A while ago I saw a National Geographic documentary about North Korea. I don’t fully understand the tension, but I do understand some. The UN (United Nations) is concerned about North Korea (on President George W. Bush’s “Axis of Evil” list) having nuclear weapons capabilities. North Korea has continued to test missiles and even nukes causing tensions to rise all over the world. They seem to have shut themselves off from the rest of the world, never communicating with other countries.
I was just reading about North Korea and it has been confirmed that on May 29, 2009 they had a “successful” nuclear weaponry test. Other countries believe that this test poses a threat (especially South Korea) and is irresponsible. The test has been condemned by MANY countries (including the US, France, Russia, Britain, Argentina, Vietnam, China, South Korea, Brazil, Australia, Bulgaria, Estonia, Colombia, Germany, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Israel, Latvia, Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, South Africa, Sweden, Turkey, Iran, Canada, Japan, and multiple international organizations including NATO and the United Nations). “These irresponsible actions by Pyongyang pose a serious challenge to peace, security and stability in the Asia-Pacific region and are being universally condemned by the international community,” “We call upon Pyongyang to refrain from any other actions which could contribute to raising tensions and to restore dialogue within the Six-Party framework. The Alliance will continue to carefully monitor developments with deep concern.” said NATO.
This isn’t the point of this post though, because this is an aviation blog this has to relate to aviation right? Yes! And it does. According to North Korea, the United States has started flying spy planes over their coast. North Korea accused the US of flying upwards of FIVE reconnaissance flights a day! The United States claims that North Korea is trying to cover up ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile) tests by disguising them as a “communications satellite” test. North Korea denied the accusation saying that they are testing different satellites, but not weapons. North Korea has admitted to testing smaller missiles of their coast. American satellites detected activity at a large missile launch site in North Korea, indicating that they may be preparing to launch an ICBM. North Korea claims that the “ICBM” is really just part of their communications satellite project. But as you can see above the US doesn’t think so, and if the US is correct, the ICBM could reach Hawaii!
According to North Korea the US has started flying surveillance missions over the coast of North Korea to watch the launch site for the ICBM/satellite. North Korea does not like this and threatened to shoot down the aircraft in a statement: “If the brigandish US imperialists dare to infiltrate spy planes into our airspace to interfere with our peaceful satellite launch preparations, our revolutionary armed forces will mercilessly shoot them down,” said a North Korean news station quoting a North Korean official. I am not sure if the air force really does fly five spy missions a day, but I do believe we fly some, even if they are unconfirmed.
The aircraft in question are Lockheed’s U-2 “Dragon Lady” and Boeing’s RC-135 (this aircraft has many different variations therefore many different names. Here are just a few: Rivet Joint, Rivet Stand, Cobra Jaw, Office Boy, Combat Sent, Cobra Ball, Air Seeker, and many other variations, all different in some way). The U-2 can reach altitudes of 70,000 feet and the RC-135 50,000 feet! The two are much different, because the U-2 is a small (compared to the RC-135) single engine jet and the RC-135 is a large four engine jet. Remember the RC-135 is just a KC-135 but modified for surveillance missions. You can find U-2 Dragon Ladies at Beale AFB, Marysville, CA and you can find RC-135’s at Offutt AFB, near Omaha, NE. I thought this was an interesting topic and decided to write about it, I am not sure if I totally understand it yet, but hope to soon. Thanks!