The potential for an armed conflict with North Korea has raised some concerns the United States military hasn’t been faced with in some time.  How well America’s missile defenses will work against a nuclear tipped ICBM may be the most prominent among them, but other concerns, such as how America and its allies might communicate with the isolated population of North Korea during a time of war, are also important to devising an overall military strategy in the event that diplomacy fails.

While internet connectivity is prevalent throughout much of the world, even in many developing nations one might not be surprised to find themselves logging into Facebook; North Korea remains behind a self-imposed communications blackout.  By strictly limiting access to the World Wide Web, Kim Jong Un and his regime are able to maintain control over much of the information that reaches the nation’s populous, permitting him the ability to manage the perceptions of the citizenry.  The decision to limit internet access within North Korea is only a portion of Kim’s overall propaganda strategy, which also includes a mandatory radio in every home with no off button, through which the North Korean government can provide all the information a “well informed” North Korean citizen needs to hear, at least as far as Kim is concerned.

If the United States were to go to war with North Korea, it goes without saying that the targets of America’s military apparatus would all be military related, but the nature of such a war would mean many of those military related assets would undoubtedly be found in population centers that could produce catastrophic civilian casualties.  There was a time when America and its allies might have relied on carpet bombing a nation in order to cripple its economic infrastructure, in order to slow or stop the development of weapons, equipment, and ammunition.  In modern warfare, however, the American people have grown far less accepting of the carpet bombing methodology, and likely would not tolerate a strategy that leveraged its success on the backs of so many innocent people.

Logically then, the United States would want to get a message to the people of North Korea – perhaps warning them to evacuate an area before bombs or missiles were sent their way, or possibly to counter misinformation being delivered to them by way of their own formal government.  With no television, radio, or internet from the outside world reaching the citizens of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, as they refer to themselves), a new method of delivery would have to be employed.

Or maybe just an updated version of an old one, would suffice.

The U.S. Air Force recently began testing a new cluster bomb in the skies over test ranges in California, only instead of delivering ordnance to a target, they’re designed to deliver leaflets.  The U.S. military has been working to phase out the use of cluster bombs, as they tend to leave unexploded ordnance on the ground where they’re used that have proven to be long-term threats to the population of the area.  Instead of simply doing away with these platforms however, the Air Force now hopes to repurpose bombs like the MK. 20 Rockeye II, by hollowing them out to carry leaflets instead of explosives.

A B-52 Stratofortress assigned to the 419th Flight Test Squadron with eight PDU-5/B leaflet bombs underneath the left wing.

Two tests were conducted in late July, one over the Point Mugu Sea Test Range and the other over Edwards Air Force Base.  The leaflet bombs were dropped from B-52 bombers crewed by the 419th Flight Test Squadron.  A total of eight PDU-5/B bombs were dropped in the two tests, each capable of containing some 60,000 leaflets.

Dropping leaflets from aircraft has been a common facet of communicating with enemy troops on the ground, as well as civilians in foreign controlled territory.  Leaflet drops occurred in World War II and have continued through to modern operations in Iraq, but the new delivery system the Air Force is testing could potentially cover a far larger territory than previous methods, which may prove valuable if ever America is forced to actively target assets in a heavily populated place… like Pyongyang.