Electromagnetic Pulse Weapons

Jose G. Perez jg_perez at bellsouth.net
Sat Mar 15 16:16:49 MST 2003


I see Paddy has posted an article talking about EMP weapons. These are, so
far, vaporware.

That such weapons are theoretically possible has been demonstrated countless
times by lightning strikes which damage electronic equipment. The specifics
of the weapons being discussed are ones that somehow would focus very short,
intense microwave pulses (microwave so they could penetrate the openings
typically found in the grounded metal cases that protect sensitive elecronic
equipment).

Whether they could be implemented in practice is another matter. What would
be necessary is a source of sufficient electricity. One way would be to
convert the kinetic energy of conventional explosives into electricity and
delivering that electricity to the pulse-generating circuitry without having
the explosion blow it up before the pulse was away.

Another way would be to have some sort of huge bank of capacitors to deliver
the pulse of electricity.

It does appear that research in this is ongoing; whether enough progress has
been made to create an actual bomb is anyone's guess. My guess is that it
hasn't, this is just part of the Pentagon FUD (Fear Uncertainty and Dread)
psychological campaign against Iraq, but even it is ready, I suspect
American generals would be loathe to deploy it at this stage. For all it
takes if for one dud missile to fall into the wrong hands and any potential
U.S. adversary would be able to copy-cat the design. And there is no armed
forces more vulnerable to this than the American one, and any such effective
weapon in the hands of a U.S. adversary would basically put the American war
machine out of commission.

I suspect at the end of the day hardening stand-alone equipment like
computers against this sort of thing will not prove too difficult. Basically
you just need to shield it, i.e., make the holes smaller. It may be that
something as simple as metallic window screen is effective, and a few simple
tests can determine that. Retrofitting American ships, airplanes, tanks and
other vehicles will prove more difficult.

BTW, the other highly-publicized "new" weapon the United States is
preparing, high-explosive 10 and 15-ton versions of the Vietnam era "daisy
cutter," didn't look too impressive in the first publicized test of the
10-ton version in Florida. The Pentagon warned people in the area to be
prepared for this huge explosion, but it didn't shake, rattle or roll the
neighborhood as expected, and left barely a quiver on nearby seismographs.
You wouldn't expect the Pentagon to admit this, but it may well have been
largely a dud, i.e., a lot of the explosives didn't explode. This is a known
issue with very large amounts of explosives, which is why until now there
were no bombs of this size.

The Pentagon freely admits this weapon is meant mostly for "psychological"
effect, i.e., it is a weapon of mass terror. Generally speaking, large
military units in the field don't deploy in such tight, concentrated
formations, and where they do bunch up, that's because they're in close
contact with an enemy force concentration around some important point, where
use of this kind of weapon would be as likely to know out your own people as
the enemy.

José


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