Electro Magnetic Pulse Weapons: The Shock & Awe Effect

“War may some­times be a nec­es­sary evil. But no mat­ter how nec­es­sary, it is always an evil, nev­er a good. We will not learn how to live togeth­er in peace by killing each other’s chil­dren.”

If the above words of Pres­i­dent Jim­my Carter holds true even to this date, is it pos­si­ble to wage war not for the pur­pose of killing each other’s chil­dren but to fac­tu­al­ly stop an adver­sary in his tracks and yet harm nei­ther hide nor hair? The answer is Yes and it lies in the use of High Pow­er Microwave (HPM) Weapons.

It was dur­ing the ear­ly test­ing of the High Alti­tude Air­burst Nuclear Weapons that the Elec­tro Mag­net­ic Pulse or EMP effect was first observed. EMP is essen­tial­ly an elec­tro­mag­net­ic shock wave. It pro­duces a very short but high­ly intense elec­tro­mag­net­ic pulse, which spreads away from its start­ing place with ever thin­ning con­cen­tra­tion. The idea behind using an EMP weapon is to pre­vent the ene­my from effec­tive­ly using their com­mu­ni­ca­tions. An EMP weapon will induce cur­rents large enough to liq­ue­fy cir­cuit­ry. Even less pow­er­ful bursts can momen­tar­i­ly dis­rupt elec­tri­cal appa­ra­tus or last­ing­ly dam­age Inte­grat­ed Cir­cuits, mak­ing them redun­dant for min­utes and even days. Humans trapped in the explo­sion of an EMP will large­ly remain untouched and may even fail to real­ize that they have been hit.

The tech­nol­o­gy that goes behind in design­ing Elec­tro­mag­net­ic Bombs has evolved over the years and is now quite mature. Cru­cial tech­nolo­gies which are in exis­tence in this area are explo­sive or pro­pel­lant dri­ven Mag­ne­to-Hydro­dy­nam­ic (MHD) gen­er­a­tors, explo­sive­ly pumped Flux Com­pres­sion Gen­er­a­tors (FCG), and a wide vari­ety of HPM devices, the most renowned of which is the Vir­tu­al Cath­ode Oscil­la­tor.

Gigawatts of pow­er is required to sup­ply the microwave source of an E‑Bomb. It is here that the Flux Com­pres­sion Gen­er­a­tors comes handy. The most renowned type con­sists of an explo­sive laden cop­per cylin­der which is enclosed by a heli­cal cur­rent car­ry­ing coil. When it explodes, the explo­sion burns out the cylin­der there­by short-cir­cuit­ing the coil, grad­u­al­ly drop­ping the num­ber of twirls in the coil, con­se­quent­ly con­dens­ing the mag­net­ic flux.

Com­pared to the Flux Com­pres­sion Gen­er­a­tors, the tech­nol­o­gy that goes behind design­ing of explo­sive or pro­pel­lant dri­ven Mag­ne­to-Hydro­dy­nam­ic gen­er­a­tors is less mature. The basic the­o­ry behind the design of Mag­ne­to-Hydro­dy­nam­ic gen­er­a­tors is that a con­duc­tor trav­el­ling through a mag­net­ic field will cre­ate an elec­tri­cal cur­rent oblique to the course of the field as well as the con­duc­tor move­ment. The con­duc­tor of the MHD is a plas­ma of ionised volatile or pro­pel­lant gas, which moves through the mag­net­ic field. Elec­trodes which are in con­tact with the plas­ma jet col­lect the cur­rent.

The Vir­tu­al Cath­ode Oscil­la­tor or Vir­ca­tor is of great sig­nif­i­cance as it is a device capa­ble of cre­at­ing a very strong sin­gle pulse of radi­a­tion. It’s design is not com­plex and it can func­tion over a com­par­a­tive­ly broad band of microwave fre­quen­cies. The basic idea gov­ern­ing the Vir­ca­tor is that of rush­ing a shrill cur­rent elec­tron beam next to a foil anode. Numer­ous elec­trons will go by the anode, cre­at­ing an effer­vesce of space charge at the back of the anode. If the space charge area is placed into a rever­ber­at­ing cav­i­ty which is suit­ably tuned then high peak pow­ers can be pulled off.

In order to increase the lethal­i­ty of an E‑Bomb it is essen­tial to increase the pow­er attached into the tar­get set. The elec­tro­mag­net­ic bomb can be pro­grammed to set off at the opti­mal place to inflict a max­i­mum elec­tri­cal impair­ment. Just like explo­sive war­heads, elec­tro­mag­net­ic war­heads can be fit­ted to a num­ber of deliv­ery vehi­cles, promi­nent among them being Cruise Mis­siles and air deliv­ered bombs such as J‑DAMs. EMP weapons can be used for both soft and hard elec­tri­cal kill. A hard elec­tri­cal kill by the use of an EMP device will be accom­plished in those cas­es where crit­i­cal elec­tri­cal dam­age is accom­plished against a tar­get so as to neces­si­tate it’s replace­ment.

In reflec­tion, it can be said that an EMP attack is not far fetched. A suc­cess­ful EMP attack can com­plete­ly crip­ple the adver­saries com­mu­ni­ca­tion net­work while at the same time leav­ing humans untouched. Giv­en their non lethal nature EMP weapons should be posi­tioned against loca­tions where humans would get killed or wound­ed if a dif­fer­ent war­fare tech­nique had been used .

About the Author
Deba­jit Sarkar has over 8 years expe­ri­ence as a con­sul­tant, pro­gram­mer and busi­ness ana­lyst with a diverse back­ground in pro­gram and project man­age­ment, strate­gic man­age­ment plan­ning and pol­i­cy analy­sis in the Defense sec­tor. He research­es Smart Weapons and UAVs and close­ly mon­i­tors the emer­gence of Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence in the Defense sec­tor. His work has allowed him to inves­ti­gate how Embed­ded Sys­tems can be bet­ter uti­lized for Home Automa­tion. He has pre­sent­ed algo­rithms which com­pute opti­mal poli­cies for these timed domains.

Mr. Sarkar holds a Bach­e­lors in Com­merce (Hon­ours) and a Post Grad­u­a­tion in Com­put­er Appli­ca­tion and has worked as a Busi­ness Ana­lyst for 4 years with Deloitte and Touche. Cur­rent­ly he works as an Inde­pen­dent Con­sul­tant spe­cial­iz­ing in Smart Weapons and UAV research. In this capac­i­ty he suc­cess­ful­ly deliv­ers busi­ness devel­op­ment strate­gies in the Defense sec­tor and help achieve growth objec­tives for busi­ness enter­pris­es, on a con­sult­ing and con­tract basis. His val­ue propo­si­tion is to pro­vide win­ning client solu­tions using con­sul­ta­tive, and facil­i­tat­ing skills