Air Force radiation ‘sniffer’ jet may be headed to Korea

wc135w140618m257 constant phoenixA U.S. Air Force radiation “sniffer” jet may soon be flying off the Korean Peninsula to help determine if North Korea’s claims of a hydrogen bomb test are true, a U.S. military official says.

The White House said Wednesday it was skeptical of North Korea’s claim that it successfully detonated a thermonuclear device.

“The initial analysis is not consistent with the North Korean claims,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

But the Pentagon has a way to be more certain whether a hydrogen bomb was tested.

A U.S. official told CNN that a nuclear test of any type would emit distinctive elements into the air, and collected samples can be analyzed to determine exactly what occurred. That’s exactly what the WC-135W jet, dubbed the “Constant Phoenix,” does.

The four-engine Boeing jets are equipped with external devices that collect radioactive material from the atmosphere on filter paper. The planes also have “a compressor system for whole air samples collected in holding spheres,” according to an Air Force fact sheet.