One of the biggest military threats to electronics is an Electromagnetic Pulse Attack (EMP). EMP’s are usually generated when a nuclear weapon explodes, but can be generated by other means. A wave of EMP energy can destroy any electronics in their path. Commercial and utility companies currently have no defense for an EMP attack. This means that computers, communication devices, and even cars could all be disabled by an EMP.
According to a Foxnews interview with Jena Baker McNeill (a Homeland Security Policy Analyst), 28 countries have the ability to create or deliver an EMP attack. Iran, Russia and China are very invested in this type of weapon. What is the US doing to protect itself from EMP? Not much according to Jena, congress has ignored it and even decreased defense spending. Nice…
Okay, trivia time, has an EMP bomb ever been purposely dropped over a large populated area? The answer is, yes! According to Wikipedia:
“In 1962, the Soviet Union also performed a series of three EMP-producing nuclear tests in space over Kazakhstan, which were the last in the series called “The K Project”. Although these weapons were much smaller (300 kilotons or 1.3 PJ) than the Starfish Prime test, since those tests were done over a populated large land mass (and also at a location where the Earth’s magnetic field was greater), the damage caused by the resulting EMP was reportedly much greater than in the Starfish Prime nuclear test.
The geomagnetic storm-like E3 pulse (from the test designated as “Test 184″) even induced an electrical current surge in a long underground power line that caused a fire in the power plant in the city of Karaganda. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the level of this damage was communicated informally to scientists in the United States. Formal documentation of some of the EMP damage in Kazakhstan exists but is still sparse in the open scientific literature.”
There are also reports that the US used EMP weapons against Iraq during the Gulf War. Reportedly power went out to Baghdad, even though the power generator plant was not damaged. Our military equipment for the most part is protected from EMP, but something must be done to protect our critical infrastructure.
* Update – See “The Weapon that Disabled Iraq’s Power Grid“