Could “Red Dawn” really happen?

With North Korea rattling its sabers and making threats against the United States – I wondered….“Could Red Dawn really happen?”  For those who may not know what I refer the remake of the 80’s classic Red Dawn features an EMP riddled north-western United States being invaded by North Korea.

I have watched the movie several times and from what I could tell there was some kind of preliminary strike which killed the power to much of the West Coast – then several hours later North Korean bombers and planes arrived in the state of Washington. Troops parachuted to the ground and began taking control of areas. It appears there is a minimal US military response as local military bases, also without power, were slow to react. With no phone service, with no method for people to communicate – chaos soon followed as people panic to understand what is happening. Within a short time the vast majority of the population is obedient to the invaders – except for a small group of young people who escaped into the countryside early on during the invasion.

Could this happen? Could North Korea cause a massive power outage in the northwest, killing all communications – both civilian and military and then carry out a sneak attack and invasion? My initial thought while watching the movie – “This is ridiculous.”



Let’s take a closer look at North Korea’s military:

North Korea’s Army – North Korea has a substantial military population.

Total active duty personnel  numbers close to 1.1 million soldiers. With a military reserve of over 8 million people – North Korea actually has the largest military in the world when it comes to total ground soldiers. They rank 4th in the world when looking at strictly active military personnel.

North Korean soldiers
North Korean soldiers

How do other countries compare? Considering just active duty  – the United States ranks #2 with 1.4 million active military personnel while China comes out on top with 2.2 million military.

So – as far as pure numbers – North Korea has an impressive military force.


Air Power – North Korea’s Air Force contains around 1600 planes of various types. Total numbers of actual planes and currently available aircraft of difficult to determine.

Fighters: North Korea has several variants of fighters from older, out of date MiG-17’s to modern MiG-29’s.  The maximum range of  the MiG-29 is 1304 miles without refueling.

North Korean MiG-29 Fighter
North Korean MiG-29 Fighter

Bombers: North Korea’s bomber inventory consists mainly of II-28 bombers which are very old. These bombers have a maximum range of 1740 miles. The United States is more than 5000 miles from North Korea. With a maximum speed of 550 mph it would take more than 9 hours for North Korean bombers to reach the coast of the United States.

II-28 Bomber
II-28 Bomber

Other: North Korea operates a number of other aircraft including helicopters and ground attack models. From my research it does not appear that North Korea possesses any tanker aircraft which to provide refueling in the air.

The United States air power is far superior to North Korea in every aspect imaginable.


On the Sea – North Korea has military sea presence of some 700+ vessels including up to 100 submarines as well as destroyers, torpedo boats, fire-support boats, and guided missile boats. The vast majority of their vessels are very short-range and limited to coast patrol.

The majority of ships in the fleet have a very limited range. This range is so limited that they do not have the capability of navigating from one coast of North Korea to the other.

Romeo-class Submarine

North Korea operates at least 20 Romeo class submarines with a range of 9000 miles. These submarines are generally considered obsolete and were built back in the 50’s to early 60’s.


Does North Korea have he capability to carry out a Red Dawn-style attack?

The short answer? No – it does not.


North Korea’s military is far too antiquated to launch any kind of attack/invasion from some 5000 miles away. Their aircraft and submarine technology is far too slow to gain access to the West Coast without substantial warning being given to the United States. Without the ability to refuel in the air no fighters and no bombers would be able to make the trip from the East Coast of North Korea to the West Coast of the United States. Additionally – the shear numbers of troops needed to carry out a Red Dawn-style invasion could not be transported to the US as there just are not enough planes in the North Korean inventory which to do it.


What about a non-Red Dawn style attack? Does North Korea have the ability to put a dent in the United States armor?

My answer – maybe, but not likely. Let’s look at a few possible scenario’s:

  • Could North Korea somehow navigate a submarine – or twelve, into US water without being detected? It is possible. It is a huge ocean and all one needs to do is remember back a few years ago when it was widely reported that a missile – likely Chinese – was fired off the West Coast from a submarine. If the Korean II-28 submarines could be modified and retrofitted to launch a nuclear device into the atmosphere then an EMP attack could be a reality. EMP – yes. Invasion? No. How likely? Not very.
  • Could North Korea launch a missile from its own land and reach the United States? It is widely reported that North Korea does NOT have a missile capable of reaching the western United States – however they do possess 2 or more Taepodong-2 ballistic missiles. When launched into orbit these missiles can not just reach the western coast but Washington, DC as well.

There are two questions that only the North Korean’s can answer:

    1. Do they have the capability of an orbital launch and follow up navigation?
    2. Have they miniaturized a nuclear weapon to fit on the Taepodong-2 missile?

IF they have the orbital launch system and IF they have the missile-mounted nuclear warhead-then an attempt could be made. The result would likely be the missile being destroyed by US Armed Forces.

  • Could North Korea smuggle a nuclear device (or twelve) into the United States and carry off a Jericho-like terrorist attack? I doubt it. North Korea is estimated to have anywhere from 12 to 24+ nuclear weapons. The ability for them to transport these weapons to the United States and then somehow smuggle them in would be quite a feat. Potentially, an individual weapon may be more likely. I suspect that North Korea would not be able to accomplish this themselves. Their supplying the weapon(s) to a terrorist group or another country would likely be the answer.


Let’s hope not.

Not likely or even possible.


The United States is not omnipotent. Regardless – the ability for North Korea to do much more than threaten is certainly in dispute and exaggerated AND under-estimated by many. They are an evil empire that should not be taken lightly.

– Rourke


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20 thoughts on “Could “Red Dawn” really happen?”

  1. But remember, the rewrite was written for the Chinese Army first, and only switched to N. Korea so they could sell the movie in the Chinese Market. Would that change your opinion at all? Could China pull this off?

    • momwithaprep –

      Certainly China’s involvement would change everything. Their technology and military forces are much more advanced and capable. I wrote the article more from the angle of North Korea due to the recent threats they have made. China or as in the first Red Dawn – Russia – anything is possible.

      Thanks – Rourke

    • So, knowing what we know today. An EMP could have easily been deployed on the Chinese balloon.
      The CCP has infiltrated all facets of our federal government including our president. Our last 2 elections were stolen 2020 & 2022 and the American people have kept their heads down and done nothing.
      Absolutly, today a Red Dawn has never been more realistic to prbabble.

      • The election was not stolen. You blind belief in a wannabe dictator just shows you know nothing. Red Dawn could not happen period. The CCP has infiltrated our President? What are you smoking, Trump is bought and paid for by Putin.

  2. It’s not that I want to give N Korea any credit but I would not so easily dismiss them either. Late last year a Russian Submarine was discovered In the Gulf of Mexico as they were leaving. They had been there for over a week and no one knew. As far as I know this was not covered by any major news source, only local (in Texas) reported on it. With the current administration I would not be so sure of anything. These are very perilous times we are living in. Add in the fact the southern borders are more porous now than they have ever been. They have caught many from the middle east coming into the states this way. Keep your eyes and ears open things are gonna get ruff.

    • Suni –

      I would never dismiss them. Much of the research I did I kept seeing “these are estimates and more accurate numbers are very difficult to ascertain.”

      This is one of the reasons we prepare – you just never know.

      Thanks Suni –


  3. Rourke you finally hit a hot button for me. First and foremost I really enjoy you work, don’t always agree, but I believe in Jefferson’s educated and thinking electorate so different views & ideas are part and parcel of our society and way of life.
    That aside, I’d ask you and each reader to ask them selves how many containers come into sea ports, the bulk from the far east. Then research how many actually come in and look up how many are inspected. Now look up how dedicated and indoctrinaterd the North Korean Army is. 1.1 million men and women under arms? Four container ships of JUST INFANTRY coming ashore in Puget Sound less that half full could put more boots on the ground than we have under arms on the NW Coast. It would put them on top of the main nuclear sub port in the region. Transportation is already on the ground everywhere. Timed right and they hold a major city hostage. Do it in bad weather on a holiday and the Rangers, soldiers and airmen south of Tacoma will be right where they were on Dec 7th only this time “they” have a foothold. A place for those short range fighters & bombers & submarines… to land & operate… and for more honest looking and acting containers ships of armor and equipment. Now research how brutal the North Koreans are, howmany of the troops at the only large ground force base in the region are deployed, how many aircraft are gone, how many nukes are stored or in port at Bremerton. How many subs. Add just a little support from their terrorist allies along the east coast and the fact thet’ll still leave enough troops to hold the South Koreans in place… yeah, they could do it… question is, “Will they?” followed by, “If not them- who esle could?”

    • JJKavanaugh –

      There’s another possible scenario – thanks for the info and ideas. I actually have some experience regarding container shipments with my current job. Here is the problem – an overseas Asian shipment is often on the water for WEEKS, sometimes months. Temperatures range from frigid to over 140 degrees. Additionally – when containers are loaded it is very frequent that you have no way of knowing where they container will be loaded in the stack. Due to this – it is not easy to predict if the exposure to the hot sun will occur – or if the container will be under many others away from the sun.

      Is it possible? Sure. I would much more see the concept of armament and WMD devices being smuggled rather than personnel.

      Thanks – Rourke

  4. It’s amazing how much we don’t know about a country that is an extremely closed society. Rule #1 never ,never underestimate your enemy.-Grizz

  5. Howdy, Rourke! My completely un-scientific theory is that any nation truly wishing to attack us by surprise will launch said attack from Mexico. Missiles launched from there could arrive at their intended destinations within minutes, rather than hours, and, when ready, they could easily roll across the border to secure the region. Mexico is almost certainly no friend of America, and the crooked individuals running that hell hole would have no problem turning a blind eye to whatever the North Koreans or Red Chinese do, as they count their bribe money…

  6. There is only one country that could actually pull off a “Red Dawn” and that is China. We are talking land invasion not turning us into a glowing mass. Russia could destroy us and presumably we would destroy them as well in a massive nuclear exchange. But China with 1.1 billion people could invade us once they destroyed or severely impaired our navy. There are three strategies to destroy us: 1) A massive nuclear attack. 2) A massive land invasion i.e. China. 3) Destroyed from inside. Given what is going on today I’m thinking we need to prepare for #3

  7. Although our enemies are many and the threats are real and very possible, an invasion isn’t even a possibility, at least not until after much of our country has been turned into a radioactive ash heap. Yes, there are many fine and large armies controlled by tyrants with a chip on they’re shoulder and a destiny fulfilling dream of crushing “The Great Satan”, the sheer numbers in America’s citizen militia dwarfs anything our enemies could muster. Even the feared -radical Islamist’s would struggle to gather nearly as many.

    Do you remember the unsubstantiated quote credited to Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto- “You cannot invade mainland United States. There would be a rifle behind each blade of grass.”

  8. 2 points.

    1) Never say never 🙂
    2) Red Dawn was so popular a concept they had to remake it and there was even an Austrailian spin off “Tomorrow when the war began”.

    IMHO America will implode first, and then the foreign invasion will begin. lol

  9. I think I would worry about my own goverment doing something before I would worry about the North Koreans, though if they teamed up with Iran that would change things dramaticly, John.

  10. That Japanese bombed pear harbour over 70 years ago. I am gonna tell ya straight up stop living in your little cell phone social media white zone world. This red dawn scenario can happen and if North America doesn’t pull their heads out of the sand it will happen.

  11. Bro, I heard the original country WAS China, but Hollywood pussied out and made it North Korea.
    The whole premise of China invading makes much more sense and makes you realize they fucked up a whole movie because everybody watching was thinking N. Korea?? WTF? no Way the entire time.

  12. Last time we fought Korea, the north was being helped by the chinese, they could help them again so a red dawn might be very possible.


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