F. Michael Maloof, staff writer for WND and G2Bulletin, is a former senior security policy analyst in the office of the secretary of defense.More ↓Less ↑
WASHINGTON – Cuba may be in violation of the intent of an agreement that settled the Cuban missile crisis more than 50 years ago, according to an expert. But he made clear that’s the least of concerns raised by new evidence.
The major concern is that the rogue island nation may have “defensive” missiles that can be loaded with nukes and dispatched to deliver an electromagnetic pulse death blow to the United States.
The comments come from an expert on EMP dangers after the recent discovery of components of Cuban SA-2 surface-to-air missiles on a North Korean ship in the Panama Canal. Peter Vincent Pry, executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, said Cuba possessing the missiles may violate the intent of the 1962 agreement, and pose a huge danger to the U.S., especially in light of a Cuban relationship with North Korea, which has tested nuclear bombs.
The SA-2 SAMs alone do not violate the resolution of the Cuban missile crisis, which developed under President John Kennedy, since they are regarded as defensive anti-aircraft missile.
“However, if armed with a nuclear warhead and launched from a freighter, it is technically possible to use the SA-2 offensively for an (electromagnetic pulse) attack,” said Pry.
“I doubt this innovative possible use of the SA-2 ever occurred to the intelligence community of JFK’s time or of our own time, which is another reason it could work well, achieve concealment and surprise,” Pry told WND.
Pry, a former analyst for the Central Intelligence Agency, was staff director of the congressionally mandated EMP commission. The panel issued a final 2008 report on the catastrophic impact an EMP attack would have on the nation’s critical infrastructure, including the national grid system, telecommunications, food and water delivery, and banking and financial systems.
“Suppose the inspectors found on the Chong Chon Gang an SA-2 on its launcher, armed with a nuclear warhead, positioned under the cargo hatch, ready to launch an EMP attack,” Pry asked.
“Do you suppose that they would guess its purpose? Because the SA-2 is a ‘defensive missile,’ I’ll bet they would conclude that Cuba or North Korea is beefing up its anti-air defenses with nuclear firepower,” he said. “The nuclear warhead would be illegal for Cuba but regarded as significantly less threatening, not offensive, because it is on an SA-2.”
As WND recently discovered, the Soviet-era SA-2s are nuclear capable and if armed with a nuclear bomb and exploded at a high altitude above the United States, the EMP emanating from the blast could knock out significant portions of the U.S. electrical grid system.
At the time of the October 1962 Cuban missile crisis, the focus then was only on the surface-to-surface missiles, or SSMs, that the Soviets had brought to the island.
They were seen as the only means by which nuclear warheads, which the Soviets also placed in Cuba, could strike the U.S., only 90 miles away.
The only concern about the SA-2s was that they could be used to shoot down U.S. reconnaissance and other jet fighter aircraft that might be used to knock out the surface-to-surface missiles.
Indeed, an SA-2 had downed a U-2 undertaking a reconnaissance mission over Cuba at the height of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.
Pry said that the ceiling of the SA-2 is up to about 35 kilometers, or 22 miles, which goes beyond the minimum optimal height for an EMP burst.
Pry said the SA-2 could achieve that ceiling with an “HE (high explosive) warhead weighing, depending on warhead type, 200-295 kilograms, or 440-650 pounds.”
“The U.S. Cold War-era W-84 neutron warhead weighed less than 50 kilograms and could be used as an enhanced EMP weapon,” Pry said. “So, armed with a much lighter warhead for EMP attack, any of the SAM (surface-to-air missiles) variants would have a much higher operational ceiling. Indeed, the Soviets designed the SA-2 to carry a 15-kiloton nuclear warhead , weighing 650 pounds, to high altitude.”
Sources say that if one SA-2 were to be launched from a freighter off the U.S. East Coast and exploded high over the highly populated region stretching from New York City to Washington, D.C., the resulting EMP could knock out the Eastern grid that services some 70 percent of the U.S. population, affecting approximately 220 million people for months or possibly years.
EMP experts believe the impact on the critical infrastructures, which rely on functioning of the grid, would greatly affect these 220 million people. The results would include starvation and death.
The Soviet Union under the leadership of Nikita Khrushchev reached an agreement that all offensive weapons, which then included SS-(surface-to-surface)-3 and SS-4 medium-range missiles and nuclear warheads, would be removed from Cuba.
In exchange, the U.S. would not invade Cuba.
The SS-4 missiles from the island nation had within its range Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Oklahoma City, Fort Worth-Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Mexico City, all of the capitals of Central American, the Panama Canal and the oil fields in Venezuela.
“The presence of operational SS-4 missiles in this location would give the Soviets a great military asset,” according to an Oct. 1, 1962, briefing paper given to then-Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Based on a map in the briefing materials, the SA-2 SAM sites ringed the entire island of Cuba. The map revealed 24 SA-2 SAM sites, with some four to five missiles at each site, along with five SSM missile locations on the island.
There is no indication that any of these SA-2s ever were removed from Cuba, giving the Cuban regime possibly up to 100 potentially offensive weapons in the form of a refurbished nuclear-capable SA-2 missile system.
In addition, verification of the removal of the original SSMs and nuclear weapons also has come under recent questioning by some sources.
The U.S. had demanded “on-site” inspections of the missile installations in Cuba. In response, the Cubans said that they would agree to allow international inspection if the U.S. allowed the same for all bases where Cuban exiles were being trained by the U.S. The U.S. then dropped the demand.
Instead of “on-site” inspections to confirm removal of the missile launchers, the missiles or the nuclear weapons, the U.S. instead resorted to aerial photography.
In addition, Soviet ships never were boarded to make any physical inspections. Again, the U.S. relied on aerial photography of the Soviet ships, with ship crew members pulling back canvas covers from the missile transporters.
Because nuclear weapons were considered less important than the launchers and missiles to deliver them, there doesn’t appear to have been any confirmation that the nuclear weapons were removed.
With Cuba’s new-found military alliance with North Korea, Pyongyang, which already has threatened a pre-emptive strike on the U.S., will have an offensive power projection capability within 90 miles of U.S. shores that U.S. intelligence officials and policy makers didn’t contemplate.
WND previously reported Richard Fisher, a military affairs specialist, described the missile components as part of a cooperative Cuban-North Korean military effort to upgrade the SA-2s they each possess.
It was an SA-2 that downed an American U-2 on May 1, 1960, while undertaking a high-altitude reconnaissance over the Soviet Union. The U-2 was flown by Francis Gary Powers, who was captured and put in prison for two years. Another SA-2 shot down Major Rudolph Anderson’s U-2 over Cuba two years later, during the Cuban missile crisis.
Powers, who was employed by the CIA at the time, was aware that Soviet aircraft were not capable of reaching the altitude at which the U-2 could fly. The CIA, however, was unaware that the Soviets had developed the SA-2 or its high-altitude capabilities.
Since then, the SA-2 has been modified to make it more capable.
James Hardy, Asia-Pacific editor of IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly, said the SA-2 and its radar are “still in use in a lot of countries, and progressive upgrades to the radars and the missiles means it is not completely useless.”
Pry joined former CIA Director R. James Woolsey in a May 31 article for the Wall Street Journal outlining how North Korea could cripple the U.S. with an EMP attack.
They wrote that North Korea needs only a single nuclear warhead “to pose an existential threat to the U.S.”
“Detonating a nuclear weapon high above any part of the U.S. mainland would generate a catastrophic electromagnetic pulse,” they said.