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Recently Todd South and Jeff Scholgol had a piece in Military Times on what war with North Korea would look like. A few snippets:
“(Given) Seoul’s proximity to the border, military leaders fear that any preemptive strike would almost certainly set in motion a cataclysmic chain of events resulting in profound loss of life.”
“(If) diplomatic efforts fail and a conventional war ensued with all but nuclear weapons being deployed, experts agree that the scenario would involve massive amounts of U.S. and South Korean forces in the first days – and possibly drag on for many months or longer”
“Military Times has constructed a detailed picture of what war on the Korean Peninsula might look like, based on numerous interviews with current and former military officials, international experts and intelligence assessments of the North Korean military’s capabilities.
“ ‘Anybody that assumes this could be knocked out in 30 days would be dead wrong,’ said retired Army Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling. ‘There would be literally thousands, tens of thousands, some say more than 100,000 civilian casualties.’”
“U.S. and South Korean forces would respond instantaneously with the help of the American Army, Air Force, Marines and Navy.
“The tip of the spear would be the U.S. 8th Army pushing the 2nd Infantry Division – a combined division of American and South Korean troops – into the fight, bringing with it a combat aviation brigade, a field artillery brigade, an armored brigade combat team, and a chemical weapons battalion.
“Throngs of U.S. aircraft would streak across the skies over the peninsula in a narrow battlespace, fighting a multi-nation war in an area the size of Minnesota. Using sophisticated air defense, anti-artillery systems and airpower, they hit key North Korean military positions.
“Plans call for the South Korean military, with more than 650,000 active personnel and another 3 million in reserve, to do most of the initial fighting. There are about 30,000 U.S. troops in South Korea.
“In the opening hours, U.S. officials alert Marines on Okinawa to begin loading gear onto ships to head toward the fight, while back in the United States the call goes out to the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division to prepare its brigade combat team of paratroopers that’s part of America’s Global Response Force, poised to deploy within hours when needed.
“The U.S. Navy would annihilate the North Korean navy, said Jerry Hendrix, a retired Navy captain and analyst with the Center for a New American Security.”
“A key challenge will be finding the North Korean artillery, which are hidden inside carved-out positions built with rails that allow enemy soldiers to slide the piece out of its hiding place, fire, and then pull it back into the mountainside in minutes.
“ ‘If you’re going to build hardened artillery sites, those south-facing granite mountains are just perfect,’ said retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert Scales
“The jagged mountains and deep valleys make the battlefield terrain a daunting challenge for land warfare.”
“North Korea’s goal would be to occupy as much of the peninsula as possible before the U.S. could send reinforcements, (retired Army Special Forces Col. David) Maxwell said.
“Rather than trying to capture Seoul, North Koreans forces would likely seek to isolate and bypass it so that the invasion doesn’t slow down,” Maxwell said.
“ ‘They need speed. They need momentum,’ Maxwell said. ‘Once they get across the Han River, then they can maneuver through the rest of the peninsula all the way to Pusan.’....
“The North Korean military is likely to target U.S. and South Korean air bases on the first day of the invasion, possibly with chemical weapons, Maxwell said.
“A 2009 International Crisis Group cited estimates that North Korea has between 2,500 and 5,000 tons of chemical weapons, including VX nerve agent.
“ ‘I think their initial targets for use of chemicals would be air bases to try to contaminate those air bases to prevent use by [Republic of Korea] and U.S. aircraft,’ Maxwell said.
“However, chemical agents are much less effective when delivered by Scud missiles, so any contamination would be temporary, he said.”
I would just say that assuming Pyongyang has made the progress with its missile program that it seems it has these past six months or so, imagine how they have been ‘gaming out’ the war. I know our military people are planning for the ‘unknown.’
You also have to wonder just how much North Korea has been maintaining its chemical weapons, and making new ones, with their stretched resources clearly going into the missiles. These weapons do degrade significantly over time.
But here is the thing about ‘Megacity Combat.’
With Seoul about 35 miles from the demilitarized zone, “North Korea’s Koksan 170 mm self-propelled guns and 240 mm and 300 mm multiple-launch rocket systems could reach Seoul from their positions, according to a May 2016 report by geopolitical analysis firm Stratfor. Those weapons represent a small part of the North’s artillery, Stratfor said. At best, most guns could hit the northern outskirts of Seoul – and its longer-range guns have greater problems with accuracy.
“ ‘(Nonetheless), if every one of Pyongyang’s 300 mm multiple rocket launcher systems were directed against Seoul, their range would be sufficient to rain fire across the city and beyond,’ the report said.
“A single volley would unleash 350 metric tons of explosives – roughly equivalent to ordnance dropped by 11 B-52 bombers.
“The world would see civilian casualty numbers equal to the entire Syrian conflict in a matter of days, Hertling said.
“That creates a massive humanitarian crisis in which millions of civilians fleeing Seoul southward would clog up rail lines, air traffic and roads just as U.S. and coalition forces were pushing north, he said. [Ed. emphasis mine.]
“While many analysts agree that the North Koreans would push as fast as possible to gain ground in the South, one fear is the North Korean military getting significant troops into Seoul.
“That could spark what Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley has referred to as the dreaded ‘megacity combat.’”
And in this scenario, if the North gains a stronghold anywhere in Seoul, that limits the effective of the U.S. Air Force.
One last item...the Marine Corps believes that launching a successful amphibious operation would involve between 10,000 and 17,000 Marines, with 4-5,000 going ashore to fight.
“Transporting that many Marines could take at least 20 of the Navy’s total fleet of 31 amphibious ships, which would take weeks to assemble from the United States.”
North Korea’s recent short-range missile tests were, according to most analysts, a test of Pyongyang’s ability to target U.S. vessels.
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