Annalee Newitz / io9.com & Boeing Corp. – 2012-10-29 00:13:17
Boeing: We Now Have Drones Equipped with EMP Beams!
And That Could Be Lethal
Annalee Newitz / io9.com
(October 29, 2012) — If youâ€™re worried about surveillance drones cruising over your neighborhood, then this new technology from Boeing will have you running for your microwave-shielded shelter.
Last week, defense company Boeing conducted the first successful test of a drone called the Counter-electronics High-powered Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP) that can emit a powerful burst of microwaves and fry every piece of electronics in its path — from personal computers and cameras to high-tech hospital equipment and flight control computers.
According to Boeing:
CHAMP approached its first target and fired a burst of High Power Microwaves at a two story building built on the test range. Inside rows of personal computers and electrical systems were turned on to gauge the effects of the powerful radio waves.
Seconds later the PC monitors went dark and cheers erupted in the conference room. CHAMP had successfully knocked out the computer and electrical systems in the target building. Even the television cameras set up to record the test were knocked off line without collateral damage.
“This technology marks a new era in modern-day warfare,” said Keith Coleman, CHAMP program manager for Boeing Phantom Works. “In the near future, this technology may be used to render an enemyâ€™s electronic and data systems useless even before the first troops or aircraft arrive.”
These drones are being touted as non-lethal weapons, aimed at taking out an enemyâ€™s “electrical systems,” like say targeting systems or maybe their intelligence databases. But to say that this is a non-lethal weapon seems a bit disingenuous, since so many lives depend on electricity. Knocking out the computers in a hospital, or the technology in computer-guided vehicles, could lead to fatalities. And losing databases of information could lead to many more deaths in the long term. Imagine one of these drones taking out a stock exchange or a water management system. Or a computer-controlled dam. The consequences could be quite dire.
So thanks, Boeing, for bringing us into the era of indirectly lethal weapons.
Things are about to get interesting, as they say.
Microwave Missile Test Targets Electronics, Not People
(October 25, 2012) — A successful missile test has ushered in a new era of warfare in which the US military can take out electronic targets without destroying a single building.
The experimental missile fired bursts of high-power microwaves at several target buildings to fry the computers and electrical systems inside during a test at the Utah Test and Training Range on Oct. 16. Such results signaled success for the Counter-electronics High-powered Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP) created by Boeing Phantom Works and the US Air Force Research Laboratory.
“In the near future, this technology may be used to render an enemy’s electronic and date systems useless even before the first troops or aircraft arrive,” said Keith Coleman, CHAMP program manager for Boeing Phantom Works.
The idea of using microwaves or electromagnetic pulses (EMPs) to knock out electronic systems without having to reduce cities or military bases to rubble first arose during Cold War nuclear tests. Nuclear explosions created EMPs that unexpectedly damaged some civilian power grids and facilities.
That spawned the military dream of a nonlethal takedown weapon that could disable an enemy’s radar, communications and targeting computers — effectively leaving them blind and unable to respond effectively to follow-up attacks by regular military forces. Such weapons could prove especially useful when assaulting enemies hidden in heavily populated cities or towns without causing civilian casualties.
But the secrecy surrounding US military weapons research led some critics to argue that microwave weapons represented an impossible dream as recently as last month.
Such critics were apparently wrong. The CHAMP missile’s microwaves proved so effective during the recent test that they knocked out some of the cameras used to record video footage of rows of computers blinking off. CHAMP went on to hit seven targets during the one-hour test.
CHAMP’s three-year, $38 million program could eventually deploy up to five prototype missiles. The latest testing seems to suggest that Boeing and the Air Force have succeeded in creating a functional missile capable of taking out many targets with multiple shots.
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