Air Force’s Microwave Weapon Technology Can Fry North Korea’s ICBMs
By Pritha Paul, International Business Times
The U.S. has developed microwave weapons, which its advocates say can be used to prevent missile launches by North Korea by frying their electronics.
The Air Force and other government agencies have been working on using microwaves as weapons for over two decades, and the Air Force Research Laboratory began work on CHAMP, which stands for Counter-electronics High Power Microwave Advanced Missile Project, in April 2009.
These weapons are basically emitters of high-power microwaves (HPM) to disable electronic systems. Champs can be fitted into an air-launched cruise missile and delivered from B-52 bombers. They have a range of 700 miles.
The weapons are not operational as of now but were a topic of discussion at an August White House meeting related to North Korea, according to two U.S. officials with direct knowledge, NBC News reported.
Some less-advanced versions of the emitters successfully disabled improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and small drones in Iraq and Afghanistan, NBC News reported.
But the developers at the Air Force Research Laboratory had to reduce the size and weight of the emitter, which further had to be matched with an onboard power source sufficient to drive the microwave pulses.
It was only in October 2012, that the Air Force was able to conduct the first operational testing of the weapon.
So what are HPM weapons exactly? Attempting to describe it, Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) said: “Think about when you put something in your microwave that has metal on it. You know how badly that goes? Imagine directing those microwaves at someone's electronics."
Retired Lt. Gen. David Deptula, who ran the air wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and retired as the head of Air Force intelligence, also weighed in on the usefulness of these weapons. “Command and control centers are filled with electronic infrastructure which is highly vulnerable to high powered microwaves,” Deptula said.
The first operational test was carried out in the Utah Test and Training Range, a 2,500-square-mile testing area larger than Delaware.
Mocked-up buildings in the area were rigged with communications and computer systems that simulated the "representative WMD production equipment" reportedly being developed by Iran and North Korea.
"These high-powered microwave signals are very effective at disrupting and possibly disabling electronic circuits," Mary Lou Robinson, head of weapons development at the Air Force Research Laboratory in Albuquerque, told NBC News.
She further added that the first test proved to be a success since the weapons performed exactly as expected...