Interesting juxtaposition of EMP technologies

It seems that various organisations are preparing for the war of the future with the news that the US military is working on an EMP bomb and a means of shielding electrical power grids from EMP bombs is under development, from The Register:

The electromagnetic pulse (EMP, aka High Power Microwave or HPM) weapon has long been theorised upon, ever since it was found that a nuclear explosion would produce such effects at the tail end of World War II.

People have speculated ever since that one might use EMP strikes – produced either by high-airbursting nukes, or perhaps by conventional explosives-pumped systems of some kind – for offensive purposes.

the US general in charge of the Air Armament Center has suggested that an HPM weapon “packaged in inventory munitions mold line” – ie, it is a bomb – is already at the stage of “industry technology assessment” and a technology demonstrator could be built next year.


“A rogue state or terrorist organization could easily acquire nuclear material for a smaller weapon for $20m,” says Charles Manto, president of Instant Access Networks corp.

“That weapon could be fitted onto a Scud missile for as little as $100,000, fired and detonated 80 miles into the air and affect the entire US east coast,” he adds.

Manto has just scored some state funding to prep the Maryland power grid for the inevitable terrorist Scud nuke pulse strike. He reckons to do this using “patent-pending shielding technology that encloses a room or similar structure and protects it from EMP events

Very sensible, I suppose: if you’re going to make a weapon then at least prepare yourself to be attacked by it.

If you should seek war, prepare for war.

[image from ladybugbkt on flickr]

3 thoughts on “Interesting juxtaposition of EMP technologies”

  1. The Register article is misleading and you have unknowingly repeated some of their misleading information here. To clarify: EMP and HPM are not terms that are interchangeable as technologies, nor do they describe identical threats. The term EMP is normally used to denote the broadband, mostly sub-GHz pulses which are produced as a by-product of the high-flux blast of high-energy particles from a nuclear weapon interacting with the atmosphere at high altitude (often referred to in the past as “high-altitude electromagnetic pulse” or HEMP). These EM pulses can travel huge distances, while inducing very strong currents and high voltages on power lines and phone lines, damaging many, many kinds of equipment. In contrast, HPM refers to high power microwaves, which usually operate at frequencies above 1 GHz, and are produced with various specific types of devices that (more or less) are similar to old-fashioned vacuum tubes but with important technological improvements and customizations for extremely high-power pulsed operation. HPM devices are generally NOT powered by nuclear weapons. They also are generally effective only at short/moderate ranges, and thus such devices are unlikely to pose any kind of broad generalized threat to large communities, in stark contrast to nuclear-generated EMP.

  2. Thank you very much for clarifying the situation Robert. I will be more careful in the future.

  3. It’s my understanding that an EMP is produced by any similarly large explosion. We (humanity) do not have a lot of experience with large explosions but an asteroid strike (or comet) can cause an EMP effect also. (Lewis 1997,1999)

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