fyi: EMP weapons

Rohit Khare
Thu, 3 Jan 2002 20:37:47 -0800

One novel I read estimated that 2 out of 7 dollars in the economy 
would just be erased by EMPing NY and DC. That much has been 


>Date: Fri, 21 Sep 2001 02:39:26 -0500 (CDT)
>From: InfoSec News <>
>Subject: GeeK: [ISN] E-BOMB
>September 2001
>In the blink of an eye, electromagnetic bombs could throw civilization
>back 200 years. And terrorists can build them for $400.
>The next Pearl Harbor will not announce itself with a searing flash of
>nuclear light or with the plaintive wails of those dying of Ebola or
>its genetically engineered twin. You will hear a sharp crack in the
>distance. By the time you mistakenly identify this sound as an
>innocent clap of thunder, the civilized world will have become
>unhinged. Fluorescent lights and television sets will glow eerily
>bright, despite being turned off. The aroma of ozone mixed with
>smoldering plastic will seep from outlet covers as electric wires arc
>and telephone lines melt. Your Palm Pilot and MP3 player will feel
>warm to the touch, their batteries overloaded. Your computer, and
>every bit of data on it, will be toast. And then you will notice that
>the world sounds different too. The background music of civilization,
>the whirl of internal-combustion engines, will have stopped. Save a
>few diesels, engines will never start again. You, however, will remain
>unharmed, as you find yourself thrust backward 200 years, to a time
>when electricity meant a lightning bolt fracturing the night sky. This
>is not a hypothetical, son-of-Y2K scenario. It is a realistic
>assessment of the damage the Pentagon believes could be inflicted by a
>new generation of weapons--E-bombs.
>The first major test of an American electromagnetic bomb is scheduled
>for next year. Ultimately, the Army hopes to use E-bomb technology to
>explode artillery shells in midflight. The Navy wants to use the
>E-bomb's high-power microwave pulses to neutralize antiship missiles.
>And, the Air Force plans to equip its bombers, strike fighters, cruise
>missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles with E-bomb capabilities. When
>fielded, these will be among the most technologically sophisticated
>weapons the U.S. military establishment has ever built.
>There is, however, another part to the E-bomb story, one that military
>planners are reluctant to discuss. While American versions of these
>weapons are based on advanced technologies, terrorists could use a
>less expensive, low-tech approach to create the same destructive
>power. "Any nation with even a 1940s technology base could make them,"
>says Carlo Kopp, an Australian-based expert on high-tech warfare. "The
>threat of E-bomb proliferation is very real." POPULAR MECHANICS
>estimates a basic weapon could be built for $400.
>An Old Idea Made New
>The theory behind the E-bomb was proposed in 1925 by physicist Arthur
>H. Compton--not to build weapons, but to study atoms. Compton
>demonstrated that firing a stream of highly energetic photons into
>atoms that have a low atomic number causes them to eject a stream of
>electrons. Physics students know this phenomenon as the Compton
>Effect. It became a key tool in unlocking the secrets of the atom.
>Ironically, this nuclear research led to an unexpected demonstration
>of the power of the Compton Effect, and spawned a new type of weapon.
>In 1958, nuclear weapons designers ignited hydrogen bombs high over
>the Pacific Ocean. The detonations created bursts of gamma rays that,
>upon striking the oxygen and nitrogen in the atmosphere, released a
>tsunami of electrons that spread for hundreds of miles. Street lights
>were blown out in Hawaii and radio navigation was disrupted for 18
>hours, as far away as Australia. The United States set out to learn
>how to "harden" electronics against this electromagnetic pulse (EMP)
>and develop EMP weapons.
>America has remained at the forefront of EMP weapons development.
>Although much of this work is classified, it's believed that current
>efforts are based on using high-temperature superconductors to create
>intense magnetic fields. What worries terrorism experts is an idea the
>United States studied but discarded--the Flux Compression Generator
>A Poor Man's E-Bomb
>An FCG is an astoundingly simple weapon. It consists of an
>explosives-packed tube placed inside a slightly larger copper coil, as
>shown below. The instant before the chemical explosive is detonated,
>the coil is energized by a bank of capacitors, creating a magnetic
>field. The explosive charge detonates from the rear forward. As the
>tube flares outward it touches the edge of the coil, thereby creating
>a moving short circuit. "The propagating short has the effect of
>compressing the magnetic field while reducing the inductance of the
>stator [coil]," says Kopp. "The result is that FCGs will produce a
>ramping current pulse, which breaks before the final disintegration of
>the device. Published results suggest ramp times of tens of hundreds
>of microseconds and peak currents of tens of millions of amps." The
>pulse that emerges makes a lightning bolt seem like a flashbulb by
>An Air Force spokesman, who describes this effect as similar to a
>lightning strike, points out that electronics systems can be protected
>by placing them in metal enclosures called Faraday Cages that divert
>any impinging electromagnetic energy directly to the ground. Foreign
>military analysts say this reassuring explanation is incomplete.
>The India Connection
>The Indian military has studied FCG devices in detail because it fears
>that Pakistan, with which it has ongoing conflicts, might use E-bombs
>against the city of Bangalore, a sort of Indian Silicon Valley. An
>Indian Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis study of E-bombs
>points to two problems that have been largely overlooked by the West.
>The first is that very-high-frequency pulses, in the microwave range,
>can worm their way around vents in Faraday Cages. The second concern
>is known as the "late-time EMP effect," and may be the most worrisome
>aspect of FCG devices. It occurs in the 15 minutes after detonation.
>During this period, the EMP that surged through electrical systems
>creates localized magnetic fields. When these magnetic fields
>collapse, they cause electric surges to travel through the power and
>telecommunication infrastructure. This string-of-firecrackers effect
>means that terrorists would not have to drop their homemade E-bombs
>directly on the targets they wish to destroy. Heavily guarded sites,
>such as telephone switching centers and electronic funds-transfer
>exchanges, could be attacked through their electric and
>telecommunication connections.
>Knock out electric power, computers and telecommunication and you've
>destroyed the foundation of modern society. In the age of Third
>World-sponsored terrorism, the E-bomb is the great equalizer.