Another recent ballistic missile test by Kim Jong Un’s North Korean regime ended in failure over the weekend, prompting another round of headlines poking fun at the reclusive state’s inability to make meaningful progress in building a missile with a high probability of success.  Although it seems likely enough that the floundering economy and educational isolation that characterizes the nation in the global theater would result in a good deal of difficulty in producing such a complex weapon system, another theory has begun to surface.

Unsubstantiated reports keep popping up all around the internet that suggest the United States may have somehow managed to cause the failure in Sunday’s medium range ballistic missile test that may have been intended as a proof of concept for a submarine launchable platform.  Is there any evidence to support such a claim?  Not really – but there is, to a certain extent, precedent.

The United States has long been aware that, despite developing some of the most advanced anti-missile technology on the planet, shooting down missiles is a losing game.  Even the THAAD missile defense system that China has been so upset about the U.S. deploying in South Korea couldn’t actually hope to stop an all-out nuclear assault levied by the small nation – the fact of the matter is, with enough missiles in the air, no one could hope to shoot them all down.

As SOFREP has reported before, the missile defense system tasked with protecting the mainland United States has some serious issues and no real plans to remedy them any time soon.  The GMD missile system we use relies on launching our own missiles into orbit that are designed to eject a “kill vehicle” that hunts down and destroys a nuke before it re-enters the atmosphere over the U.S. – but repeated failures in testing have forced us to plan on firing four to five GMD missiles at any one missile launched our way in order to effectively engage it – meaning if there are more than a dozen or so missiles headed toward the United States, it would be effectively impossible to stop them all.

Overseas, platforms like the THAAD and systems based on Naval vessels can similarly target and engage launched ballistic missiles, but again, the volume of missiles many state-actors could volley at once would see these defenses as more of a nuisance than a prevention – as they too would expend all of their ammunition without putting a significant dent in the rain of ICBMs headed toward wherever.  In effect, our missile defenses only work if a handful or fewer missiles are launched at once – and no matter how many advanced defense systems we develop and deploy, our enemies will continue to build more missiles.  Ultimately, it’s easier to build more missiles than it is to build the things that shoot them down – we know it, and our enemies do too.

Which brings us back to the internet’s wacky accusations of the U.S. somehow “hacking” North Korean missile platforms, causing their repeated failures, setting back their program, and possibly helping to slow Kim Jong Un’s progress toward becoming a card-carrying member of the Nuclear ICBM club.

Back in 2009 and 2010, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that Iran’s nuclear weapons program was met with repeated setbacks, notably, mechanical failures in the centrifuges in their nuclear facilities kept failing.  According to records, they were forced to replace their centrifuges specifically more than a thousand times in that two-year span – and it appears to have been the result of a computer virus intentionally released into their nuclear facilities’ systems.

Months later, the Iranian government brought in a computer security firm from Belarus to help address unrelated issues with computers shutting down and powering back up sporadically.  In the course of their efforts, they happened across files that led them to the Stuxnet virus – the world’s first (discovered) digital weapon.