Satellite Images Suggest North Korea Preparing Submarine Ballistic Missile Launch

On Friday afternoon as the market was about to close, we discussed an unconfirmed report that North Korea had issued "emergency standby orders" to its civil defense units, and we said that at the same time, "traders are furiously hitting refresh on the website of for the daily satellite image update of North Korea's missile launch preparedness, which has yet to hit and which could mean the difference between another sleepy, boring open on Monday and a VIX surging above 20, 30 or more depending on what "path" Kim Jong-Un picks over the next 48 hours."

Shortly after the note, 38North, best known for its real-time satellite imagery of North Korean military operations and slightly less known for a pro-war spin according to some (hence, take their conclusions with caution), reported that recent satellite photos suggests that North Korea is preparing for fresh submarine-based missile tests even as Trump has repeatedly stated that any new provocation from North Korea could be grounds for a military operation.

Referring to photographs taken on August 7, Joseph Bermudez, a North Korea specialist, claimed that they could indicate preparations for a new test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM). "Recent commercial satellite imagery reveals several developments suggesting that North Korea may be accelerating the development of the sea-based leg of its nuclear forces," he said.

Of particular interest in the imagery is that netting or tarps have been suspended above both the fore and aft decks of the SINPO-class submarine obscuring any activity taking place beneath them. This was last done prior to the July 9, 2016 test of the Pukguksong-1, suggesting that the North may be preparing for a new series of “at sea” test launches, has undertaken modifications or upgrades to the submarine’s launch systems, or is developing a more advanced version of the Pukguksong-1. Recent ejection tests of an SLBM also support the assessment that an at-sea SLBM test may be forthcoming.

Figure 1. Netting or tarps suspended over SINPO-class SSBA in the secure boat basin

Some further details:

As noted in our July report, sometime during the last week in May, the SINPO-class submarine was repositioned forward along its dock and the submersible test stand barge was moved to a position aft of the submarine (both had previously been in their former positions since December 9, 2016). Since the July report, netting or tarps have been suspended above both the fore and aft decks of the submarine obscuring any activity taking place beneath them. The only other time this was seen was during May-July 2016 and prior to the failed July 9, 2016 Pukguksong-1 test. It is unclear if this activity is signaling a forthcoming at sea SLBM test, although the recent ejection tests would support such an assessment. No activity is noted on or near the submersible test stand barge in the latest image.

Figure 2. Netting or tarps suspended over SINPO-class SSBA observed in May 2016.

Separately, Bermudez said that imagery of the Mayang-do Navy Shipyard and Submarine Base shows the same number of ROMEO-class submarines that are usually berthed there, indicating that a recent spike in ROMEO activity in the East Sea (Sea of Japan) was a singular rather than force-wide event.

Imagery of the Mayang-do Navy Shipyard and Submarine Base shows the same number of ROMEO-class submarines that are usually berthed there, indicating that a recent spike in ROMEO activity in the East Sea (Sea of Japan) was a singular rather than force-wide event. The week-long patrol by a ROMEO-class attack submarine in the East Sea (Sea of Japan) was “highly unusual and unprecedented,” as Korea People’s Navy submarines have not been known to venture far from their home ports over the past ten years. The few times they have, it has been only to participate in short annual military exercises. The purpose of this recent activity is unclear, but there are several potential explanations including: Kim Jong Un’s desire to expand his provocative policy of the past two years into the naval arena; a practical exercise demonstrating renewed North Korean offensive naval capabilities (potentially a component of the strategic review of military capabilities ordered by Kim Jong Un when he came to power); a training cruise intended to prepare a submarine and its crew for a longer cruise to monitor future ballistic missile tests or conduct offensive conventional attack missions; validation of upgrades to the ROMEO-class submarine (a number of ROMEO-class submarines have been undergoing extended maintenance and refurbishment during the past five years)—or some combination of the above.


A preliminary comparison of the submarine activity at both the Mayang-do Navy Shipyard and Submarine Base during the past twelve months with the August 7 image shows the number of ROMEO-class submarines has remained relatively constant, averaging 12-15; and the number of SANGO-class coastal submarines averaging 11-15. In the August 7 image, 12 ROMEO- and 15 SANGO-class submarines are berthed. This suggests that the July “unusual activities” were a singular event rather than a force-wide event. Regardless, extended North Korean operations in the East Sea should be viewed with concern.

Figure 3. Multiple SANGO and ROMEO-class submarines berthed in the Mayang-do Navy Shipyard.

Figure 4. One SANGO-class and three ROMEO-class submarines berthed at the south pier of the Mayang-do Submarine Base.


Kotzbomber747 (not verified) skbull44 Sun, 08/13/2017 - 13:42 Permalink

A few grainy pics?Isn't it funny how all the ZH Trump fans are now rooting for war? Wasn't Trump supposed to stop "Big Government" and reduce the number of troops overseas? Oh wait, he also bullshitted so much, that he also promissed MORE spending on the MIC. And then these Trump fanboy-idiots still believe that Trump will drain the swamp? The MIC is the swamp!

In reply to by skbull44

fx JRobby Sun, 08/13/2017 - 19:35 Permalink

"knock them out" - based exactly on what reason? That they don't obey the will of washington d.c.?By that logic, there are literally dozens of countries how would have at least the same right to knock US naval wessels out - which operate thousands of miles away from US shores, don't ya think?

In reply to by JRobby

Lumberjack skbull44 Sun, 08/13/2017 - 14:33 Permalink

Meanwhile in Afghanistan:

Mystery Aviation in Afghanistan: Whose is it?…

Kabulov also said that Russian diplomats raised the issue of the unidentified aircraft during a meeting of the UN Security Council.

A question emerges: where did the helicopters appear from in the airspace where only NATO, US and Afghan aviation is allowed to go.

“But everyone knows that with the help of these helicopters, in addition to supplying Daesh and Taliban, there is the smuggling of precious stones and drugs going on,” the analyst said.

According to him, the situation in Afghanistan is not under the control of the authorities.

“Nobody controls US and NATO planes that can land at any airfields in the country. They act independently: they can bring anything into Afghanistan, as well as take out what they want,” Amarhel concluded.

Earlier, a Russian diplomat, Zamir Kabulov, cited the fact that Daesh continues to strengthen its positions in Afghanistan, which triggers serious concerns in Moscow about the possibility of the spread of instability to the countries of Central Asia near Russia's borders.

In reply to by skbull44

tmosley 38BWD22 Sun, 08/13/2017 - 13:52 Permalink

Diesel-electrics are actually quieter than nuclear subs from what I understand.But quietness won't be counting for much when they are being pinged constantly by the entire surface fleet, assuming the Navy has failed to use machine learning to create a high resolution passive sonar underwater visualization device (a task that would be trivial for any ML undergrad).

In reply to by 38BWD22

GUS100CORRINA Looney Sun, 08/13/2017 - 13:15 Permalink

Satellite Images Suggest North Korea Preparing Submarine Ballistic Missile LaunchMy response: So a NK Submarine with nuclear capability parked 200+ miles off the coast of the Eastern USA that can create and EMP pulse to take out the ELECTRICAL GRID of the entire Eastern USA. Note that the missile doesn't need to be fired at the USA, just fired up into the air and detonated off of the coastline of the USA. Interesting!!!!!!By the way, where in the HELL did NK get the SUBMARINE from anyway? CHINA? RUSSIA?

In reply to by Looney

Chupacabra-322 GUS100CORRINA Sun, 08/13/2017 - 13:24 Permalink

The Criminal Deep State / Pentagram PsyOp, Scripted False Narrative changes daily.

Gotta keep the masses in manufactured, perpetual Fear & Distraction from the Awan brothers, Seth Rich, Wasserman-Shultz & Clinton Crimes under wrap.

Here's the suspect / circumstantial at best report created by the Criminal DIA headed by a known perjured Criminal Clapper.

Conceivable - Adjective. Capable of being imagined or grasp mentally.

The DIA white paper stresses Pyongyang’s “significant headway” in the nuclear race and its “possible” (italics mine) ability to develop miniaturized nuclear warheads able to fit on the tips of its missiles.

This “possible” ability is drowned in outright speculation. As the report states, “It is conceivable that North Korea’s nuclear weapons program has already considerably advanced and it is possible that North Korea has already achieved the miniaturization of nuclear bombs into warheads and has acquired nuclear warheads.”

NK doesn't have, never had & for the foreseeable future never possess the ability to produce a Nuclear Weapon even with the Nuclear Tech Rumsfeld sold NK back in 2000.

There's that pesky word again "Could" in the article. To my point. NK doesn't currently possess a NK weapon.

The entire NK conflict is nothing more than another badly written Deep State Scripted False Narrative PsyOp.

Suffice it to say, it's plausible the Criminal Pentagram/ Deep State have been Scriptng the PsyOp since 2000.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld served on the board of a Swiss company that in 2000 sold light water nuclear reactors to the government of North Korea, which critics including Pentagon hardliners say could be used to produce nuclear weapons.

In reply to by GUS100CORRINA

Gen. Ripper yogibear Sun, 08/13/2017 - 13:49 Permalink

Yes, but china is the loser. They were suckered in by the Jews, they took the money and employed millions. If trump hits the sanctions button those same millions will be out of work, and angry. China will dump most support for NK, lose a few artificial islands and we will back down.

In reply to by yogibear

land_of_the_few pkea Sun, 08/13/2017 - 15:09 Permalink

Of course not. How would anyone confirm it? No doubt those great military experts WaPo will print that they absolutely do have.By the way, NK is not going to strike first, particularly since China said they're on their own if they do.This also mirrors China's traditional no-first-strike policy. They keep their warheads *separate* from launching systems. At least they did, until the US kept noising them up lately ...... recently they were talking of changing that policy.The key word is "defense".

In reply to by pkea

HRClinton GUS100CORRINA Sun, 08/13/2017 - 15:24 Permalink

It doesn't even have to be a sub. It's far easier to launch from a fishing is freight ship.If they launch on a trajectory parallel to the coast, they don't even have to aim at the US, to detonate above the atmosphere. Do it 200+ miles off all US coasts, and it's "Welcome to the 1800s, 'Muricans!" Only solution: leave them the f**k alone. Stop yanking a dog's chain to make him bark and snarl. I.e. stop antagonizing them with massive naval drills with SK at harvest time, and then claim that they are starving their people."A (((Globalist))) always cries out in pain, as he strikes you", is well known.

In reply to by GUS100CORRINA

1033eruth GUS100CORRINA Sun, 08/13/2017 - 18:23 Permalink

Spreading a wildly popular rumor again.  You or any of the other eggheads that have upvoted your comment about a SINGLE NUCLEAR WARHEAD explosion causing an EMP that would take out the electrical grid of the ENTIRE Eastern USA.I understand that some people have vivid imaginations, but I INSIST that you provide some historical basis for this sort of claim.  As in, GIVE ME AN EXAMPLE!!!"In 1963, three (UK, US, Soviet Union) of the four nuclear states and many non-nuclear states signed the Limited Test Ban Treaty, pledging to refrain from testing nuclear weapons in the atmosphere, underwater, or in outer space. The treaty permitted underground nuclear testing. France continued atmospheric testing until 1974, and China continued until 1980. Neither has signed the treaty.[1] So, up until 1963 three countries were doing above ground tests.  Now, WHERE is all the historical evidence about above ground testing knocking out electrical grids.  NO, they didn't just blow them up in the ocean.  The Nevada test Site is where the US did the bulk of its above ground testing and Las Vegas could see the mushroom clouds from the hotels.  From the following article: The city of Las Vegas experienced noticeable seismic effects, and the distant mushroom clouds, which could be seen from the downtown hotels, became tourist attractions. St. George, Utah, received the brunt of the fallout of above-ground nuclear testing in the Yucca Flats/Nevada Test Site. Winds routinely carried the fallout of these tests directly through St. George and southern Utah. 

In reply to by GUS100CORRINA