South Korea and the U.S. restore North Korea’s ‘beheading operation’… What is the scenario of the operation to arrest Kim Jong-un in case of emergency?

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Suppression of Pyongyang with a large-scale missile attack, special forces return after securing a ‘target’

An AC-130J special warfare aircraft deployed in the ROK-US joint special operations training ‘Tick Knife’ is dropping precision-guided weapons. [합동참모본부 제공]

During the Moon Jae-in administration, the ROK-US joint training, which was reduced or abolished by saying that it would not stimulate North Korea, is being restored one by one. When South Korea and the United States conducted the ‘Freedom Shield’ exercise on an 11-day schedule from March 13 to 23, North Korea is demanding that the exercise be stopped as if it was frightened. On March 5, North Korea put forward Kim Seon-gyeong, Vice Minister of International Organizations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, saying, “The United States does not hide that it is carrying out special operations training aimed at a surprise strike against major strategic bases in the depths of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in alliance with South Korea.” They expressed displeasure and fear at the recent exercises of the ROK-US Combined Forces. On March 9, North Korea launched the ‘Hwasong-11na’ tactical ballistic missile, called the ‘North Korean version of A-Tae Kims’, to show off its ability to strike major airbases of the ROK-US allied forces.

North Korea’s threatening language that proves fear
Teak knife training released by USFK Special Forces in September of last year. [뉴시스]Teak knife training released by USFK Special Forces in September of last year. [뉴시스]
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North Korea seems to be threatening South Korea and the United States, saying, “We will respond overwhelmingly and suppress it” through the remarks of Chairman Kim Jong-un and reports in the state media. North Korea’s rhetoric reads the fear felt while watching the military drills conducted by South Korea and the U.S. over the past month. This year, North Korea’s fears began in earnest when the ROK-US joint special operations exercise ‘Teak Knife’ was conducted last month. This is because the U.S. Army Special Forces, also known as the Green Berets, and various air support assets were deployed on the Korean Peninsula and conducted large-scale training. Supervised by the US Special Operations Command in Korea (SOCKOR), the ROK Army Special Warfare Command, Navy Special Warfare Group (UDT/SEAL), and Air Force CCT (CCT) units participated in the exercise. It seems that the U.S. military deployed not only the Green Berets, but also the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, Navy SEALs, and Air Force Special Operations Group.

The most noteworthy thing in this teak knife training is the AC-130J ‘Ghost Rider’, a state-of-the-art special warfare aircraft first deployed on the Korean Peninsula. The AC-130J is usually deployed in Florida, but since last year, it has been deployed on a rotational basis to Kadena Air Base in Japan. It is a ‘special operation fire support aircraft’ that the US Army is operating about 40 units. This aircraft is a force that the US military will deploy after completely securing air supremacy in the operational area and eliminating the threat of enemy surface-to-air missiles. It is a kind of ‘air battery’ made by remodeling the C-130 transport aircraft to provide strong aerial firepower to special forces that have difficulty carrying heavy weapons due to the nature of their mission.

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The AC-130J received rave reviews from the US Army on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. General fighter jets or attack helicopters have no choice but to return after bombing the ground several times in just a few seconds due to their short endurance. On the other hand, the AC-130J can precisely fire a 105mm howitzer while staying in the air. The AC-130J, which has been put into action, flies 8 to 9 km above the maximum range and interception altitude of 6 to 7 km for infantry portable surface-to-air missiles. Based on the high-performance optical/infrared aiming system, it enjoys using ultra-precision bombardment tactics. Depending on the skill of the gunner, it can pour shells from 3 to as many as 10 rounds per minute, so the enemy cannot even approach within a radius of several kilometers of the special forces under cover.

The reason why Korea and the U.S. ’emergency runway take-off and landing training’ is attracting attention

In this teak knife training, the AC-130J showed formidable power. At the Jikdo shooting range in the coastal waters of Gunsan, they started live-fire training with AGM-114 Hellfire II missiles and GBU-39 SDB guided bombs. The Hellfire II mounted on the AC-130J can reduce enemy tanks to ashes in one blow. There is also a metal reinforced warhead (MAC) version with a thermobaric warhead for destroying buildings and bunkers. The GBU-39 SDB is a bunker buster that can fly up to 110km and penetrate 1.2m of reinforced concrete when fired at high altitudes.

In addition to the AC-130J’s firepower projection armed demonstration, the ROK-US special forces also conducted an ’emergency runway take-off and landing exercise’ in which C-130J transport aircraft, MC-130J special fighter jets, A-10C attack aircraft, and various helicopters of the Korean Army participated. If it was carried out by general Air Force units, it could be dismissed as ordinary training. This is because the Air Force must be able to operate aircraft on highways or emergency runways in case the runway is destroyed by an enemy attack in case of emergency. However, there is a special meaning in the emergency runway take-off and landing training of teak knives, where special forces are the main axis.

In this exercise, the ROK-US Combined Forces mastered the procedure for C-130 series transport aircraft to unload fuel and ammunition on an emergency runway and supply them to helicopters and attack aircraft that made an emergency landing. In military terms, it was an exercise in ‘Forward Arms and Refueling Stations (FARP)’ tactics. Helicopters and attack aircraft have limitations in that their range is relatively short. Therefore, when attacking a strategic facility located deep in the enemy capital or rear, special forces must occupy an airfield near the target. Transport planes, helicopters, and attack planes are landed at the airfield secured in this way, resupplyed with weapons and fuel, and then launched again. The US military has conducted similar drills with the Japan Maritime and Air Self-Defense Force several times in various places around the Korean Peninsula over the past five years. At the time, an analysis came out that “the US military is carrying out military exercises with the operation to remove the North Korean leadership in mind” over the US-Japan joint training.

The U.S. military also invested a large amount of bombers in the teak knife training. It all started with an armed demonstration-style exercise between two B-52H strategic bombers launched from the U.S. mainland on February 28 in the airspace south of Jeju Island with the Japan Air Self-Defense Force. On March 3, one B-1B bomber flew in the West Sea and East Sea, and on March 6, one B-1B flew in the West Sea. Looking at the face of the bombers mobilized at this time, North Korea can tremble with fear. The B-52H strategic bomber is a member of the 20th Bomb Squadron capable of operating nuclear weapons. It is equipped with the ability to launch AGM-86B air-launched cruise missiles with a range of 2,400 km that are equipped with nuclear warheads 10 times more powerful than the Hiroshima atomic bomb in Japan, and B61-12 “nuclear bunker busters” that can collapse North Korean underground bunkers with artificial earthquakes. Although the B-1B bombers do not have the capability to operate nuclear weapons, they can launch 24 cruise missiles of the Joint Long-Range Air-to-Surface Missile (JASSM) series, which North Korea cannot detect or intercept.

U.S. bombers neutralize North Korean air defense batteries and radars

In the JASSM series, two types are mainly operated: the JASSM-ER with a range of 930 km and the JASSM-XR with a range of 1900 km. It can also be equipped with a 450kg multi-purpose penetrating warhead and special weapon CHAMP that orbits the target and emits high-powered microwaves to burn enemy communication and radar equipment circuits.

The drills conducted by South Korea and the United States over the past month were a kind of armed demonstration that showed an approximate method of how to eliminate or arrest North Korean leaders in case of emergency. It is a relatively simple tactic, but there is virtually no way for North Korea to stop it.

If we predict the scenario of the operation to remove the North Korean leader in case of emergency through the recent ROK-US joint training, it is as follows. First, the coalition forces will launch a large number of JASSM-ER/XR missiles using B-1B or B-52H bombers outside the North Korean air defense detection zone. North Korean radar cannot detect the JASSM series of stealth missiles. North Korean radars, communication equipment, and air defense batteries in the infiltration route around Pyongyang and Nampo are incapacitated by missile attacks. Afterwards, JASSM equipped with CHAMP orbits over Pyongyang and emits microwaves, which disables the North Korean military’s main communication equipment. While the North Korean army is in chaos, a ground operation unit infiltrates Pyongyang.

How will special forces infiltrate Pyongyang in case of emergency? They are likely to be put into operation by sharing vertical take-off and landing aircraft ‘Osprey’ or ‘Chinook’ helicopters taking off from aircraft carriers or amphibious assault ships, or C-130 transport aircraft. Hundreds of special forces troops infiltrated the area around the Pottong River, where the official residence of the Workers’ Party of Korea and Chairman Kim Jong-un are located, subdued the guards and set up a blockade in preparation for the introduction of reinforcements. Osprey and the helicopter, which dropped off the special forces, temporarily occupy an airfield near Pyongyang along with other special forces that departed first. Here, they receive refueling from C-130 or MC-130 aircraft and prepare to return by picking up special forces members who operated in downtown Pyongyang.

It is also possible to speculate on the division of roles between the ROK and US special forces. First of all, it is highly likely that the ROK Special Forces and US Green Berets will be in charge of occupying the Pothong River area in the early stages of the operation. Afterwards, the US Army’s 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment, also known as ‘Delta Force’, Navy SEAL ‘Devguru’, and the 707th Special Mission Team of the Korean Army form an arrest team to arrest or remove the target from Chairman Kim’s residence. In the meantime, US Air Force F-22 fighters, South Korean Army F-35 fighters, and US Navy EA-18G electronic warfare secure air supremacy in the operational area while blocking the reinforcement of North Korean air power. At the same time, the AC-130J provides cover for ground operations units with air fire support. It is to block access by raining shells and missiles on enemy reinforcements heading from the outskirts of Pyongyang to the Pothong River area. Having secured the target, the special forces board the refueled Osprey or helicopter. The operation is completed when they escape to the West Sea through the skies over Nampo under the air cover of fighter jets, electronic electricity and AC-130J, and then return to the carrier or amphibious assault ship in the West Sea.

The headquarters building of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea, known to have the office of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. [동아DB]The headquarters building of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea, known to have the office of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. [동아DB]
North Korea must show sincere gestures of reconciliation

North Korea is pouring out messages of criticism every day to South Korea and the United States, which are familiar with the beheading operation scenario, saying, “We are endangering the situation on the Korean Peninsula with aggressive war exercises.” In the first place, the concept of a beheading operation by South Korean and US forces would not have been born if the North Korean leadership, including Chairman Kim Jong-un, had not been tyrannical and developing nuclear weapons and missiles to threaten the surroundings. South Korea and the United States have attempted to resolve North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) issue through dialogue and negotiations over the past 30 years. Nevertheless, it is North Korea that continues to create a security crisis. For North Korea, the realization of the beheading operation will be more fearful than anything else. If you are afraid of the overwhelming capabilities of the two countries, it is wise to come out to the forum for dialogue and show sincere gestures of reconciliation rather than developing nuclear weapons and missiles.

<This article
Weekly Donga

Published in issue 1381>

Shin In-gyun, CEO of Self-Defense Network

Source: Donga

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