Thursday, June 20, 2024

Will electromagnetic pulses ever be used as weapons of mass destruction?


Boeing has developed a weapon that can target and destroy electronic systems in a specific building.

Engineers and designers from Boeing, Raytheon, and the Air Force Research Laboratory observed the test flight of a new type of cruise missile designed to disable electronic devices on October 16. The Boeing CHAMP, which stands for Counter-electronics High-powered Microwave Advanced Missile Project, is a cruise missile that uses high-powered microwaves to render electronics inoperable.

When the Boeing CHAMP cruise missile is deployed, there is a risk of causing collateral damage to surrounding areas and structures. The high-powered microwaves emitted by the missile can disrupt not only the target’s electronic devices but also those of nearby civilians or critical infrastructure. This unintended consequence may lead to unwanted consequences and harm innocent individuals.

The growing threat of the EMP

Demonstrated expertise in high-altitude electromagnetic pulse (HEMP) technology, as showcased in the James Bond movie ‘Goldeneye,’ aligning with real-world scenarios.

Proactively assessed potential threats from countries like North Korea regarding EMP attacks on the US electricity grid, highlighting a forward-thinking approach to national security.

A similar effect was caused when the US detonated a 1.4-megaton nuclear warhead more than 240 miles above the Pacific Ocean in 1962 – an explosion in space sufficient to cause an EMP that hit electricity supplies in Hawaii over 850 miles away as well as destroying at least three low Earth orbit satellites. The significance of that incident lies in the fact that the world’s critical national infrastructure in the 1960s was much less vulnerable to disruption by EMP than it is today due to the fractional number of electronic transistors in use at the time.

Deployment of the electromagnetic spectrum, particularly radio waves at specific frequencies, to gather intelligence and disrupt enemy communications while protecting your own has been well understood for almost a century but has intensified with the use of remote-controlled electronic weapon systems and devices.

Some studies have found that brain tissue in rats is sensitive to EMP, which can cause damage to central nervous systems.

A strong enough EMP would also impact the cognitive strength of the left side of the human brain through sustained neural damage, though the pulse would have to be considerably more powerful than the estimated 100kV/m that human bodies can currently withstand and the 200kV/m that has been tested on rats in several Chinese studies.

EMP weapons have the potential to cause terrible damage, but the simple truth is that they are as yet unproven and there are much worse threats to civilisation whose effects are already well known.


Electromagnetic Pulse: The Dangerous but Overlooked Threat

What is an EMP event? In layperson’s terms, a man-made EMP event, probably an attack, would use the “Pulse” from a nuclear explosion high in the atmosphere to damage or destroy vulnerable electronics over a vast area. The electromagnetic radiation from a targeted, high-altitude EMP attack delivered via missile could disrupt most microelectronic-based and online systems within the HEMP footprint-from cell towers to car computers.

Can the U.S. do more to mitigate the EMP threat posed by near peer and rogue nation-states? Or be better prepared for the next geomagnetic disturbance, which some experts predict at 25 percent probability in the next 25 years? Foreign military writings include EMP attack as part of information warfare tactics, as reflected in expert Congressional testimony and EMP Commission reports, Robertshaw adds.

These are encouraging steps, yet what’s needed is a whole-of-nation plan to mitigate the EMP threat. See Electromagnetic Pulse Program Status Report, August 2020.). The team members note that MITRE is uniquely situated to convene and lead the critical public interest discussion about the EMP threat.

The EMP threat and proposed solutions are competing for attention and resources with far more tangible, immediate national priorities such as the coronavirus pandemic; economic, military, and ideological challenges of the Great Power Competition; and widespread protests for racial and social justice.


EMP Weapons and the New Equation of War 

An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) is an intense burst of electromagnetic (EM) energy that causes, or can be used to cause, damage. Though natural EMP is always noticed as disturbances on the radio during lightening, much more powerful EMPs are generated by solar geo-magnetic storms. EMPs can also be generated, and artificially through nuclear explosions, or non-nuclear radio frequency weapons.1 Electric and magnetic fields resulting from such intense EMPs induce damaging currents and voltage surges in electrical/electronic systems, burning out their sensitive components such as semi-conductors.

The existence of a powerful man-made EMP was first proven during the first few nuclear tests. In 1962, the US conducted a high-altitude nuclear test code-named ‘Starfish Prime’. A 1.4 megaton weapon was detonated 400 kilometres above Johnston Island in the Pacific Ocean. Electrical equipment more than 1,400 kilometres away in Hawaii were affected by the EMP generated by the test. Street lights, alarms, circuit breakers, and communications equipment all showed signs of distortion and damage.2

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More tests by the US and the erstwhile USSR yielded similar results, with even underground cables suffering damage. Seven low earth orbit (LEO) satellites failed in the months following the Starfish Prime test, as residual radiation damaged their solar arrays and electronics.3 The enormously devastating effects of EMP were only then realized. This led to the further development of nuclear bombs optimized for EMP effects, rather than physical destruction.

The use of nuclear EMP weapons during hostilities between states is likely to be fraught with risks. High altitude nuclear EMP is likely to cause catastrophic damage to electronics in vast regions across thousands of kilometres, and may often affect even the state using the weapon. Besides, the first use of nuclear weapons carries the escalatory risk of retaliatory nuclear strikes.

Andrei Sakharov, the Soviet nuclear scientist conceived of the concept of generating a non- nuclear EMP (NNEMP) as early as 1951. Although work on NNEMP started subsequently, it was only in the 1990s that documents and information began to appear in public about these weapons. Though information on these weapons is mostly kept classified, non-nuclear EMP weapons are now a part of military arsenals of at least major powers such as the US and the UK.4

NNEMP Weapons

Classified as Directed Energy Weapons,5 NNEMP weapons generate a less powerful EMP and have radii of effectiveness ranging from a few hundred meters to a few kilometres.6 Military NNEMP weapons are probably in existence in the form of either aircraft or missile delivered e- bombs7or mounted systems on aircraft, drones or missiles. Boeing claims to have successfully tested an EMP missile — Counter-electronics High-powered Microwave Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP) —at the Utah Test and Training Range in 2012.8 Small suitcase-sized ground-based NNEMP weapons with short ranges are also feasible.9 The adverse impact of a NNEMP attack is envisaged to be more on systems and devices with electronic components, as the voltages required to damage semi-conductors are small.

Experts consider that NNEMP are easy to develop and relatively inexpensive and that these could also be put together using Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) materials.10 Avi Schnurr, CEO and President of the Electric Infrastructure Security (EIS) Council of the United Kingdom (UK), has statedthat ‘the biggest issue with non-nuclear EMP weapons is that the complexity and threshold required to produce them is minimal, to say the most.’11 Given the relative ease of development, not only major powers but even smaller countries could develop them.

On March 25, 2003, CBS NEWS reported the first possible use of an e-bomb by noting that ‘The U.S. Air Force has hit Iraqi TV with an experimental electro-magnetic pulse device called the “E- Bomb” in an attempt to knock it off the air and shut down Saddam Hussein’s propaganda machine….’12Even at their current levels of technological capabilities, there is a possibility that India’s neighbours already possess aircraft or missile delivered e-bombs. Short range briefcase- sized EMP devices could even get into the hands of non-state actors and terrorists, in all likelihood made out of COTS materials.13

Military Employment

EMP weapons could be used against military and civil targets alike. They have been called Day-1 weapons by some experts, as these are likely to be used as early as possible in war to maximize asymmetry over the adversary. Modern militaries are heavily reliant on advanced electronics. Even at the lowest levels, weapons, equipment, communication and data sets, among others, have some embedded electronics. At higher levels, naval ships, aircraft, artillery pieces, armoured vehicles, radars, military communication and data network, command and control centres, automated air defence (AD) weapon systems, etc., have substantial and critical electronic components.

Majority of the present day military equipment and networks are either insufficiently or not at all hardened against EMP. Therefore, at every level, militaries are vulnerable to EMP attacks. An e- bomb with a lethal radius of even a few kilometres could put out of action a deployed battalion- size force or a large number of airfield assets or a naval flotilla. The damage to the electronics will take considerable time to repair and the downtime of the affected combat systems may extend from a few hours to even months. Unserviceable combat systems and the absence of command and information systems are likely to result in prevalence of disorder and uncertainty, giving the offensive side a considerable advantage to wrest initial gains and turn the situation in its favour.

On their part, defending forces can foil enemy offensives by disrupting the latter’s control and coordination through the use of e-bombs. Given the rather limited radius of effectiveness of e- bombs, a large number of e-bombs would however be needed to cover the length and breadth of enemy forces in battle zones, including vital targets like war rooms, operation -centres, force headquarters, airfields, AD systems, etc. E-bombs could prove to be more effective than explosive bombs since they would not spare even the dugout or blast protected targets. A single wave EMP attack could considerably reduce the combat capability of a force. Even localised damage could have the potential to disrupt activity, especially if combined with other forms of attack.14 To ensure optimal use of own EMP weapons and deny a counter EMP strike opportunity to the enemy, militaries would need to devise tactics and strategies.

Besides military targets, a number of strategic civilian targets, like urban data and communication centres, stock exchanges, factories and other centres of gravity could also be attacked by e- bombs.15 Targets hardened against physical destruction or located amidst the civil population could be particularly vulnerable to e-bombs. With increasing networking and redundancies, however, data and communication facilities are becoming resilient against total annihilation.

EMP weapons could also be used clandestinely to take out important targets during peace time, when the use of conventional weapons would be considered outrageous, as it will be difficult to prove who exactly was responsible. Such incapacitating applications of EMP could also prove to be an effective deterrent against enemies contemplating military action.

Since information on e-bombs is kept highly secret, experts are unable to definitively gauge the extent of damage it may cause.16 Damage would depend a lot on the target characteristics also, for instance whether the electronics of the target are enclosed in metal, the percentage of electronic components in the target, exposure of metal cables, connection to power supply, terrain masking, etc. Likely damage could, however, be arrived at by conducting simulation and field testing.

The collateral damage potential of e-bombs, i.e. damage to electronics in hospitals, emergency services, etc., may make their use sinister and would need careful contemplation.


Faraday’s caging and metal encasing of systems and components is considered to be the most effective protection against EMP, besides physically destroying the weapon delivery platform itself.17 These are designed to divert and soak up the EMP. Additionally, electrical surge protection circuits and terrain masking could be useful. However, the costs of building EMP protected military systems or EMP hardening of all current systems is considered prohibitive by experts. It may be possible for only a few critical systems. At present, no infallible solution seems to be available against NNEMP.

Threat Appraisal

The EMP threat has been a rising concern for all major powers, which have constituted high-level commissions and committees in the recent past to study the threat. Think tanks have also been engaged in discussing the issue. Deposing before the Defence committee in November 2011, the UK’s then Minister of State for the Armed Forces, Nick Harvey, stated that EMP ‘is certainly considered a potential threat. It is not considered a particularly likely one, certainly in the foreseeable future; but we keep that constantly under review.’18 The US also keeps the threat under vigil and has also possibly evolved contingency plans.19

India, with its hostile neighbourhood,20 should not discount facing an overt or clandestine use of NNEMP weapons during either peace or hostilities. Keeping a tab on their possible development in the neighbourhood may be prudent. For retaining combat capability in case of EMP attacks, building redundancies into important military structures and developing fibre-optic networking may be indispensable. Measures like cost-effective Faraday caging and shielding for frontline equipment may be studied.

According to a 2015 news report, India too had started work on EMP in 1985. The report stated:

‘According to publicly available information, KALI (Kilo Ampere Linear Injector) is a linear electron accelerator being developed in India, by Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) and Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC). It is designed to work in such a way that if a missile is launched in India’s direction, it will quickly emit powerful pulses of Relativistic Electrons Beams (REB). It damages the on-board electronic systems.’21

Looking at the gross asymmetrical advantage it provides against adversaries, India should actively consider developing an offensive NNEMP capability.


Major Western powers have confirmed the existence of NNEMP weapons. However, their effectiveness and likely success rate remains intangible since information on these matters remains classified. With the ease of development and low costs, these weapons are likely to proliferate and should be factored into war contingencies. India is vulnerable to EMP attacks, given the presence of technologically capable neighbouring rivals and adversaries. India should conduct a formal evaluation of the regional EMP threat and work towards building EMP resilient data and communication structures, both for civil and military requirements. There may also be a need to devise contingency plans and procedures for EMP attacks. Looking at the advantages and practical employability of e-bombs, India should also provide impetus to developing and inducting an offensive NNEMP capability.


1.“Developing Threats: Electro-Magnetic Pulses (EMP),” Tenth Report of Session 2010–12, United Kingdom House of Commons, February 8, 2012,https://publications.…

2.Scott Stewart, “Gauging the Threat of an Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack,” Stratfor Worldview, September 9, 2010, article/gauging-threat- electromagnetic-pu…

3.Edward E. Conrad, et al, Collateral Damage to Satellites from an EMP Attack (Defence Threat Reduction Agency, August 2010), fulltext/u2/a531197.pdf

 4.Note 1, pp. EV-6, Q 33.

5.Viren Pereira and G. R. Kunkolienkar, “EMP Weapon Technology along with EMP Shielding & Detection Methodology,” 6726651/


7.Carlo Kopp, “The Electromagnetic Bomb – a weapon of Electrical Mass Destruction,” Air Power Australia, January 27, 2014, Bomb-Mirror.html#4

8.“CHAMP – Lights Out, “ October 22, 2012, http://

9.Note 1.

 10.Kopp, Note 7. Also see, Note 1, pp. EV-6, Q33.


12.Joel Roberts, “U.S. Drops ‘E-Bomb’ On Iraqi TV,” CBS News, March 25, 2003, drops-e-bomb-on-iraqi-tv/

 13.Note 1, p. EV-54
 14.Ibid, pp. EV-11, Q-72
 15.Ibid, pp. EV-22.

16.Ibid, pp. EV-19, Q-11. The UK MoD stated: “In terms of classification, there is quite a bit of material on the internet. We routinely monitor that and assess it. Some of the devices are potentially viable; some are not. Most of them are rather short-range; for instance, with modified microwave sources, you are talking about ranges in the category of hundreds of metres. We keep an eye on those threats. Is it classified? There are some classified areas. We do not want to share our view on what viable devices might be at the high end of non-nuclear EMP, so we protect that very sensitive area because we do not wish to see further proliferation of those competent devices.”

17.“High-power microwave (HPM)/E-Bomb,”, military/systems/munitions/hpm.htm

 18.Note 1, p. 18.

19.Report of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack, Volume 1: Executive Report 2004, https:// 04- 07-22emp.pdf

20.Bill Gertz, “China building electromagnetic pulse weapons for use against U.S. carriers,” Washington Times, July 21, 2011, news/2011/jul/21/beijing- develops-radiati…

Why Boeing India Facility In Bengaluru Is More Than A Science And Technology Center?

BIETC Campus Inaugration: PM Modi inaugurates Boeing India Engineering and Technology Centre (BIETC) near Bengaluru | BIETC | Devanahalli | Boeing India E&T Centre| Company’s Largest Facility Outside United States | PM Modi in Bengaluru | Bengaluru Boeing Campus [19 Jan 2024 ]

U.S. Air Force and Boeing Develop
• Joint project aims to develop a weapon capable of targeting and destroying electrical systems without traditional firepower.
• Known as the “CHAMP” or Counter-electronics High-powered Microwave Advanced Missile Project.
• The weapon aims to eliminate the death and destruction caused by nuclear weapons.
• Theoretically, the missile system would target buildings and knock out their electrical grids, causing darkness and disconnectedness.

Counter-electronics High-powered Microwave Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP)

CHAMP Weapon
• Successful preliminary trials in 2012: CHAMP mission in Utah disabled seven targets.
• Accuracy and precision demonstrated through targeted buildings.
• Effectiveness due to ability to cut off electricity supplies to enemy parties while excluding civilians.

Air Force Research Laboratory’s CHAMP System
• Major General Tom Masiello confirms CHAMP is an operational system in the tactical air force.
• The Laboratory has only commissioned five CHAMP devices with Boeing.
• Military forces are developing next-generation weapons, including lasers.
• Lockheed Martin tested a laser weapon in March 2015, and the Navy deployed a Laser Weapon System in December 2015


The missile is equipped with an electromagnetic pulse cannon.

This uses a super-powerful microwave oven to generate a concentrated beam of energy.

The energy causes voltage surges in electronic equipment, rendering them useless before surge protectors have the chance to react.

The aim is to destroy an enemy’s command, control, communication and computing, surveillance and intelligence capabilities without hurting people or infrastructure.

The United States has implemented the National Security Information law [a], which governs the use of electromagnetic technology for remote control of the human body. Similarly, the Russian Federation has also subjected technologies that provide access to the human brain to the same law [b]. Consequently, the involvement of mass media and the general public in advocating against the use of these technologies is restricted. It is evident that governments possessing such means of control can exploit them against individuals without granting them any opportunity for legal defense. As a result, the notion of a world that upholds freedom and human rights becomes tainted.

[a] – see memorandum of the Department of the Air Force and Communicating via the Microwave Auditory Effect

[b] – “Secret Superweapon in Action”

The silent missile that can destroy enemy electronics with microwave PULSES: Air Force confirms terrifying new weapon

  • Named counter-electronics high-powered microwave advanced missile
  • Weapon destroys electronic systems without hurting people or buildings
  • Champ is now an ‘operational system already in [the] tactical air force’ 
  • Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range has been chosen as the delivery vehicle

From Ocean’s Eleven to Star Trek, weapons that wipe out enemy electronics are a staple of science fiction films.

For years, scientists have been attempting to create such a weapon as part of Champ, or the Counter-electronics High-powered microwave Advanced Missile Project.

Now, the US Air Force claims it has advanced the technology, and says it can deploy it using the stealthy Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range (JASSM).

For years, scientists have been attempting to turn fantasy into reality by working on a system known as Champ, or Counter-electronics High-powered microwave Advanced Missile Project

According to Foxtrot Alpha [c], once integrated into JASSM, Champ will be a ‘first day of war’ standoff weapon.


Because it can be launched by both bombers and fighters, Lockheed’s Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, or JASSM, is an ideal platform for Champ. 

‘The capability is real … and the technology can be available today,’ said Major General Thomas Masiello, the Air Force Research Laboratory.

‘That’s an operational system already in our tactical air force’

In 2012, aircraft manufacturer Boeing successfully tested the weapon on a one-hour flight during which it knocked out the computers of an entire military compound.

During Boeing’s experiment, the missile flew low over the Utah Test and Training Range, discharging electromagnetic pulses on to seven targets, permanently shutting down their electronics.

Boeing said that the test was so successful even the camera recording it was disabled.

Although the project is shrouded in secrecy, experts believe the missile is equipped with an electromagnetic pulse cannon.

This uses a super-powerful microwave oven to generate a concentrated beam of energy which causes voltage surges in electronic equipment, rendering them useless before surge protectors have the chance to react.

The missile is equipped with an electromagnetic pulse cannon. This uses a super-powerful microwave oven to generate a concentrated beam of energy. The energy causes voltage surges in electronic equipment, rendering them useless before surge protectors have the chance to react

Keith Coleman, Champ programme manager for Boeing’s prototype arm Phantom Works, claims the technology marked ‘a new era in modern warfare’.

‘In the near future, this technology may be used to render an enemy’s electronic and data systems useless even before the first troops or aircraft arrive,’ he said during the initial test.

However, experts fear that the project could create an arms race, with countries scrambling to build their own electromagnetic pulse weapons.

Professor Trevor Taylor, Professorial Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, has previously said the Western world would be more vulnerable attack because of its increased reliance on electronics.

‘Should the US be known to have developed such a technology to the production stage, it would drive others to try to act similarly,’ he said.

The US Air Force claims Champ has found an ideal delivery vehicle; the stealthy Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range (pictured)
Oak Ridge National Laboratory maps the areas likely to be blacked out in the event of a high-altitude nuclear EMP attack on the US

Should You Be Worried About EMF Exposure?

Electric and magnetic fields occur naturally and also come from human-made sources. Scientists and oversight agencies generally agree that low-frequency EMFs pose little danger to human health.

Most of us are used to the electronic conveniences of modern life. But few of us are aware of the possible health risks presented by the gadgets that make our world work.

Our power lines, cellphones, microwaves, Wi-Fi routers, computers, and other appliances send out a stream of invisible energy waves. Electric and magnetic fields (EMFs) are produced anywhere electricity is used, including at home and in the workplace. 

Some experts are concerned about potential health effects from these fields. But should we be worried?

While most researchers don’t believe most EMFs are dangerous, there are still some scientists who question the safety of EMF exposure. Many say there hasn’t been enough research into understanding whether EMFs are safe. Let’s take a closer look.

What are EMFs?

Since the beginning of the universe, the sun has sent out waves that create EMFs, or radiation. At the same time the sun sends out EMFs, we can see its energy radiating out. This is visible light. 

At the turn of the 20th century, electric power lines and indoor lighting spread across the world. Scientists realized that the power lines supplying all that energy to the world’s population were sending off EMFs, just like the sun does naturally.

Over the years, scientists learned that many of the emerging electrical appliances also create EMFs. As the medical world advanced, much of its diagnostic and treatment equipment, like imaging devices for X-rays and CT scans, were also found to make EMFs. 

Today, 90 percent of the world’s population has access to electricity and uses electrical appliances. That means lots of electricity and EMFs are created around the world. 

But even with all those waves, scientists generally don’t think EMFs are a health concern.

Symptoms of EMF exposure

Possible human health effects from exposure to EMFs hasn’t yet been determined with precision and accuracy. Research in the coming years may better inform us.

Some studies point to various symptoms coming from EMF exposure, but researchers generally say more study is needed. Many of the studies use animal or cell models, which are unreliable if applied to human health. 

Also, some of these symptoms have been attributed to a condition called electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS), where people relate various non-specific symptoms to EMF exposure. 

The medical field hasn’t substantiated EHS, although people do experience symptoms that are sometimes distressing and even disabling. 

No credible research currently links EHS symptoms to EMF exposure, and EHS isn’t considered to be a medical diagnosis. The medical field advises that further research is needed.

Still, some research gives tentative support to EMF symptomatology. Here are symptoms that some studies have suggested:

  • sleep disturbances, including insomnia
  • headache
  • depression and depressive symptoms
  • tiredness and fatigue
  • dysesthesia (a painful, often itchy sensation)
  • lack of concentration
  • changes in memory
  • dizziness
  • irritability
  • loss of appetite and weight loss
  • restlessness and anxiety
  • nausea
  • skin burning and tingling


EMFs occur naturally and also come from human-made sources. Scientists and regulatory agencies generally agree that low-frequency EMFs pose little danger to human health. 

But some researchers offer preliminary evidence that some danger may exist for long-term use, specifically to the nervous system and brain cognitive function. 

Exposure to large levels of high-frequency EMFs is known to damage human DNA and cells. But it’s very unlikely that you’ll be exposed to levels high enough to endanger your health in your daily life. Exposure comes mostly in small amounts. 

The best approach is to be aware that EMFs exist and be smart about your exposure. This is a developing field of research that will undoubtedly expand as our use of wireless devices and labor-saving machines increases. Keep an eye on the news for developing research.


Source: Mail Online, Youtube, EMC Directory-image

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