Saturday, October 13, 2012

Visitors from Elsewhen: Time Travelers Among Us

Visitors from Elsewhen: Time Travelers Among Us

Time travel is a subject that has fascinated all manner of authors and given rise to a galaxy of speculation. Whether it’s the romantic, non-technical treatment of Somewhere in Time (1980), the high-tech action adventure of the Time Tunnel (1968) or contemporary projects like Looper (2012), the thought of going back to visit our collective historic past – or the subjective personal past – remains a gripping concept, and one that is surely to remain with us for generations to come. The ability to go back in time and change situations (the rise of fascism) or view historic events (the fall of Rome) has also fueled a number of plots that have become legendary in the realm of science fiction, which has explored the paradoxes of such endeavors.

But what does science have to say about this elusive, seductive subject?

In the 1950s, Arthur C. Clarke penned the essay “Things That Can Never Be Done”, included in his book “Report on Planet Three and Other Speculations”. Listed among these were immortality, invisibility, thought transference, levitation and the creation of life. “For my part,” wrote Clarke, there is only one of these that I feel certain (well, practically certain!) to be impossible, and that is time travel...” Fifty years later, Stephen Hawking and Michio Kaku have left the door ajar for the possibility, with a new understanding of physics.

Hawking originally scoffed at the possibility of time travel, suggesting that we would currently be hosting visitors from our future (perhaps we are, in the shape of UFOs?) and since we have no futuristic travelers among us, was never developed. One could argue that it was developed, but never used, much like a “doomsday weapon” whose consequences are too terrible to contemplate.

The Chrononaut’s Tale

Stories of time travelers – accidental or deliberate – in our times have multiplied thanks to diffusion on the Internet. YouTube presents us with videos of old movies showing characters dressed in an unusual manner for their time, or else using devices that did not exist in the era. 19th century daguerreotypes of people resembling popular actors like John Travolta or Nicholas Cage have been added to the mix, fueling further “time traveler” speculation. Millions of radio listeners were gripped by the time-traveling character who went by the name “John Titor”, sent from the future to obtain an obscure item of computer equipment that would prove vital in his time. While we can dismiss these as flights of fancy or hoaxes, their grip on the popular imagination still remains strong.

As it turns out, a similar time traveler emerged in South America in the year 2000.

According to the Crónica newspaper of Concepción (Chile) a man named Osvaldo Navarrete had arrived from our near future – the year 2012, to be exact. According to Navarrete’s testimony, he had been one of several subjects of a military experiment in time travel designed to return to the year 2000. Interviewed by journalist Richard Sierra, Navarrete made some predictions about the coming ten years, stating that a disaster would sweep the planet and have “terrible consequences for mankind.”

The time traveler informed the journalist that in the year 2012, the United States was governed by a black president, and that this head of state would inform the people of the discovery of vestiges of ancient intelligent life on Mars following the arrival of a space probe. Writing in mid-October 2012, we can say that the time traveler was on the money. President Obama, however, has made no such disclosure yet). The result of this announcement, stated Navarrete, would be worldwide unrest. Discovery of the Marian ur-civilization would prompt the great powers to work jointly against “an alleged alien attack”, adding to the worldwide social and political crises.

Chrononaut Navarrete was not forthcoming about the way in which he crossed the unsoundable gulf of time from 2012 to 2000. Did he appear in a baroque time machine like Rod Taylor in George Pal’s legendary The Time Traveler, or naked and disoriented in an alleyway like Michael Biehn in The Terminator? The question remains unanswered, and his whereabouts unknown. The last available information on this intriguing person is that he claimed to be “eluding pursuit”, vanishing after making a statement to a radio station.

As an interesting side note, an Argentinean novel about time travel – La invención de Morel (Morel’s Invention), written in 1940 by Adolfo Bioy Casares – is considered by many as the inspiration for the series “LOST”, with its copious doses of confusing time travel and interdimensional action. In Bioy Casares’s novel, the action plays out on an enigmatic island known as Villings, somewhere in the Ellice and Gilbert Archipelago, although the protagonist is never quite sure of the exact location. The characters on the island appear unaware of each other, as if existing in separate time streams, sometimes repeating conversations as though stuck in a “time loop”. The protagonist finds no sign of recent habitation on the island, but the tourists, as he calls them stage a reappearance out of nowhere in the evening. Even more disquieting is the presence of two suns and two moons in the sky, suggesting time and space being superimposed and out of synch.

The Possibility of Time Ships

Unassisted access to another place in time – by stepping into a distortion of what we understand to be space/time, or entering a sacred cave or structure – has been a constant feature in non-technological fiction on time travel. Thus, we have Christopher Reeves visiting Jane Seymour in the past of the early 1900s (Somewhere in Time) by surrounding himself with objects from the epoch, or a memorable Superman comic adventure in which photographer Jimmy Olsen places his head under the hand of a statue of Anubis and finds himself revisiting the Revolutionary War era. Such time travel – untrammeled by machinery – makes for better storytelling, no doubt.

But what about machines that can do the seemingly impossible – go from one age of mankind to another?

Andre Douzet and Filip Coppens, writing in The Chronodome ( provide us with the views of legendary author Jacques Bergier on UFOs. Bergier, they note, was ready to accept the notion of UFOs as time machines, not extraterrestrial craft. The gifted mind that gave us Le Matin des Magiciens believed that “a UFO was not a spaceship but a timeship. They were temporal capsules, created by our future descendants, who performed time tourism in them, visiting their distant ancestors – us – if not our own ancestors. For Bergier, this was the main reason why they never interfered with Mankind. Any such action, he felt, might have serious consequences in the future...”

One possible time machine that would have met with Bergier’s approval can be found in the works of the controversial academic Frank J. Tipler of the University of Texas (of Omega Point theory fame). In 1974, Tipler suggested that time travel would be possible by means of an object or spacecraft having the mass of our sun, yet compressed into a cylindrical form measuring 100 kilometers in length and having a diameter of 20 kilometers, spinning at 2000 revolutions per second. These rotations would create closed timelike curves, distorting the surrounding space-time. Approaching the distortion from the right angle, and departing it at the exact point, would conceivably result in an arrival taking place 50 years before the moment of departure. Pinpoint accuracy would be of the essence, as an infinitesimal variation could result in an arrival five hundred or five thousand years prior to the moment of departure.

In 1988, physicist Kip Thorne and colleagues presented a paper suggesting that it would be well within the reach of an advanced civilization to create machines able to “manipulate concentrations of matter-energy” to create closed timelike curves (CTCs). These machines would have little resemblance to Dr. Who’s TARDIS or the sleek stainless steel exterior of Marty McFly’s DeLorean in Back to the Future. In the early 1990s, Stephen Hawking’s own work on the subject (The Chronology Protection Conjecture) posited that time-travel was only possible on the microscopic level, and that CTCs could not be created. Describing - much less understanding! – the physics involved in these theories go beyond the scope of this article. Suffice it to say that minds not bent on science fiction or mysticism have approached the problem objectively and come up with interesting conclusions

There appear are instances, however, where moderately sophisticated man-made objects have become time machines.

The late Antonio Ribera mentions an unusual case in his Las Máquinas del Tiempo (Planeta, 1984) involving an AVIACO airliner on regular service between the Spanish cities of Valencia and Bilbao. At 16:45 hours on an unspecified day in February 1978, the airliner was over Bilbao’s Sondica Airport, awaiting clearance to land. Due to poor weather, the flight was redirected to Parayas Airport in the city of Santander. The AVIACO crew complied and climbed to twelve thousand feet over the sea, heading toward their new destination. Upon reaching their new cruising altitude, the airliner entered a whitish “cloud” and its avionics began to fail one by one, communication systems were among them. Ribera quotes the pilot: “The two VHF systems quit working. We could neither send nor receive. In other words, we couldn’t hear Bilbao or Santander, and they couldn’t hear us either.”

To the crew’s astonishment, the DME (Distance Measuring Equipment) continued to operate – only backwards. “As soon as we entered the cloud,” said the pilot, “the DME began counting miles, but in reverse. That is to say, if we’d covered 24 miles at the time from Bilbao, the DME did not proceed with its normal count forward, but to the contrary. To our astonishment, the DME began counting 23, 22, 21, 20 until it reached zero. It kept measuring another nine miles beyond Bilbao, backward.”

Upon emerging from the cloud, all systems were restored to normal operation, even the radar. The AVIACO flight was able to contact the Santander tower, which had frantically been looking for the missing plane, having received no transponder signals at all. But what astonished the crew was that thirty-five minutes had astonishing fact, considering that the normal flight time between Bilbao and Santander was ten to twelve minutes. Fuel consumption was commensurate to the 35 minute time span...a time period which would have put the airliner well past its intended destination.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Badge Of The Winged Serpent: The Herbert Schirmer Abduction

Saturday, January 09, 2010

On December 3, 1967, around 2:30 a.m., in the vicinity of Ashland, Nebraska, police sergeant Herbert Schirmer, 22, noticed some red lights along Highway 63. Thinking that it was a stopped truck he approached and shown his high beams on it. Soon he realized it was no truck. Instead it was a disc-shaped object with a shiny, polished aluminum looking surface, and a catwalk that went around it. The red lights, which were blinking, were shining out from windows in the object. The UFO appeared to be a mere 6 to 8 feet above the road, and was hovering in the air with a slight tilt. Then the object began to slowly ascend, making a siren kind of noise, and issuing a flame-like display from the underside. Sticking his head out the window, Sgt. Schirmer watched the UFO pass nearly overhead. Then suddenly it shot up and out of sight.

Schirmer then got out of the police car and, with a flashlight in hand, inspected the surface of the road where the object had hovered so low to the ground. After this he drove to the police station and wrote in the log book, “Saw a flying saucer at the junction of highways 6 and 63. Believe it or not!” He was puzzled to notice that it was now 3 a.m., as the sighting seemingly lasted no more than ten minutes. As the morning wore on, Schirmer was to suffer a headache, a “weird buzzing” in his head, and would discover that he had a “red welt” on his neck. It was about two inches long and approx. half an inch wide, and was located on the “nerve cord” below one of his ears.

A few hours later, Chief Bill Wlaskin would visit the alleged encounter site and find a small metallic artifact. Chemical analysis revealed it was composed of iron and silicon. Investigators from the Condon project out of the University of Colorado speculated that it was probably “ordinary corroded earthly waste.”

Later, under hypnosis, Schirmer would recall for investigators how humanoid beings, between 4 1/2 to 5 feet tall, escorted him from his car and into the ship, where the “leader” gave him a tour and explained various things about themselves and their mission on earth.

The entities had slightly slanted “catlike” eyes (that didn’t blink), gray-white skin, long and thin heads, with flat noses and slitlike mouths. They wore silver-gray uniforms, gloves, and helmets (which had a small antenna on the left side around their ear), and at the left breast of each suit they had the emblem of a winged serpent. Schirmer had the impression that the small antennas were somehow a part of their communication process with him - that part of their contact with him was mental and part of it was physical.

A few years back, I discussed this case with noted UFO author Brad Steiger, who was involved in the initial hypnotic regression work with patrolman Schirmer. He recalled: “He was describing, ‘Well I’m walking here,’ ‘Well I’m walking there.’ We asked him to make certain sketches and so forth, and then all of a sudden the control seemed to slip away instantly. I guess I shouldn’t say slip away. It was an abrupt kind of thing, and he began to speak as though he were one of the occupants and said he would be, from time to time, returning in one way or another to keep tabs on Herb.”

What did Brad make of this? “Either it’s a case of extreme identification or some sign of hypnotic contact that we seem to uncover as we probe deeper and deeper into the unconscious,” he replied.

Psychologist R. Leo Sprinkle of Wyoming, had also been involved in hypnotic regression work with patrolman Schirmer at the University of Colorado. He offered, “In a few cases (e.g., Herb Schirmer) the UFO witness claimed to experience ‘mental communication’ with UFO occupants at the moment of the interview. I have no way of knowing whether the claim is ‘true’ or whether the observer had been ‘programmed’ to experience such a feeling when hypnotic time regression procedures were followed; however, to the person, the experience was ‘real.’”

So what did Dr. Sprinkle think? “I believe that each person is ‘monitored’ by spiritual guides, but in regard to the UFO contactee, the monitoring process seems to be unusually intense,” he stated. “Perhaps someday, we will learn if the prophecies about “good” vs “evil” and predictions of earth changes....are related to this monitoring process.”

Click for video 1

Click for video 2

Click for video 3

Click for video 4

Thursday, July 12, 2012


In the last couple of days I have been asked about my opinion on the latest Roswell revelation. It seems that a fellow named Chase Brandon (a name that is difficult to believe) has claimed that when he worked for the CIA he had the opportunity to review, search, mosey around in a classified area where he could snoop into whatever file, box or crate that he wanted to.
This is a tale that reminds me of Philip Corso who had the chance to see an alien body when the convoy taking the Roswell creatures to Wright Field stopped overnight (RON, in military terms meaning Remain Over Night) at Fort Riley, Kansas. Some buddy of Corso was prying open the sealed crates that had been removed from the trucks and stored in a building for better security (which obviously didn’t work). This sergeant friend of Corso’s opened one, and then, in a further and more outrageous breach of military security, told his buddy, Philip about it. Corso showed up and did the same thing eventually telling the world about the alien creature he had seen.
So now we have Brandon entering what he said is called Historical Intelligence Collection which is a vaulted area (meaning it is like a bank vault) and that not everyone can get into it. He said he was just wandering around in there, reading the handwritten labels when one caught his eye. According to him, there was but a single word. Roswell.
Crapola, I say.
Why in the hell would they label this box of significant history with a word that, until recently was the name of a Civil War officer and the name of a couple of towns (not to mention Maggie Roswell of The Simpsons fame)?
And, of course, in this box was everything to tell him that it was an alien craft and not one of the super duper secret balloons that had an intelligence function. Nope, there were photographs and documents that proved this was an alien craft.

Of course he has nothing to back up his statement on this except he is reported to have served as a covert operations officer in the CIA’s Clandestine Service for 25 years, and spent his last 10 years as the agency's official liaison to the entertainment and publication industries (which is a real hint). I suppose if you work in the director’s office you have the authority to poke around just about anywhere, even if you are only the liaison to the entertainment industry.
The question that springs to mind is where was this guy ten years or twenty years ago? How come the GAO couldn’t find him to talk to him and how come the GAO didn’t get to look in the Historical Intelligence Collection as they searched for documentation about the Roswell case? Does this mean that the CIA lied to the GAO when they said they had no records about it? Maybe that investigation should be reopened.
The story does provide us with the answer to those questions, however. According to Brandon, he is hawking his science fiction book about alien contact and what happens to Earth when the aliens arrive. Rather than just another first contact book, Brandon now has a hook that will get people talking. He is writing with his knowledge of a real event because he saw a box marked, “Roswell.” Maybe some of this classified stuff made it into the book.
And nope. I do not believe his tale. Just as I didn’t believe Philip Corso’s tale when approached by others as Corso was peddling his book. Sometimes you have to see behind the scenes. This is a case where the veil is nearly transparent. Brandon wants you to buy his book… and though I do read science fiction, I won’t buy this one.

Sunday, February 19, 2012


  1. 1. The elaborate air defenses of Pyongyang.
    The North Korean capital is probably the most heavily defended city on the planet. I’ve cataloged over 150 AAA positions around the capital in Google Earth and there are more waiting to be discovered with the next high resolution image update. In fact I’ve cataloged over 500 AAA sites in DPRK… there are simply loads. For those with a schoolboy love of stupendously gigantean statics, there are so many AAA positions around Pyongyang that if they were all to fire at once they’d throw up over 63,000t of high explosive shells in the first minute – think about that, that’s more than the weight of an Iowa class battleship, and it’s traveling at about Mach 2!

    There are also at least four SAM sites, two with SA-2 Guideline missiles and two hardened sites with the more potent SA-3 Goa missiles.

    Satellite image with AAA positions marked by their effective ranges (*37mm AAA used as a median, each circle is 2.5km in radius).

    If we look carefully at the distribution of air defenses we see two clear belts of AAA arranged concentrically, with the greatest concerntration on the South East side of the city:

    One curiosity is the apparent gap in the outer AAA ring on the West side of the city. There is no clear explanation for that.

    1.1 AAA positions dissected
    The sites around Pyongyang are fixed, with approximately 75% occupied at any one time. We cannot easily identify which of the various AAA equipments relates to which sites, but there are certain characteristic layouts employed. The most common is a “rose” layout, with 4-8 AAA guns arranged in a circle with communication paths and trenches either around in a circle, or spidering out from the middle. A typical layout from South East Pongyang:

    Another site, this time un-annotated; it’s easy to spot the same components:

    Many of these sites will have a fire-control radar (FCR) although there is no indication that these have been upgraded beyond 1960s Soviet technology. The main AAA fire control radars reported are ‘Flap Lid’, ‘Fire Can’ and ‘Tilt Drum’. Although they can be jammed their advantage is that they are low powered and highly localized so stand-off jamming works less well.

    The ‘rose’ pattern is designed to give 360 degree coverage, but it is giving way to linear (and thus mono-directional) emplacements, sometimes even built on a previously rose-pattern site:

    The logic behind the newer layout is not clear, but we can speculate that the North Koreans consider it superior for concentrating a high volume of fire in a single direction (note, they all face outwards around Pyongyang). Also, this layout means that the guns don’t get into each-others way whilst engaging low altitude targets. It’s not clear when these linear sites were made or if more sites will be converted, but there is video evidence that the formation has been in use for some time:

    1.2. AAA equipment
    North Korea operates a variety of static AAA equipment but most of it is widely considered obsolete in modern warfare. The AAA can be loosely divided between Light, Medium and Heavy.

    The cornerstone of North Korean AAA is the ZPU-2 and ZPU-4 series light AAA. Although it is difficult to get confirmation that this is still the case, the ZPU-4 14.5mm quad machine gun is likely to be the most prevalent system. Of Soviet origin, this is now produced in North Korea also.

    In the right circumstances the ZPU-4 can be devastating, particularly to unarmored helicopters, but it is very short ranged (far shorter than the range of a Hellfire missile for example) and is much less effective against armored helicopters and fast jets.

    Other prevalent AAA systems include M-1939 37mm AAA and S-60 57mm AAA. North Korean S-60 57mm AAA with ‘Fire Can’ radar:

    This more recent picture of Chinese operated S-60s with ‘Fire Can’ radar is useful although obviously it’s not from DPRK:

    Additionally North Korea has produced an indigenous 57mm gun mount which appears to combine the twin 57mm guns of the ZSU-57-2 SPPAG with the mount of the S-60:

    DPRK also operates some KS-19 100mm AAA guns but these are obsolete – um, as is much of what I’ve just described.

    An interesting AAA piece is the M-1990 30mm gatling gun. I can’t find any photos of it but it is described as having four barrels and being externally powered. On paper this gun is probably the most potent of all North Korean AAA, with an incredible rate of fire. But it also probably has drawbacks, being much more complicated than the ZPU-4s and M-1939s. It is probable that it requires external power supply for sustained readiness (electrically powered gun), as batteries would be short lived especially in the cold temperatures of a North Korean winter. Having said that a battery is probably included to provide limited contingency. This means however that the M-1990 is probably much less mobile than the ZPU-4 et al.

    This is my artist’s impression of the type, based purely on descriptions:

    1.3. Hardened SAM site
    North Korea has attempted to improve the survivability of some of its SAM sites by building them into elaborate underground bunker complexes. This is an interesting and not necessarily foolhardy idea, although it flies in the face of contemporary wisdom that seeks to improve survivability by increasing mobility. The North Koreans however like digging underground complexes and perhaps because they are unable to buy more modern truly mobile systems, have dug purpose built SAM complexes, mainly for SA-3 SAMs. There exists at least one hardened SA-2 site but it is not fully underground, simply having individual bunkers for each missile. The clearest example of a hardened SAM site are the two SA-3 sites around Pyongyang, both of which are similar in layout:

    Sketch showing approximate internal arrangement; this is my speculation and not intended as 100% accurate, but gives a good indication.

    Ten years ago these positions made a lot of sense; underground facilities proved very difficult to destroy even with precision guided munitions (PGM) – as demonstrated in GW1 and the Balkans. But, we now live in the age of the “bunker buster” and these comparatively weak bunkers are easy prey. As an aside, these sites probably offer reasonable NBC protection.

    The radar sites to provide early warning and surveillance for the AAA and SAM sites are also often hardened in this manner with caves and sometimes radars that retract into hill-tops. This site, although not part of the Pyongyang localized defenses, is a good illustration:

    1.4. Air Defenses of Pyongyang: Conclusion
    We’ve seem that Pyongyang is heavily defended, but there is the inescapable reality that (*thankfully*) these types of defenses don’t count for much in a modern battle. It is possible that the huge volume of AAA concentrated is designed to tackle Tomahawk cruise missiles, but even then they seem weak. The logical counter to cruise missiles is sophisticated fast response targeting systems integrated with highly agile SAMs and autominous air defense guns or lasers. Clearly crewed AAA is going to have a very difficult time intercepting cruise missiles even if they are primed with approach angles etc. If North Korea possessed such systems then they would logically decommission the expensive AAA network and redeploy the resources to other activities – the high level of maintenance and preparedness visible at the AAA sites is evidence that this is not the case.

    If the cornerstone of North Korean AAA doctrine is intercepting cruise missiles, then time has once again overtaken it. With North Korea’s high altitude SAM systems now too outdated to provide credible deterrence against high flying aircraft, there’s nothing stopping an enemy air force simply flying over top of the AAA (which is not useful against high and fast targets) and dropping comparatively cheap JDAMs or other PGMs on the sites. Add an adversary with stealth aircraft to the equation….

    So is there, objectively speaking, a strength to the North Korean AAA rings? Well, if North Korea suddenly obtains high capability SAMs like S-300 to force an aggressor to fly low (as was the original doctrine it seems), then yes. But even then stealth technology would win again. So short of preventing the ROKAF from their flying F-15s in a lap of honor around Pyongyang at 2,000ft, no, it’s a huge waste of resources.
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    2. Underground air base
    Although several North Korean air bases use caves tunneled into nearby hills as hardened aircraft shelters, one unreported air base near Changchu’an-ni, West of Pyongyang, is of particular interest because it is almost entirely underground. It is possible that it is a secondary back-up airstrip for nearby Onchon, but it is quite distinct from that base:

    The base features three runways that give the appearance of converging on a large hill. There are in fact two aircraft tunnel entrances in the hill, each about 14m wide (wide enough for MiG-21, MiG-23 and MiG-29 but not Su-25), separated by a large headland of natural rock. This arrangement is intended to reduce the risk of a direct strike blocking the entrance. The arrangement of the entrances is virtually identical to those at PuckChang air base and several other air bases:

    Top: Google Earth imagery showing recent state of tunnels at PuckChang with MiG-23 ‘Flogger’ fighters. Bottom: 1960’s A-12 OXCART reconnaissance photo of same entrances. The A-12 was the precursor to the famous and essentially similar SR-71 Blackbird. It was operated by the CIA and only flew twelve operational missions, being retired in 1968.

    The south entrance at the underground air base, based on Google Earth imagery:

    All three runways are long enough for fighter aircraft take-off although only the longest, at 2.4km, is really adequate for safe ordinary operations and landings. There are no taxiways or further auxiliary runways. It is not clear whether the two shorter runways (North and South) actually have entrances into the mountain but my analysis suggests not.

    The active AAA sites near the entrances suggests that the base is still operational. Although underground aircraft tunnels have proved effective protection against bombing (Serbia as an example), this air base must be well known to the US and South Korean military. The base does not appear to have substantial facilities and any escalation in activity at the base preceding a ‘surprise’ attack could easily be monitored. The runways themselves are not well placed and the absence of taxiways would make high tempo operations impractical. The base is therefore only useful for launching a surprise attack or evacuating aircraft to for protection from bombing – at any rate the latest ‘bunker buster’ bombs are designed for just such a site.

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    3. Indigenous air defense equipment
    Although North Korea is not known to have produced any SAM systems they have produced several unique self propelled AAA systems.

    3.1. updates/ Inaccuracies on common sources of DPRK AAA disposition
    The main public sources for DPRK military doctrine and equipment are FAS and Global Security, both of which borrow heavily from mid-1990s US military handbooks. These handbooks are an invaluable source but they are now ten or more years old and even then they were based on public information. They do not include illustrations of several key units and their unit breakdowns, whilst good, are now out-dated. See my comments:

    3.2. M-1992 SPAAG
    Based on the chassis and fire control radar of the ZSU-23-4 Shilka, this type sports a noticeably taller turret with twin 30mm AAA guns. Unlike most North Korean adaptations, this is quite possibly a performance enhancement over the original type. As the US designation implies, it was first seen in 1992. This system is operational in some numbers. It is possible that it has replaced the older twin 37mm SPAAG (below) in some units.

    3.3. Twin 37mm SPAAG
    Similar in concept and capabilities to the 1950s American M-42 Duster, this design places a twin 37mm anti-aircraft gun (from Soviet M-1939 AAA) in an open top turret on an APC hull. Sighting is optical with no on-chassis radar. Although the system has some advantages over the basic M-1939 towed AAA, it is still somewhat obsolete today.

    3.4. M-1983 14.5mm SPAAG
    I couldn’t find any illustrations or photos of this type but it essentially consists of a ZPU-4 machine gun mounted on a tank chassis. The exact tank is not specified but probably a T-55. The gun probably has an open topped turret and probably relies on off-vehicle radar as the Twin 7mm SPAAG did. This unit is probably not operational in significant numbers and is not particularly credible in modern warfare.

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    4. Long Range Artillery hidden in tunnels
    Although there are numerous variations depending on terrain, resources and the time of construction, a typical hardened artillery position consists of caves or bunkers inside a hillside, with four firing positions immediately in front. This is an MRLS position:

    Note that all the vehicles in the right-hand line face the same direction and that the back-blast from each will not hit the next.

    Gun artillery positions are also often pre-prepared and hardened with caves and bunkers. Gun artillery positions however typically have more firing positions and ready to fire ammunition lockers next to each position. These lockers typically hold 80 rounds. Whilst rocket artillery positions require a clear area behind the launcher for the substantial back-blast, gun emplacements can be more compact and not necessarily all facing in exactly the same direction:

    4.1. SCUD tactical ballistic missiles
    North Korea manufactures two main variants of SCUD short range ballistic missile; the Hwasong-5 (SCUD-B): 300km, and the Hwasong-6 (SCUD-C): 500km. The latter is slightly larger but both use the classic Russian designed Maz 8x8 transporter-erector-launcher (TEL).

    SCUDs and hardened artillery positions:

    Another suspicious vehicle found near a tunnel. At first glance this vehicle doesn’t appear to have a missile on it and is divided centrally. But at 14m long, it’s certainly a “possible”, although I don’t think this is a SCUD TEL:

    4.2. Nodong-I ballistic missile
    The Nodong-I (aka Rodong I) is an evolution of the SCUD, and in simplistic terms is about twice the size (in volume) and has three times the range, but in other respects it is similar. Although the range is increased the accuracy is not, and at 1,000km it is thought to have an accuracy of about 1km, which with its 1ton warhead is insufficient for striking military targets.

    Although no photo-evidence of the launch vehicle (TEL) is available in the West, the missile is closely related to the subsequent Iranian Shahab-3 and Pakistani Ghuari, both of which are carried on an articulated truck. The reason for this is that the Nodong missiles are about 5m longer than the SCUD so the characteristic SCUD TEL cannot be used without substantial modification; it is probably much cheaper to use a truck and trailer. This arrangement does however reduce off-road capability. Interestingly, other countries developing indigenous variants of the SCUD missile have also adopted this launcher layout, such as the Iraqi [FONT='Arial','sans-serif']al-Waleed launcher[/font] and Peruvian SCUD+.

    4.2.1. Missile site
    Ballistic Missile sites are relatively hard to locate on Google Earth, and even known sites tend to be somewhat unremarkable in satellite imagery. There is one site of note however south of Togu-ri, about 90km north of the boarder, and 145km north of the South Korean Capital. The site consists of two large tunnel entrances on the North East face of a hill. The tunnel doors are some 30m across and there are two leveled platforms each 60m x 30m. There are very few buildings around the site suggesting that it is almost entirely an underground complex. Although we cannot be certain that it’s a missile site, it is hard to think up alternative explanations: why would you require a very large leveled hard surface, with massive underground hangers, in the middle of no-where? The sheer size of the entrances and platforms suggests a missile much larger than a regular SCUD, which at any rate doesn’t require such elaborate (and easily spotted) facilities. The Taep'o-dong-I/II missiles require a more substantial launch apparatus which there’s no sign of. There are no rail tracks so whatever comes out of the hanger must be road-mobile. The likely system then is something more substantial than the SCUD but smaller than the Taep’odong, thus Nodong-I appears to be the likely system.

    4.3. KN-02 tactical ballistic missile
    Although it is shorter ranged than the SCUD and No-dong rockets, the KN-02 represents a major enhancement of North Korean military technology and represents a quantum leap in guidance technology; if North Korea can apply this technology to longer range missiles then the overall potency of her conventional forces will be greatly magnified. KN-02 is closely based on the Russian [FONT='Verdana','sans-serif']9M79 "Tochka" ([/font] SS-21 Scarab-A) tactical missile, and has the significant advantage over the SCUD because it uses a solid-fuel rocket instead of liquid fuel. This means that it doesn’t take as long to prepare before launch. North Korea obtained SS-21 technology from Syria in 1996 and produced a modified missile with longer range (120-140km, equivalent to Scarab-B missile). Test firings took place in 2004, 2005 and three in 2006 and three in 2007. By 2007 there was clear evidence of it having entered service in significant numbers. The vehicle is different from the SS-21’s Zil all-terrain truck but has a similar hatched-roof configuration. Each TEL is about 10m long and carries a single 6.4m missile which is fired in the near-vertical position.

    The KN-02 is reportedly capable of flying a shallow trajectory reaching only 30km in altitude – too low for exoatmospheric ABM defences, although still within the envelope of THAAD and Patriot PAC-III if the batteries are placed close enough to the target.

    4.4. Luna-M (FROG-7B) battlefield rocket
    North Korea operates several variants of the Soviet FROG (Free Rocket Over Ground) artillery rocket, although the most common and most potent is likely to be the FROG-7B:

    The FROG-7B is very inaccurate but can carry chemical or even nuclear warheads (though SCUD and NoDong missiles are more obvious candidates).

    4.5. M-1991 Heavy Rocket Artillery (MRLS)
    An indigenous weapon, the M-1991 and older M-1985 240mm MRLS are among the more potent artillery pieces in the North Korean inventory. The rockets have an effective range of about 35km and are generally comparable to western MRLS.