Fascinating to consider North Korea's missile efforts aimed at delivering a nuclear EMP rather than traditional nuclear ordnance.

Explode high in the air w/o requiring the precision or re-entry capability of traditional ICBMs.

Changes whole flavor of the aperiodic missile launches from NK into Sea of Japan.

Interesting writeup / sources:

Great Frank Rieger writeup:

@Mudge I must disagree: modern thought on EMP is that Starfish Prime was rather (well) overstated not to mention the difference between a MT-class warhead (Starfish Prime) vs. a low kT-class warhead (unboosted implosion).

Even an ICBM with low CEP would be sufficiently menacing. The range to Japan is barely IRBM-class and, again, CEP is not so dramatically important.

Choice of trajectory for the tests has been analysed in depth in academia (e.g. see

@cynicalsecurity I like armscontrilwonk's work. Additionally, I haven't seen any reports on efforts towards high gamma yield from NK but I acknowledge that media coverage in the topic is likely very opinionated in slant (and that they may not be going that direction at all).

Not sure what you're disagreeing with, as I was stating that I find it an interesting thought that I had not really considered before, but I do appreciate your comments and armscontrolwonk has some good work :)

@Mudge sorry about the disagreeing: I thought you were in support of the "EMP drama". They are also conflating "high gamma yield" (i.e. ER warheads) with EMP which, at the time of Starfish Prime, were at the design stage.

My main gripe with the whole discourse is that EMP and ER weapons are a step towards "minimum acceptable nukes" ("hey, an EMP in high atmosphere kills noone") or ignoring that ER weapons are still nukes, just salted for "extra radiation" with appropriate tamper.

@cynicalsecurity no worries :) thanks for the extra data. Fascinating!

@Mudge I am away from my library but will definitely find you the refs for the re-evaluation of the effects of Starfish Prime.

I find it particularly interesting because it goes from the "EMP scare" of the 60s to a more focused understanding of the effect on satellites (often seen as a probable conflict "opener" in a nuke exchange to blind the adversary) and the lack of effect on the modern telco infrastructure.

@cynicalsecurity not surprising to hear that modern thought on Starfish Prime is that it was overstated.

Do you have any pointers or references to these interpretations?

I'd like to read more.


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