Here's what would happen if North Korea tried to shoot down a US bomber

North Korea on Monday said it interpreted a tweet from President Donald Trump as a declaration of war and threatened to shoot down US B-1B Lancer strategic bombers even if they weren’t flying in its airspace — but such an attack is easier said than done.

The US frequently responds to North Korea’s provocative missile and nuclear tests by flying its B-1B Lancer — a long-range, high-altitude, supersonic bomber — near North Korea.

Fighter jets from South Korea and Japan often accompany the bomber, and sometimes they drop dummy bombs on a practice range near North Korea’s border.

The move infuriates North Korea, which lacks the air power to make a similar display. North Korea previously discussed firing missiles at Guam, where the US bases many of the bombers, and it has now discussed shooting one down in international airspace.

Related: This is what would happen if North Korea popped off an H-bomb in the Pacific

On Tuesday, South Korean media reported that North Korea had been reshuffling its defenses, perhaps preparing to make good on its latest threat.

But the age of the country’s air defenses complicates that task.

“North Korea’s air defenses are pretty vast but very dated,” Omar Lamrani, a senior military analyst for Stratfor, a geopolitical intelligence platform, told Business Insider.

Lamrani said North Korea had a few variants of older Soviet-made jets and some “knockoff” Soviet air defenses, such as the KN-06 surface-to-air missile battery that mimics Russia’s S-300 system.

B-1B Lancers fly in formation. Photo by US Forces Korea

B-1B Lancers fly in formation. Photo by US Forces Korea

From the ground, North Korea’s defenses are “not really a threat to high-flying aircraft, especially if you’re flying over water,” Lamrani said.

But North Korea does have one advantage: surprise.

When aircraft enter or come close to protected airspace, intercepts are common. Very often, military planes will fly near a group of jets and tell them they are entering or have entered guarded airspace and that they should turn back or else.

Also read: Here is what a war with North Korea could look like

Though the US, South Korea, and Japan all have advanced jets that could easily shoot down an approaching North Korean jet before it got close enough to strike, the US and North Korea are observing a cease-fire and are not actively at war. Therefore, a North Korean jet could fly right up to a US bomber or fighter and take a close-range shot with a rudimentary weapon that would have a good chance of landing.

North Korea would have “the first-mover advantage,” Lamrani said, but if the North Korean aircraft shot down the US’s, “they would pay a heavy price.”

Planes at the Wonsan Air Festival in Wonsan, North Korea, in September.

Planes at the Wonsan Air Festival in Wonsan, North Korea, in September. | KCNA

For that reason, Lamrani said he found the scenario unlikely. The last time the US flew B-1s near North Korea, four advanced jet fighters accompanied it. North Korea’s air force is old and can’t train often because of fuel constraints, according to Lamrani. The US or its allies would quickly return the favor and destroy any offending North Korean planes.

Additionally, South Korean intelligence officials told NK News that North Korea couldn’t even reliably track the B-1B flights. To avoid surprising the North Koreans, the US even laid out its flight path, an official told NK News.

At this point, even North Korea must be aware it’s largely outclassed by the US and allied air forces, and that taking them on would be a “suicide mission,” Lamrani said.

TOP ARTICLES
This is how missing or captured troops get promoted

According to the Department of Defense, prisoners of war and those under missing status continue to be considered for promotion along with their contemporaries.

6 reasons Charleston might be America's most gung-ho military city

From Charles Towne Landing to the Medal of Honor Museum, go grab a pint where George Washington drank and read about the military legacy of South Carolina's Atlantic jewel.

This is how long South Korea thinks it will take to conquer the North

South Korea says they are developing new plans to defend against advancing North Korean threats after a data breach left their outdated plans vulnerable.

This stunning video shows how well 100-year-old ammo works today

While original 1911 pistols surely still function today, turns out so does the ammo from that era.

This could be the Army's next rifle — and it's totally awesome

Textron debuted its newest rifle, the Intermediate Case-Telescoped Carbine, at AUSA. It's lighter and more deadly than the current M4.

16 jokes Germans could die for telling under the Nazi regime

The Nazi Party was well short of a majority when it came to power. So it's easy to believe that not everyone was a big fan of Hitler or his ideas.

These really smart people say bigger is better when it comes to building aircraft carriers

In an effort to reduce its fiscal footprint, the Navy is looking at making smaller ships. But these defense researchers say it's a terrible idea.

Now that ISIS is on the ropes, these guys have turned the guns on each other

Two US allies, which were armed and trained by US forces, have turned their weapons on each other, and there isn't much the US can do about it.

This is the definitive history of the world's most advanced fighter jet

The new F-22A Raptor fighter jet is the most advance fighter jet in the world, and it dominates on every level imaginable.

This is how the $102 million B-1A almost replaced the B-52

The plan was to buy 240 B-1As to replace the B-52 as the Air Force's primary strategic bomber, but eventually, they each found their place in the force.