Green Room

Cuba to North Korea: How much sugar do you take with your MiGs?

posted at 6:13 pm on July 22, 2013 by

Panama continued to search the North Korean vessel Chong Chon Gang after finding missile systems on board as it passed through the Panama Canal.  With the crew under arrest and the UN on its way, Panamanian investigators found a curious shipment under the sugar that supposedly was the main cargo on its way to Pyongyang:

Panamanian investigators unloading the cargo of a seized North Korean ship that carried arms from Cuba have found the two MiG-21 fighter jets the Cuban government had said were on board, the government said on Sunday.

Alongside the two supersonic planes, originally produced by the Soviet Union in the late 1950s, officials found two missile radar systems on board the Chong Chon Gang, President Ricardo Martinelli told reporters in the Atlantic port of Colon.

The discovery, which included cables and electrical equipment, was made inside containers on the ship Panama had feared might contain explosive material. None was found.

After stopping the vessel bound for North Korea last week, Panama revealed it had found weapons in the cargo hold late on Monday. In response, Cuba said the shipment contained a range of “obsolete” arms being sent to North Korea for repair.

The Mig-21 does qualify as “obsolete,” but that’s not the same as “ineffective.”  The Soviets produced the model until 1985, and it’s not clear what generation Cuba tried to ship to North Korea.  The argument that it needed repair seems odd, since the Russians might be still able to service the MiG-21 and a transfer from Havana to Moscow wouldn’t have to be hidden under bags of sugar.  That also prompts the question of why Cuba can’t service its own fighters rather than ship them to a UN-embargoed nation for repairs. The same goes for India, which has hundreds still in use.

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Cuba to North Korea: How much sugar do you take with your MiGs?

Lol ED,two lumps,er Mig 21’s!:)

canopfor on July 22, 2013 at 6:20 PM

Speaking of AirPlanes,another MisHap:

Southwest Airlines flight has nose gear issue landing at LaGuardia Airport, no injuries; airport closed until further notice – @NBCNews

4 mins ago by editor

Photo: Crews spray Southwest flight that bottomed out pulling into La Guardia gate – Porter Farrell via @BudKennedy

11 mins ago from by editor

canopfor on July 22, 2013 at 6:21 PM

Are they importing them for a museum celebrating the glorious year of 1959?

forest on July 22, 2013 at 6:23 PM

The ChiComs also made a copy called the Chengdu J-7, and only stopped production this year.

Steve Eggleston on July 22, 2013 at 7:11 PM

Steve Eggleston on July 22, 2013 at 7:11 PM

Which makes why they’d bother importing Fishbed-Ds from Cuba a really good question. The airframe is the same, but that’s like saying a Block 10 F-16A is the same thing as a a Block 65 F-16D. I know pilots who have flown both, and they regard the difference as roughly the same as between the original TV Starship Enterprise and the present movie version.

More exactly, the main MiG-21 model used by NKPLAAF (even the acronym is a mouthful) is the MiG-21PF Fishbed-G, the all-weather interceptor with all-aspect and collision-course attack capability. (It’s the one with the big “hump” of a fuselage spine like an old T-Stick II F-105 Thud.) About the only thing interchangeable between a “D” and anything later might be the wheel brakes. So it wouldn’t even make a good ground instruction airframe.

In intel, the old saying is “‘Don’t know’ means Don’t Know, not ‘take a wild-a$$ guess'”. So as of now, I’m not. I really have no idea what Mini-Kim and/or the Super Castro Brothers are up to.

The one thing I’m sure of is that when we find out, we won’t like it.



eon on July 22, 2013 at 10:09 PM

It’s either some lower official trying to make a buck or this is just a test of NPRK security integrity. In any case, you know someone is off to re-education camp.

lexhamfox on July 22, 2013 at 11:54 PM

This seems like it should be a bigger deal. Can you even imagine what a competent smuggler gets by these folks?

Cindy Munford on July 23, 2013 at 1:00 AM

I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!

bigmacdaddy on July 23, 2013 at 7:24 AM

Some ting Wong with Chong chon bang.

jaywemm on July 23, 2013 at 7:56 AM

Chong Chon Gang

Is Asiana Airlines about to sue somebody?

Bitter Clinger on July 23, 2013 at 8:04 AM

eon on July 22, 2013 at 10:09 PM

Makes things curiouser and curiouser, though I thought the Cubans had the -J (MF) model, with the North Koreans splitting between the -F (PFM) and -L/N (bis). In any case, I doubt the North Koreans have the ability to upgrade the Cuban planes.

Steve Eggleston on July 23, 2013 at 8:56 AM

How much sugar do you take with your MiGs?

Rather, how many MiGs do you take with your sugar?

unclesmrgol on July 23, 2013 at 9:41 AM

Steve Eggleston on July 23, 2013 at 8:56 AM

You’re probably right, my data may be a bit old. But it’s still the same deal. The only thing I can think of, offhand, is that the North Koreans may be looking at -Js as a model for a new home-grown version, since they apparently can’t get Chengdu J-7s from China.

This may be an example of them getting something from Cuba more or less as a “prize in the box” because their usual supplier (the PRC) isn’t extending them credit any more.

If so, we may see a new North Korean-built Fishbed variant in the not-too-distant future.



eon on July 23, 2013 at 10:47 AM

That also prompts the question of why Cuba can’t service its own fighters rather than ship them to a UN-embargoed nation for repairs. The same goes for India, which has hundreds still in use.

What part “goes for India”? Does India ship its MiGs to North Korea for repairs? I hope not.

J.S.K. on July 23, 2013 at 12:21 PM

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