits. We have prepared enough for tsunamis and hurricanes, like spare potable water, food and candles. What further do we need to do about a solar storm? Read on.

    So what about this (3) Solar storm warning? This information sounds like something new. Yes, and there is some precedence to look at. Every 11-12-13 years, our sun has a rambunctious “cycle” during what is called “solar-max years.” This usually lasts about 2-3 years. Our sun spits out major storm eject-a call CME (Coronal Mass Eject-a). This CME shoots out of our sun, sometimes aimed at our planet with possible major devastation, IF it happens to hit our protective magnetosphere, and IF it is of great flare strength, there will be an EMP (Electro-Magnetic-Pulse) generated. Worst case example: On Sept 1,1859, there was a huge solar storm called “The Carrington Event.” Its EMP was so powerful that it blew out telegraph stations worldwide, and caused railroad tracks to burn wooden railroad ties. The damage was worldwide. For education, “Google” the “Carrington Event,” and find many websites, including “Wikipedia”. If that same Carrington Event were to hit our planet today, we would lose ALL of our electricity and electronic devices. We would all be back to the 1800’s, or earlier.

    NASA has the solar storm activity under constant surveillance. Once a solar flare is headed towards the earth with impact predicted on the earth, NASA should sound alarms and thus, our Kauai Civil Defense sirens would go off. Then we tune in to KONG and/or KKCR for info. However, we are not guaranteed that NASA will notify us to sound our sirens.

    Our latest solar storm activity is NOW. Starting in 2012 and through 2015, there just might be the equivalent of another “Carrington Event”. Such solar flux in our time of high-tech electronics would mean total destruction of all electronic systems, worldwide, that are not “hardened”. What does the (3) Siren mean then? Well, just know that ALL of our electricity could disappear. The major solar flare could knock out electronic devices, including cell phones, computers, digital devices and most importantly, the KIUC grid. All Photo-Voltaic (PV) systems that provide electricity to the Kauai grid, and off the grid, would be fried. Electronics in modern automobiles will be fried. Airliners that are electronically controlled would fall out of the sky.

    All of these predictions have been discussed in “Federal” circles, from 2008-2014, and there is NO action on the part of the Government from the Administration or the Congress. Dr. Peter Vincent Pry has a team of scientists who predict total collapse of the US power grid unless some action takes place to “harden” the US power grid. Not mentioned herein, is the possible stealth attack by a rogue nation (Iran, North Korea and others) who could do a 911 on the total 48 states, by lofting a small nuclear device into orbit, or high altitude and upon explosion, could create an EMP that could do the same to all of our electronics, coast-to-coast. This EMP would be as powerful as the solar Carrington Solar storm. For nuclear-driven-EMP, there could be NO warning. Of course, this EMP would not be worldwide.

    A year ago, a letter went to our Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, asking her what our chances are for Congress to take action on hardening the electric power grid nation-wide. A short note came back, stating that something would be heard from her. Nothing heard. A memo to KIUC Board was ignored. Now, I am not always your normal happy-go-lucky local boy. Yes, I am that, BUT I have many years of engineering aeronautics, spacecraft, flight research and flight simulation with Boeing and later NACA/NASA; also, technical administration. With this “techie” background, I do notice when technology potentially appears to go down the drain.

    I like to do everyday fun stuff, just as we all do, and as I enjoy every moment of life, I ask myself: “what if the lights go out JUST NOW?” I surely don’t want to be at altitude in an airliner, or elevator in a high-rise. I would just know that the 18 hours of warning gives me time to put my electronic devices in Faraday cages. Like my ham radio gear . . . in a steel garbage can, sealed with metal tape. And my Honda 2000 watt generator . . . in a steel garbage can, sealed with metal tape. There could still be folks out there to contact just before our world goes back to the Stone Age, and the gasoline for the generator runs out.

    In conclusion, we “grass-roots” folks must contact our US congress-folks, as well as local government and KIUC. The estimated cost to protect the national power grid is on the order of $1-2 for every person of the US population. The cost of losing the grid (48 states) is on the order of many trillions of dollars to replace, if ever, plus loss of 90% of the US population.

    UPDATE: Dr. Peter Vincent Pry was on “Coast to Coast AM” last night (Nov 21, 2014).
    He presented two hours of status of “the EMP hazard” facing the Nation. I just downloaded two separate hours (MP3) of Dr. Pry. Need to hear these! One comment made by Dr. Pry was that ALL American citizens should write to senators and members of the house. Dr. Pry suggests the following website to submit comments and update the latest on EMP.

    Alan Fayé Princeville Aug 22, 2014

  8. I want to be instrumental in moving us forward into an aware and caring nation about this issue. How can I help? I am contacting local and federal politicians, talking with friends.

    Do you have a team or organization to join? I am a good ulic speaker, passionate and knowledgeable.

    Karla McNamara

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