Concealed cargo in North Korean ship is missile parts, Jane’s says

WASHINGTON -- The military equipment shown in images tweeted by Panama’s president after his government stopped a ship en route to North Korea are radar parts for the SA-2 family of surface-to-air missiles, according to IHS Jane’s Intelligence, the defense consulting firm.

In an emailed statement Tuesday, Jane’s identified the parts as an RSN-75 “Fan Song” fire control radar for the missiles.

The Panamanian government said it discovered the equipment hidden in the hull of a North Korean container ship that had set sail from Cuba, and was en route home via the Panama Canal, President Ricardo Martinelli said.

Martinelli divulged the details of the discovery to Panamanian media and in posts on his Twitter account:


Panamá capturo barco de bandera Norcoreana proveniente de cuba con cargamento bélico no declarado— Ricardo Martinelli (@rmartinelli) July 16, 2013

The way the cargo “was concealed and the reported reaction of the crew strongly suggests this was a covert shipment of equipment,” the firm said. “One possibility is that Cuba could be sending the system to North Korea for an upgrade. In this case, it would likely be returned to Cuba and the cargo of sugar could be a payment for the services.”

In another scenario, the fire-control radar equipment could have been en route to North Korea to augment Pyongyang’s existing air defense network, Jane’s said.

“North Korea’s air defense network is arguably one of the densest in the world, but it is also based on obsolete weapons, missiles and radars,” the firm said. “In particular, its high altitude SA-2/3/5 surface-to-air missiles are ineffective in a modern electronic warfare environment.”

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