All nations with a substantial military expenditure are now concerned with the issues of both the production of and protection against "E.M.P" weapons and it is extremely unlikely that non-nuclear non-(immediately), lethal methods of producing E.M.Ps are not also being explored. What may or may not it be possible to produce using superconductors and nuclear reactors for instance?
Just a normal town...http://www.newscientist.com/nl/0701/end.html
... but out of nowhere a wave of chaos was to wash over that world. In a millisecond it was gone. There were no phones, no computers, no power, nothing. Yet nobody had died, no buildings razed to the ground. And then the blind panic set in. What's going on, asks Ian Sample
It sounds like the perfect weapon. Without fracturing a single brick or spilling a drop of blood, it could bring a city to its knees. The few scientists who are prepared to talk about it speak of a sea change in how wars will be fought. Even in peacetime, the same technology could bring mayhem to our daily lives. This weapon is so simple to make, scientists say, it wouldn't take a criminal genius to put one together and wreak havoc. Some believe attacks have started already, but because the weapon leaves no trace it's a suspicion that's hard to prove. The irony is that it's our love of technology itself that makes us so vulnerable.
This perfect weapon is the electromagnetic bomb, or e-bomb. The idea behind it is simple. Produce a high-power flash of radio waves or microwaves and it will fry any circuitry it hits. At lower powers, the effects are more subtle: it can throw electronic systems into chaos, often making them crash. In an age when electronics finds its way into just about everything bar food and bicycles, it is a sure way to cause mass disruption. Panic the financial markets and you could make a killing as billions are wiped off share values. You could freeze transport systems, bring down communications, destroy computer networks. It's swift, discreet and effective.
Right now, talk of the threat of these weapons is low-key, and many want it to stay that way. But in some circles, concern is mounting. Last month, James O'Bryon, the deputy director of Live Fire Test & Evaluation at the US Department of Defense flew to a conference in Scotland to address the issue. "What we're trying to do is look at what people might use if they wanted to do something damaging," he says. With good reason, this is about as much as O'Bryon is happy to divulge.
E-bombs may already be part of the military arsenal. According to some, these weapons were used during NATO's campaign against Serbia last year to knock out radar systems. So do they really exist? "Lots of people are doing lots of work to protect against this type of thing," says Daniel Nitsch of the German Army Scientific Institute for Protection Technology in Muster, Lower Saxony. "You can make your own guess."
Interest in electromagnetic weapons was triggered half a century ago, when the military were testing something a lot less subtle. "If you let a nuclear weapon off, you get a huge electromagnetic pulse," says Alan Phelps of the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. If this pulse hits electronic equipment, it can induce currents in the circuitry strong enough to frazzle the electronics. "It can destroy all computers and communications for miles," says Phelps.
But the military ran into problems when it came to finding out more about the effects of these pulses. How could they create this kind of powerful pulse without letting off nuclear bombs? Researchers everywhere took up the challenge.
The scientists knew that the key was to produce intense but short-lived pulses of electric current. Feeding these pulses into an antenna pumps out powerful electromagnetic waves with a broad range of frequencies. The broader the range, the higher the chance that something electrical will absorb them and burn out.
Researchers quickly realised the most damaging pulses are those that contain high frequencies. Microwaves in the gigahertz range can sneak into boxes of electronics through the slightest gap: vent holes, mounting slots or cracks in the metal casing. Once inside, they can do their worst by inducing currents in any components they hit. Lower radio frequencies, right down to a few megahertz, can be picked up by power leads or connectors. These act as antennas, sending signals straight to the heart of any electronic equipment they are connected to. If a computer cable picks up a powerful electromagnetic pulse, the resulting power surge may fry the computer chips.
To cook up high-frequency microwaves, scientists need electrical pulses that come and go in a flash--around 100 picoseconds, or one ten-billionth of a second. One way of doing this is to use a set-up called a Marx generator. This is essentially a bank of big capacitors that can be charged up together, then discharged one after the other to create a tidal wave of current. Channelling the current through a series of super-fast switches trims it down to a pulse of around 300 picoseconds. Pass this pulse into an antenna and it releases a blast of electromagnetic energy. Marx generators tend to be heavy, but they can be triggered repeatedly to fire a series of powerful pulses in quick succession.
Deadly burstMarx generators are at the heart of an experimental weapons system being built for the US Air Force by Applied Physical Sciences, an electronics company in Whitewater, Kansas. "We're trying to put them on either unmanned aerial vehicles or just shells or missiles in an effort to make an electromagnetic minefield," says Jon Mayes of APS. "If something flies through it, it'll knock it out." It could also be used on a plane to burn out the controls of incoming missiles, says Mayes. Put it on the back of a military jet and if a missile locks onto the plane, the generator can release a pulse that scrambles the missile's electronics.
Marx generators have the advantage of being able to operate repeatedly. But to generate a seriously powerful, one-off pulse, you can't beat the oomph of old-fashioned explosives. The energy stored in a kilo or two of TNT can be turned into a huge pulse of microwaves using a device called a flux compressor. This uses the energy of an explosion to cram a current and its magnetic field into an ever-smaller volume. Sending this pulse into an antenna creates a deadly burst of radiowaves and microwaves.
Simplicity is one of the flux compressor's big attractions. Just take a metal tube, pack it with explosives, and stick a detonator in one end. Then fix the tube inside a cylinder of coiled wire, which has a wire antenna attached at the far end. Finally, pass a current through the coil to set up a magnetic field between the metal tube and the coil, and you're ready to go (Click on thumbnail graphic for diagram.).
Setting off the detonator triggers the charge, sending an explosion racing along the tube at almost 6000 metres per second. If you could slow this down, you'd see that in the instant before the explosive pressure wave begins to shatter the device, the blast flares out the inner metal tube. The distorted metal makes contact with the coil, causing a short circuit that diverts the current--and the magnetic field it generates--into the undisturbed coil ahead of it. As the explosive front advances, the magnetic field is squeezed into a smaller and smaller volume. Compressing the field this way creates a huge rise in current in the coil ahead of the explosion, building a mega-amp pulse just 500 picoseconds wide. Finally, just before the whole weapon is destroyed in the blast, the current pulse flows into an antenna, which radiates its electromagnetic energy outwards. The whole process is over in less than a tenth of a millisecond, but for an instant it can spray out a terawatt of power.
Tom Schilling of TPL, an electronics company in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is working along similar lines with the microwave weapons he's developing for the US Air Force. "We're using explosive flux generators to generate the power, then sending that straight into an antenna," he says. "One of the systems we're looking at is a guided bomb that can be dropped off a plane. Targets would be things like command and control centres--we should be able to shut those down with little or no collateral damage." Schilling's company is also looking at putting flux compressors into air-to-air missiles. It's an appealing idea, as even a near miss could bring down a plane.
It certainly ought to be practical. As long ago as the late 1960s, scientists sent a pair of flux compressors into the upper atmosphere aboard a small rocket to generate power for an experiment to study the ionosphere. "You can build flux compressors smaller than a briefcase," says Ivor Smith, an electrical engineer at Loughborough University who has worked on these devices for years.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of these weapons is that they carry the tag "non-lethal". You could take out a city's communications systems without killing anyone or destroying any buildings. In addition to the obvious benefits for the inhabitants, this also avoids the sort of bad press back home that can fuel opposition to a war. But that doesn't make these weapons totally safe, especially if they're being used to mess up the electronics of aircraft. "If you're in an aeroplane that loses its ability to fly, it's going to be bad for you," points out James Benford of Microwave Sciences in Lafayette, California.
Another big plus for people thinking of using these weapons is that microwaves pass easily through the atmosphere. This means that you can set off your weapon and inflict damage without having to get close to your target. "People think in terms of a kilometre away," says Benford. According to some estimates, a flux compressor detonated at an altitude of few hundred metres could wipe out electronics over a 500-metre radius.
Electromagnetic weapons can be sneaky, too. You don't have to fry everything in sight. Instead you can hit just hard enough to make electronics crash--they call it a "soft kill" in the business--and then quietly do what you came to do without the enemy ever knowing you've even been there. "That could be useful in military applications when you just want to make [the opposition] lose his electronic memory for long enough to do your mission," Benford says. "You can deny you ever did anything," he adds. "There's no shrapnel, no burning wreckage, no smoking gun."
Did it work?The downside is that it can sometimes be hard to tell when an electromagnetic weapon has done its job. This is compounded by the fact that unless you know exactly what kind of electronics you are attacking, and how well protected they are, it's hard to know how much damage a weapon will do. This unpredictability has been a major problem for the military as it tries to develop these weapons. "Military systems have to go through an enormous amount of development," says Benford. "The key thing is that it has to have a clearly demonstrated and robust effect."
Tests like this are close to the heart of Nigel Carter, who assesses aircraft for their sensitivity to microwaves at Britain's Defence Evaluation and Research Agency in Farnborough, Hampshire. Microwaves can easily leak between panels on the fuselage, he says. "You've also got an undercarriage with hatches that open, there's leakage through the cockpit, leakage through any doors."
To find out how bad that leakage is, Carter could simply put the plane in a field and fire away at it with microwaves. But he has to be careful. "If we go blatting away at a very high level at hundreds of frequencies, people in the nearest town get a bit upset because they can't watch TV any more," says Carter. "It's very unpopular."
To avoid annoying the neighbours, Carter beams very low-power microwaves at the plane. Sensors on board--linked by fibre optics to data recorders so they are immune to the microwaves--record the currents induced in the plane's electronics.
Knowing what currents are produced by weak microwaves, Carter calculates what kinds of currents are likely to be produced if the plane is hit by a more powerful pulse of microwaves. "You can then inject those currents directly into the electronics," he says. The results can be dramatic. "The sort of effects you might expect to get if it's not protected are instrumentation displaying wrong readings, displays blanking out and you could, in the worst case, get interference with your flight controls," he says.
The idea of weapons like these being used in warfare is disturbing enough, but what if criminals get their hands on them? According to Bill Radasky, an expert in electromagnetic interference with Metatech in Goleta, California, they may have already done so. A basic microwave weapon, he says, can be cobbled together with bits from an electrical store for just a few hundred dollars. Such a system would be small enough to fit in the back of a car and could crash a computer from 100 metres away.
Other systems are even easier to acquire. Some mail-order electronics outlets sell compact microwave sources that are designed to test the vulnerability of electronics. But they could just as easily be used in anger. "We've done experiments that show it's very easy to do," says Radasky. "We've damaged a lot of equipment with those little boxes." If some reports are to be believed, they're not the only ones.
Criminals may have already used microwave weapons, according to Bob Gardner who chairs the Electromagnetic Noise and Interference Commission of the International Union of Radio Science in Ghent, Belgium. Reports from Russia suggest that these devices have been used to disable bank security systems and to disrupt police communications. Another report suggests a London bank may also have been attacked. While these incidents are hard to prove, they're perfectly plausible. "If you're asking whether it's technologically reasonable that someone could do something like this," says Gardner, "then the answer is yes."
Gardner's claims are backed by Nitsch. He is investigating how vulnerable computers and networks are to powerful bursts of microwaves. Surprisingly, he has found that today's machines are far easier to crash than older models. He says computer manufacturers used to be more worried about electromagnetic interference, so they often put blocks of material inside to absorb stray signals, and ran strips of copper around the joins in the casing to keep microwaves out.
That modern computers have less protection is bad enough. But they are also more susceptible because they are more powerful. To push signals around faster, you must reduce the voltage to ensure that the extra current doesn't make the processor chips overheat. In the 1980s, most computers operated at 5 volts. Today's machines operate at nearer 2 volts, says Nitsch, making their signals easier to disrupt. Networks are particularly susceptible, he adds, because the hundreds of metres of cabling connecting their workstations can act as an efficient radiowave receiving antenna.
Secret attacksSo are businesses taking the threat seriously? Radasky knows of only one European company that has protected its control centre against microwave weapons. Gardner believes it will take a high-profile attack to raise awareness of the issue. But combine the lack of evidence left by microwaves with companies' reluctance to admit their systems have been breached and you'd expect attacks to go unreported.
The good news is that protection isn't too difficult if it's done at the design stage, says Carter. The first thing to do is make sure you've got well-constructed circuits. This means using strong signals that can easily be distinguished from the fuzz of noise generated by microwaves. "You also want to make sure your circuitry only responds at the frequency it's supposed to," he says. So if your computer is intended to respond to signals coming in at 500 megahertz, you want to make sure it won't also respond to signals at twice that frequency--the kind that could be induced by microwaves. Another step is to wire in filters that absorb large surges of current--much like those used to protect against glitches in the mains power supply following lightning strikes.
Regardless of whether these weapons have been used yet, they highlight the way our dependence on electronics could become our Achilles' heel. The next time your computer crashes, don't automatically blame Bill Gates. Just wander over to the window and look out for that unmarked van that sometimes parks across the street. Could there be someone inside sending a blast of microwaves your way" Go to: http://www.bilderberg.org/micwaves.htm#Just
Quote: "There are two possible classes of weapons that may be described as enhanced-EMP nuclear weapons. One is based on commonly known physics, and I will describe it briefly below. This first type, although never tested above ground, almost certainly exists now in the arsenals of several countries.
The second type is often claimed to exist, often by very reliable sources, but virtually nothing has been made publicly known about this novel type of weapon. This makes most of what can be said about this second type mostly speculative. What is written elsewhere on this site, including what is written below about the first type of enhanced EMP weapons, is based on known physics or on de-classified documents from military services or national laboratories.
We know about the first type of enhanced EMP weapons because the nuclear weapons tested before 1963, including those that caused significant EMP damage, may be considered to be suppressed-EMP weapons. If one were trying to minimize the EMP from those weapons, particularly the E1 component, they could hardly have done a better job. The E1 pulse arises from gamma rays, and from the effect of those gamma rays hitting the mid-stratosphere in the presence of a strong geomagnetic field.
If you wish to minimize the E1 component:
(1) Use a very thick and dense layer of chemical explosive around the nuclear material to trigger the reaction.
(2) Use a very thick and dense steel casing on the entire exterior of the weapon.
(3) Set off a very small fission explosion microseconds before the major (mostly fusion) thermonuclear explosion.
(4) Detonate the device where the geomagnetic field is relatively weak.
The numbers in parenthesis in the comments below refer to the numbered statements immediately above.
In above-ground nuclear testing, they did (1) because they had to with the technology that existed then. They did (2) because they were trying to maximize the explosive power of the weapon, so they had to have a thick steel casing that would hold things together for as many milliseconds as possible. What little they knew then about EMP was mostly regarded as a nuisance.
They did (3) whenever they were testing thermonuclear weapons (also known as "hydrogen bombs") because it was the only way to trigger the second (thermonuclear) stage. It didn't occur to anyone that this first fission explosion would ionize the upper half of the stratosphere, and minimize the EMP from high-altitude explosions. Even if they had known this, it is very unlikely that they would have done more single-stage testing since (at that time) they still regarded EMP as mostly a nuisance (but something possibly useful for detecting nuclear explosions in another country).
For the most part, they did (4) because much of the U.S. testing was in the near-equatorial regions of the mid-Pacific. (It was a convenient location for many reasons, and especially for doing tests of very large weapons.) Actually, 3 of the first 6 high-altitude nuclear tests of the United States were done in the South Atlantic Anomaly, where the geomagnetic field is at its very lowest. Although the majority of the United States tests were in Nevada, they were all smaller tests and none of them were done at high altitude. Except for the those Nevada tests and the very first test (which was done in New Mexico), all of the other tests on the U.S. mainland were done underground (including a 5 megaton underground test in Alaska).
Soviet high-altitude testing was done at higher latitudes, including one 40 kiloton high-altitude nuclear test (the Thunder test) in 1961 high above Stalingrad (now Volgograd) that would surely have produced a large EMP. This may be why the Soviets seemed to know about high-altitude EMP before the U.S. knew about its unusual intensity. (Soviet scientists have released details about their 1962 nuclear EMP tests, but nothing about the EMP from their earlier tests.)
So the simplest way of making an enhanced-EMP weapon is simply not to do (1), (2), (3) or (4). Simply using more modern materials to avoid (1) and (2), even if the casing has to be so thin that it sacrifices some of the explosive power of the weapon, could easily increase the number of gamma rays emitted from the weapon by a factor of 10. A huge increase.
To avoid (3), use only a single stage weapon, not a two-stage thermonuclear. To maximize the nuclear reaction, you probably would want to use a boosted fission method. In other words, use some of the lithium deuteride that is generally used as the "thermonuclear" part of the weapon, but use it only within the concentric shells of the single-stage weapon in order to get as much of the fissionable material to fission as possible. For the same reason, use a lot of precisely timed high-output neutron guns at the instant of detonation.
With some basic physics knowledge and our current knowledge of high-altitude EMP, a weapon could easily be made that generates dramatically more gamma radiation, and that is far more efficient in turning that gamma radiation into electromagnetic pulse. In other words, any nuclear weapons state could easily create a weapon that would produce more than 25,000 volts per meter across the entire continental United States if it is detonated 250 miles (400 kilometers) above the approximate center of the continental United States.
In addition, there are ways to generate an even larger amount of gamma rays with a two-stage thermonuclear weapon using a well-shielded primary (fission) stage and a carefully designed secondary. The design and deployment of an optimal weapon of this design is much more complicated than the single-stage weapon, but the knowledge necessary to design these more sophisicated weapons is becoming increasingly well known. One cannot keep the laws of physics a secret.
Now, we will leave the realm of commonly known physics and enter an area that is somewhat speculative. There have been many claims about the existence of what are called super-EMP nuclear weapons that can generate electric fields of 200,000 volts per meter. The open scientific literature only describes the operation of first or second generation nuclear weapons which are capable of producing a maximum EMP field strength of about 50,000 volts per meter on the ground (slightly to the equatorial side of the detonation point). Maximum field strengths near the horizon would be limited to about half of this value, or 25,000 volts per meter. The reason that the maximum field strength is slightly to the equatorial side of the detonation point (in other words, south of the detonation in the northern hemisphere) is that this is where the high-energy Compton electrons start to move through the Earth's magnetic field at nearly a 90 degree angle.
Obtaining field strengths that are higher than this is difficult due to saturation effects that completely ionize the mid-stratosphere where the electromagnetic pulse is generated. Basically, the process of generating the EMP in the middle of the stratosphere very quickly causes this region to become a fairly good electrical conductor, and therefore incapable of generating any additional EMP.
The E1 EMP from a nuclear weapon is generated from gamma rays emitted by the weapon within the first microsecond after the nuclear detonation. One way of enhancing the EMP is simply to make sure that the weapon is constructed so that as much of the gamma radiation as possible escapes from the weapon and is radiated into the upper atmosphere in a wide area below the detonation. This can be done as described in the first section above. The (relatively) gamma-ray-transparent casing only needs to be on the lower side of the weapon. The gamma radiation that is emitted upward into outer space is wasted." For full article go to: http://www.futurescience.com/emp/super-EMP.html
The weapon is the "e-bomb," or microwave bomb, and as you may have guessed, this new marvel of terror is brought to us by the same folks who gave the world the atomic bomb and weaponized anthrax. Yes, it's a creation of the United States federal government and its "defense" contractors. Victorino Matus writes about the e-bomb on the Weekly Standard's website; Matus cannot quite conceal his enthusiasm, but he does at least mention the humanitarian concerns about the device. Of course, he concludes by reiterating that the purpose of the bomb is actually to spare lives: to destroy electronics without also killing people. This is a humanitarian weapon.
Something here doesn't add up. Several news sources have reported that the e-bomb may see its first use in the attack on Iraq.That's understandable as far as it goes; Iraq is not really a stone age country, despite years of sanctions. It may still have enough electronics to make the bomb an effective weapon in the U.S. arsenal (although then again, it may not). But think about this in the long term. The real danger to the United States at present comes from terrorist organizations, not from "rogue states," which are only significant to the extent that they harbor and support terrorists. How do you use an "e-bomb" against al Qaeda? It's not a weapon of much use against people hiding in caves. Nor is it of any use in stopping a hijacked airplane — it could bring down an aircraft, of course, but so could a conventional missile, and the e-bomb would run the additional risk of shorting out any other electronics nearby, including other planes and systems on the ground. Even its usefulness against Iraq will be very limited. To put it bluntly, an anti-technology weapon is most useful against a target dependent on high technology. That doesn't mean Iraq, and it certainly doesn't mean Afghanistan or al Qaeda. It means countries like the United States.
By its very nature, the e-bomb poses more of a danger to the United States and other first world countries than it does to terrorists or rogue states. So why is the US developing this weapon? One explanation would be that the military-industrial bureaucracy is still fighting the last war. The e-bomb might work fine against the aircraft and mechanized infantry divisions of a large nation state such as the Soviet Union. It would be a useful weapon to deploy against cities as well, to scramble communications and handicap the economy. But this kind nation-to-nation warfare is not what America or the world currently faces. Even apart from al Qaeda, most of the fighting in the world today is within, not between, states. Outside of Africa, what warfare there still is between states typically now takes the form of the United States and its allies fighting a single, smaller foe of extremely limited conventional forces (Serbia, Iraq, etc.). In such engagements the e-bomb has limited practical value. It's a bunker-buster, and one of a highly specialized sort, in an age characterized by fewer and fewer bunkers. It might have applications in Iraq, but it would have had few indeed in Serbia — except, again, as a weapon for use against cities.
On the other hand, the e-bomb would be a very convenient weapon for anyone who wanted to attack America. There are ways to shield, or "harden," electronics against electromagnetic pulses, but microwaves are the most difficult radiation to harden against. No doubt some of the most highly sensitive military technology might be proofed against an e-bomb, but civilians would have little protection. In addition to hospitals and traffic lights, power grids, air traffic control systems, and telecommunications could all be crippled or destroyed. The loss of life and economic damage would be bad enough in Belgrade or Baghdad; in an American city it would be far worse. The microwave bomb really is a weapon of mass destruction, one particularly tuned to the weaknesses of a modern, computer-reliant city.
Will the government's development of this weapon come back to haunt us? In twenty years' time we may have President George P. Bush threatening war with Bhutan unless the Bhutanis can prove that they haven't been developing an e-bomb. Meanwhile our own military-industrial complex will be busily at work creating yet another weapon of mass destruction. It's happened before and now it's happening again." Go to: http://archive.lewrockwell.com/dmccarthy/dmccarthy42.html
AND this is what's been happening to the "conventional" nuclear arsenal in the meantime...
Doesn't fill "one" with confidence does it ("America dropped an armed nuclear weapon on itself!")?