North Korea Threatens To Shoot Down U.S. Bombers Even If They Are Flying In International Airspace

Pyongyang could target planes even when they are not flying in North Korean airspace, North Korea’s Foreign Minister told reporters.

On Sept. 25, North Korea’s foreign minister Ri Yong Ho accused President Donald Trump of declaring war, saying that gives the regime the right to take countermeasures, including shooting down U.S. strategic bombers, even if they are not flying in North Korean airspace.

The new comment comes amid growing tensions and rhetoric between Pyongyang and Washington: on Saturday Sept. 23, hours after Kim Jong Un said that North Korea would soon test a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific, U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers from Guam, along with U.S. Air Force F-15C Eagle fighter escorts from Okinawa, Japan, flew in international airspace over waters east of North Korea, in what was the farthest north of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) any U.S. fighter or bomber aircraft have flown off North Korea’s coast in the 21st century.

Then, Trump said the North Korean regime “won’t be around much longer” if North Korea’s Foreign Minister “echoes thoughts” of dictator Kim Jong Un, referred to as “Little Rocket Man” by Trump:

According to Ri Yong Ho, Trump’s comment was a declaration of war, that gives Pyongyang the right to shoot down U.S. bombers.

Whether North Korea would be able to shoot down a B-1 flying in international airspace or not is hard to say. The Lancers and their accompanying packages (that have also included stealthy U.S. Marine Corps F-35Bs) are theoretically very well defended and rely on the heavy electronic support provided by a large array of assets that continuously operate at safe distance from North Korea (or, in case of satellites, literally above it) to pinpoint Pyongyang forces, to collect signals required to update the enemy’s EOB (Electronic Order of Battle), and to keep an eye on all the regime’s moves.

However, North Korea’s philosophy of self-reliance, the use of road-mobile launchers, underground bunkers as well as hidden shelters could create some hassle even to the world’s most advanced air armada.

Considered the status of its geriatric Air Force, mainly made of Soviet-era aircraft, North Korea would only rely on Surface to Air Missile (SAM) batteries to attack a B-1, provided the bomber is well inside the missile engagement zone.

Indeed, North Korea operates a mix of Soviet SAMs, including the S-75 (NATO reporting name SA-2), S-125 (SA-3), S-200 (SA-5) and Kvadrat (SA-6), some of those not only are in good condition, but were probably upgraded locally. In addition to these systems, North Korea is also fielding an indigenous SAM system, dubbed KN-06 or Pongae-5, said to be equivalent to a Russian S-300P (SA-10) with a range of up to 150 km.

KN-06 SAM fired during a test on April 2, 2016. © North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) / Reuters

Although, individually, these systems can’t pose a significant threat to a modern strategic bomber flying off the North Korean coasts, combined and employed in a coordinated way by trained operators, they can be particularly tough to deal with, especially in case they are faced “head-on” by attackers intruding into the enemy airspace protected by many layers of mobile and fixed SAM batteries. However, should the need arise, U.S. forces would probably neutralize most (if not all) of the fixed batteries with long-range stand-off weapons before any attack plane enters the North Korean airspace.

By the way, this is not the first time Pyongyang threatens the B-1. A recent propaganda video showed, among the other things, the fake destruction of a Lancer bomber…


About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.


  1. Yeah, typical of this site, ol’ Leroy publicly fondles himself over dreams of (somebody else’s) war. Your average Pekinese doesn’t salivate on cue as well as our Leroy. Feel free to enlist and head on over there when the shooting starts, brave keyboard warrior! Show us how it’s done!

  2. The propaganda has certainly worked with the majority of posters here it seems. I’ll state a few facts for you. Firstly because a major conflict has never visited U.S shores and the countries that the U. S bombs into oblivion are on the other side of the world, you sound so gun ho about slaughtering millions of innocent women and children it’s pathetic and cowardly. During the Korean war the U. S slaughtered 30% of N.K’s population some 3 million of these were women and children. N. K doesn’t have any ambition whatsoever of invading any country and it doesn’t attack any other country. Being a president of N. K and watching the country that bombed and burnt N. K already once before taking part in military drills off its shores annually, practicing to invade N.K would you not want to defend yourself and your people? The hypocrisy is unbelievable the U. S has thousands of nukes has been inflicting war bombings and death around the globe in countless countries none stop since WW2 all for a few days. The U. S threatens N. K with nuclear annihilation yet their president is an unstable terrorist for wanting to protect his people. Why is the U. S anywhere near N. K anyway? The biggest threat to peace on Earth is the U. S deep state everyone in every other country knows this. The reason we know this is the vast majority of Americans can’t see themselves for what they are. Open your eyes and travel to different countries you might learn something if you really want to.

  3. You’re as clueless as you are uneducated. I’ll just make one point to totally discredit everything you just said. “Being a president of N. K …”.

    Definition of president:

    “The elected head of a republican state.”

    They invaded the South, a sovereign country, one time already. They have attacked it multiple times since the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed. This time the war will put an end to this criminal, sadistic and illegitimate regime once and for all.

    The United States will not live under the threat of annihilation from this madman and his mad regime into perpetuity. Time grows short for Kim. The U.S. military and our allies stand ready to eliminate this menace to humanity. Let it be so.

    • you honestly believe that me calling Kim a president totally discredits every fact that I’ve wrote? So I just imagined 3 million women and children being slaughtered because I called Kim the president of N. K and it isn’t true? You’ve just made yourself look pretty uneducated yourself. I’ll give you the benefit of being misguided because all you know of N. K is what the U. S media has told you. Why is it that you think N. K would try and bomb the U. S, I’ll tell you why because your media told you so. N. K hasn’t developed an ICBM what can actually hit the U. S it is even farther away from getting a guidence system for a long range missile. How many countries has the U. S attacked since WW2? How many has N. K? How many innocent civilians died at the hands of the U. S since WW2? why didn’t the U. S stop India or even more so Pakistan developing a nuclear arsenal? The U. S is always stating how good its missile defensive shield is so what are you worried about?. Your country causes more death and destruction on this planet than every other country put together so don’t try and tell me that yous are right and everyone else is wrong.

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