By Bijan Razzaghi
North Korea this week has unveiled a nuclear device small enough to fit into the warhead of their KN-20 ICBM. Unlike the commonly used Scud missile the KN-20 is a two stage liquid fueled missile and does not require alot of time to be ready for launch. At the same time Kim Jun Un announced that he would conduct a premtive strike on Guam and Hawaii. With these threats it’s important to understand the United States military’s options to prevent a nuclear attack. The United States possesses a number of systems that can be employed to deter the threat posed by North Korea’s KN-20 and other weapons. These systems include the B-2 Sprit stealth bomber, the B-1B Lancer Bomber, the Zumwalt class destroyer and the Ohio Class Submarine.
The Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit was developed in the 1980s as a heavy bomber that can penetrate Soviet Air Space,despite the end of the cold war the bomber became operational and the North Korean threat is a prime example of why the B-2 is in service. The B-2s radar absorbent material allows it to enter North Korea’s airspace undetected. Even the most sophisticated SAMs such as the KN-06 or the BUK will have trouble engaging a B-2. The B-2 can deploy air launched AGM-158 air to surface stand off missiles and the AGM-154 joint standoff weapon. B-2s can also employ GPS guided JDAMs, and bunker busters for hard targets. The B-2s total payload is up to 40,000 ibs of ordinance. The aircraft has a range of 6900 miles and can fly at altitudes as high as 50,000 ft. B-2s based around the world can conduct round the clock bombing raids on targets deep inside North Korea territory.
The B-1B is another long range bomber but unlike the B-2 it does not possess radar defeating capabilities. Despite this the US Air Force possesses nearly 100 B-1s which have been operational since the later years of the cold war. B-1s can fly at supersonic speeds and deploy air launched JSSAM and JSOW missiles. B-1B also has the AN/APQ-164 offensive passively scanned electronic array radar which allows it to navigate difficult terrain at low altitudes and detect and engage targets. The B-1B is also supersonic being able to fly at Mach 1.15. The B-2s range of 5100nm like the B-2 offers the ability to fly great distances and fly from the safety of the United States. The B-1B can also conduct low altitude penetration missions. Although in the era of advanced Surface to air missiles such as the BUK M3 and S-300 variants low altitude penetration is no longer a viable option, despite this the B-1Bs AN/ALQ-161 and 184 can jam SAM radars and incoming missiles. This can be used against North Korea vast array of cold war era SA-2s ,SA-3s and SA,5s which constitute for nearly 3000 of North Korea’s radar guided SAMs.
Ohio Class Guided Missile Submarine
The Ohio class guided missile submarine is designed to deploy to sea and remain undetected until a missile launch is ordered. The Ohio Class submarines carry both Nuclear and covenantal weapons. The SSGN conversions can deploy as many as 154 tomahawk missiles while the SSBN-733 variant can deploy 24 nuclear Trident II SPLM missiles. Ohio Class Submarines can defend themselves from hostile naval vessels using Mark-48 Torpedoes. Los Angeles, and Virginia class submarines can also be used to support an offensive with Tomahawk missiles.
Zumwalt Class Destroyer
The Zumwalt class destroyer is the US Navy’s first fully operational stealth warship and is perfect for countering the threat posed by North Korean KH-35 anti ship missiles and North Korean Naval vessels. The United States currently operates two Zumwalt class destroyers with a third on its way. The ship can deploy up to deploy Tomahawk Missiles and GPS guided shells from its two 155mm advanced gun systems. The Zumwalt can also defend itself with RIM-126 Evolved Sea Sparrow missiles. The Stealth features of the Zumwalt allow for late detection and provide the element of surprise. A single Zumwalt destroyer can deal a significant blow to North Korea’s A2/AD capabilities.
These are just a few examples of weapon systems that can be used to strike North Korea’s ballistic missiles. Other aircraft such as the F-35A and F-22 can be employed in this role. Special operations forces can also be deployed to sabotage North Korean missiles and take out North Korean command and control. The US military is not limited to konnetic options, in the era of multi domain battle cyber weapon systems can assist in counter North Korea if war becomes imminent.