1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.

A different kind of weapon...

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by IrvJr, Feb 20, 2003.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. IrvJr

    IrvJr Member

    Jan 6, 2003
    Here's an article from the NY Times' Science Section on Electromagnetic pulse (EMP) weapons. I thought it was interesting. It surprised me to learn that many devices/circuits, which have been hardened against EMP generated by a nuclear burst, would not be protected against newer gen (microwave, etc.) weapons.



    Weapons That Disable Circuitry May Get First Use in Iraq

    February 20, 2003

    AS the United States readies for a possible conflict in
    Iraq, many of the star weapons from the Persian Gulf war of
    1991 are back and deadlier than ever. The smart bombs are
    smarter. The stealth planes are sneakier. Even the ground
    troops are better equipped than they were a dozen years

    Yet according to military experts, the biggest technical
    revelation of another war in the region may not be
    improvements to old systems but rather a new category of
    firepower known as directed-energy weapons.

    Think invisible lasers, using high-powered microwaves and
    other sorts of radiation rather than the pulses of visible
    light common in science fiction. These new systems, which
    have been under development in countries including Britain,
    China, Russia and the United States for at least a decade,
    are not designed to kill people. Conventional bombs, guns
    and artillery can take care of that.

    Rather, most of the directed-energy systems are meant to
    kill electronics, to disrupt or destroy the digital devices
    that control the information lifeblood of modern societies
    and modern military forces. By contrast, traditional
    jamming equipment blocks communications gear from
    functioning but does not actually damage the device.

    "If there is a war in Iraq, there is no question in my mind
    that we will see the use of both directed-energy and
    radio-frequency weaponry,'' said John Arquilla, a professor
    of defense analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School in
    Monterey, Calif., referring to both the new sorts of
    weapons and traditional jamming technology. "Over the last
    several years, a great deal of research has been undertaken
    in this area both by the United States but also by other
    countries, not all of them allied with us."

    That is why, like the genie escaping its bottle, directed
    energy may harbor danger for the United States itself, not
    just for its adversaries. With its increasing reliance on
    digital communications and information systems, the United
    States is perhaps the most vulnerable potential target for
    directed-energy devices, military experts say.

    But for the moment, most directed-energy specialists are
    concentrating on the possible uses of the technology
    against Iraq.

    For instance, military experts say that the United States
    or Britain could use cruise missiles or commando units to
    deliver a directed-energy weapon within a few thousand feet
    of an Iraqi control bunker that happened to be close to a
    large civilian population. If the weapon functioned
    properly, it would disable or destroy the electronics
    inside the bunker without the risks associated with a
    conventional missile attack or bombing.

    As the government works on new battlefield and continental
    missile-defense systems, directed-energy research is also
    helping to develop energy beams to be used to shoot down

    And while directed-energy weapons are not generally meant
    to kill people, there are certainly antipersonnel
    applications. In addition to the anti-electronics weapons,
    other directed-energy systems under development are meant
    to use microwaves to make people feel pain in the outer
    layer of the skin without generally causing physical
    damage. That pain is intended to inspire an instinct to

    In describing the use of such systems, which are meant to
    be mounted on a truck or perhaps on an all-wheel-drive
    Hummer vehicle, weapons experts constantly evoke "Black
    Hawk Down,'' the book and film that describe the chaotic
    1993 United States military intervention in Somalia. In
    Somalia, United States soldiers had little way to disperse
    angry groups of civilians without firing.

    "I can see something like this being especially effective
    someplace like downtown Baghdad,'' said Christopher
    Hellman, a senior research analyst at the Center for
    Defense Information, a think tank in Washington. "If one of
    Saddam Hussein's tactics is going to be to flood Baghdad
    with civilians, this could be really nice to have.''

    "I think that one is pretty close,'' to operational
    deployment, Mr. Hellman added. "If it's even remotely
    close, I'd bet they're working 24-7 to get it ready.''

    Mr. Hellman estimated that the government has recently been
    spending "tens or maybe hundreds of millions of dollars
    annually'' on directed-energy systems. "As long as you're
    not talking billions,'' he added, "it's not statistically

    What is significant is determining the ability of potential
    foes to develop such devices themselves. For now, military
    experts generally appear to believe that directed-energy
    weapons are beyond the technical reach of terrorist groups.

    "Considering that the United States has struggled with this
    and has taken a long time to get it to the verge of
    operational use, I think it would be tough for terrorists
    to get something they could use in this area,'' said David
    A. Fulghum, senior military editor for Aviation Week &
    Space Technology, a leading industry magazine. "I think it
    would probably be easier for them to develop a nuclear
    weapon and try to employ the electromagnetic pulse produced
    by that than to try to develop high-power microwave

    Nonetheless, as the nation's civilian society and
    especially its military apparatus come to depend ever more
    on electronic communication and information systems, the
    development of such systems by potentially unfriendly
    nations with significant industrial and technological
    abilities could become a military quandary.

    "Over the last generation, digital technology has infused
    every facet of American life,'' said Loren B. Thompson,
    chief operating officer of the Lexington Institute, a
    nonprofit national security think tank in Virginia, and
    co-author of a directed-energy study that the group
    released this month. "There is a tendency to think of the
    Information Age threat as consisting of software worms or
    viruses or a shutdown of electrical power, but there is a
    middle ground where energy is used to erase or disrupt or
    destroy digital systems without cutting off power and
    without introducing contaminating software.''

    Mr. Arquilla of the Naval Postgraduate School said, "This
    is one of the major Achilles' heels of the increasing use
    of technology in the United States military."

    "Most of what we have today is not hardened against this
    kind of capability and we are extremely vulnerable, so it
    makes sense for other militaries to be exploring these
    sorts of capabilities,'' Mr. Arquilla added. Referring to
    the Chinese army, he said, "We have seen increasing
    experiments in this area by the People's Liberation Army
    and other militaries.''

    That is why the Pentagon in recent years has intensified
    its research on possible defenses and countermeasures
    against an enemy's directed-energy weapons systems.

    In the early 1960's, the United States and the Soviet Union
    first recognized the potentially destructive effects of the
    electromagnetic pulse, or EMP, emitted by nuclear weapons
    detonations. In addition to releasing heat and physical
    energy, a nuclear detonation releases high amounts of
    electromagnetic radiation.

    That radiation can disrupt the operation of semiconductors,
    which form the basis of transistors, which in turn form the
    basis of microchips. Semiconductors essentially operate by
    regulating a flow of electrons, or current. When a large
    amount of external radiation is applied to a semiconductor,
    it can induce more current to flow than the semiconductor
    was built to handle, potentially destroying the device.

    From the 1960's through the end of the cold war, the United
    States and the Soviet Union spent billions of dollars to
    protect their electronics systems, or "harden" them,
    against the effect of a nuclear-generated electromagnetic
    pulse. Because old-fashioned vacuum tubes are generally
    impervious to EMP, the Soviet Union also used tubes in some
    of its sensitive systems.

    Put simply, the new generation of directed-energy weapons
    is meant to emulate the sort of damage that nuclear EMP can
    inflict upon electronics but at far less range, with more
    control of the damage and without all of the ancillary
    physical destruction and radioactivity.

    There are important technical differences, however, both in
    how and in what sort of electromagnetic energy is

    The epicenter of most directed-energy weapons research in
    the United States is Kirtland Air Force Base in
    Albuquerque. A spokesman at Kirtland said that he could not
    comment beyond the information on the base's Web site
    (www.de.afrl.af .mil). Companies including TRW, Raytheon
    and Lockheed Martin are also engaged in directed-energy
    research. In addition, the research involves nonclassified
    work being conducted by civilians such as Edl Schamiloglu,
    director of the pulsed power, beams and microwave
    laboratory at the University of New Mexico's department of
    electrical and computer engineering.

    Mr. Schamiloglu said most of the research on
    directed-energy applications over the last 15 years has
    focused on the part of the microwave range of the
    electromagnetic spectrum between 1 gigahertz, or 1 billion
    cycles per second, and 10 gigahertz.

    By contrast, nuclear-generated EMP tends to be at much
    lower frequency ranges, generally below 1 gigahertz. That
    means that existing safeguards against nuclear EMP will not
    protect against the new generation of directed-energy

    Most of the details on directed-energy weapons are
    classified. But there appear to be some reasons the
    military is focusing on the microwave band.

    First, it bypasses existing protections against
    nuclear-generated EMP.

    Second, microwaves in the 1 gigahertz to 10 gigahertz band
    appear to be especially efficient at generating excessive
    current within modern semiconductors.

    Third, the physical characteristics of microwaves appear to
    lend themselves to offensive applications against
    electronic targets - even those as simple as a PC. "Look at
    your computer,'' Mr. Schamiloglu said. "Look at the disc
    drive, the CD-ROM drive, the air slots, even the hole for
    the power cord. The holes are about half an inch. The slots
    are about 6 inches and there is conducting material all
    around them." Because those specifications correspond
    closely to the wavelengths of the directed-energy beams, he
    said, "those are perfect antennas for microwaves.''

    There are two main families of anti-electronics
    directed-energy weapons: ultra-wideband devices and
    high-power microwave systems. Ultra-wideband weapons, known
    as UWB, emit energy across a relatively large swath of the
    electromagnetic spectrum. High-power microwave devices
    concentrate high amounts of energy in a very narrow
    frequency band. High-power microwave devices are generally
    used to destroy electrical components, while UWB devices
    are more likely to only temporarily disrupt target devices.

    One of the main problems in developing all of these sorts
    of directed-energy systems has been generating the
    necessary power. Nuclear EMP obviously has a tremendous
    power source. Initial versions of directed-energy weapons
    in the United States and particularly in the Soviet Union
    also focused on chemical explosions as a potential power

    Over the last decade, however, directed-energy systems have
    become viable weapons largely because of advances in
    batteries and capacitors that allow a large amount of
    electrical energy to be delivered in a very quick pulse. A
    capacitor is an electrical device that stores and releases
    power. The use of electrical power allows the use of
    antennas that can focus the electromagnetic energy into a
    beam rather than an omnidirectional pattern, as a bomb
    would produce. Military experts say the range of modern
    directed-energy weapons could generally be measured in
    thousands of feet.

    "High-power microwaves have been around since the late
    60's, early 70's, but they were strictly laboratory
    equipment,'' Mr. Schamiloglu said. "It's because of the
    technology advances in capacitors, switches and batteries
    that you can now think about making these smaller. And once
    they are smaller they become of interest to various
    branches of the military and you can see the

    Mr. Fulghum of Aviation Week said cruise missiles were the
    most likely way that high-power microwave or ultra-wideband
    weapons would be delivered in the event of hostilities in
    Iraq. Cruise missiles appear optimal because even using a
    beam configuration, a directed-energy weapon is likely to
    disable the vehicle that delivers it.

    "The first step is to put it in a cruise missile that isn't
    necessarily coming back,'' Mr. Fulghum said.

  2. Leatherneck

    Leatherneck Member

    Dec 28, 2002
    No. Virginia and Northern Neck
    Impressive technology with some practical problems, like fratricide and collateral damage. Imagine the friends we'd make in Baghdad if one of these popped all the TV stations and Al Jazeera right before the evening news came on.:cuss:

    TFL Survivor
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page