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North Korea Tests Tactical Weapons and Dangers of Laser Devices to Aircraft Safety

Updated: May 20

April 14-20, 2022 | Issue 4 - Weapons and Tactics (W/T) Team

Annabelle Hueber, Weapons and Tactics (W/T) Team

Demetrios Giannakaris, Senior Editor


North Korean Missile Carrier[1]


Date: April 16, 2022

Location: Hamhung, North Korea

Parties involved: North Korea; North Korean Military; Kim Jong Un

The event: Around 1800 on Saturday, North Korea conducted a “tactical weapon” test by launching two projectiles from the Hamhung region. The projectiles flew for 68.3 miles (109.9 km) at a 15.5-mile (24.9 km) altitude, with a max speed of Mach 4.0.[2] South Korean military officials believe that both missiles landed in the sea. KCNA, North Korea’s state-controlled media, stated that the weapons test, “is of great significance in drastically improving the firepower of the frontline long-range artillery units and enhancing the efficiency in the operation of tactical nukes.”[3] The tactical weapon test is North Korea’s 12th missile test this year.

Analysis & Implications:

  • North Korea will likely continue to conduct short-range missile tests. The frequency of tests will likely increase, likely involving new types of short-range weapon systems. It is very likely that the tactical weapon tested on April 16 will be involved in further weapons tests.

  • There is a roughly even chance that North Korea will conduct a nuclear test by mid-2022. Nuclear tests will likely coincide with a significant event in North Korea, such as Military Foundation Day or Army Day (April 25). Any nuclear test will likely involve a tactical nuclear warhead, resulting in a low yield localized blast.

  • The United States (US), South Korea, and Japan will likely impose further sanctions against North Korea for their tactical nuclear weapons tests. Additional sanctions will very likely involve travel bans and asset freezing of entities related to missile technologies’ production, testing, and deployment. These actions will likely coincide with heightened regional military posturing. North Korea is unlikely to reduce military tests after US allies’ threat or imposition of sanctions.

Date: April 18, 2022

Location: United States

Parties involved: Federal Aviation Administration; United States; FBI; Washington State Patrol Pilots

The event: The Federal Aviation Administration has published new numbers indicating a 41 percent increase in laser pointer-related incidents compared to last year. Most incidents occur in California, Texas, and Florida, prompting the FFA to announce an alert urging people to stop aiming laser pointers at airplanes. Handheld lasers can put an entire aircraft in danger and cause severe damage to pilots' eyes, including temporary blindness and lasting eye injuries.[4] In Seattle, the FBI is now offering a $10,000 reward for information regarding the identification, arrest, or conviction of individuals involved in pointing lasers at an aircraft around the SeaTac airport.[5] Although laser pointers are widely available for purchasing and are inexpensive, lasers pointing at aircraft or their flight path is illegal in the US and punishable with up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.[6]

Analysis & Implications:

  • Laser pointer incidents are likely to disrupt incoming flights' landing processes, overall flight schedules, and time-sensitive operations conducted in air traffic control towers. It is almost certain laser pointers will disrupt pilots’ situational awareness, negatively impacting crucial phases such as takeoff and landing. Incoming traffic is likely to be overlooked, compromising aviation safety for both inbound and outbound aircraft.

  • Helicopters are likely at greater risk of exposure to laser pointers due to their low altitude flight pattern. A laser beam will likely scatter through the entire cockpit, affecting everyone on board the aircraft. Law enforcement helicopters will likely be among the targeted aircraft, likely resulting in delayed incidence response times.

  • Regulatory hazard reduction measures such as restricting the sale, purchase, and recreational use of laser devices will likely decrease the risk posed to aircraft. Glare shields and stowable laser eye protection systems installed in aircraft cockpits are very likely to reduce the effects of laser devices.

 

The Counterterrorism Group (CTG)


[1] North Korean Missile Carrier by Teukwonjae707 licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International

[2] North Korean leader shown observing weapons test as country fires projectiles into eastern waters, CNN, April 2022, https://edition.cnn.com/2022/04/16/asia/north-korea-weapon-test-intl-hnk/index.html

[3] North Korea tests new weapon 'to improve tactical nukes', BBC, April 2022, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-61133225

[4] Laser strikes on aircraft, potentially blinding pilots, are on pace for a new record: "It's very disorienting", CBS News, April 2022, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/laser-strikes-airplanes-on-the-rise-faa/

[5] Commercial Aircraft Laser Incidents, FBI, January 2022, https://www.fbi.gov/wanted/seeking-info/commercial-aircraft-laser-incidents

[6] https://www.laserpointersafety.com/rules-general/uslaws/uslaws.html


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