In an extraordinary and sobering report meant to educate the nation on a growing threat, a new military study warns that an electromagnetic pulse weapon attack such as those developed by North Korea, Russia, and Iran could essentially challenge the United States and displace millions.
“Based on the totality of available data,” said the report from the Air Force’s Air University and provided to Secrets, “an electromagnetic spectrum attack may be a threat to the United States, democracy, and the world order.”
The report, titled, “Electromagnetic Defense Task Force,” and the product of a mostly classified summit of officials from 40 agencies just outside of Washington earlier this year, is a forceful call for a new focus on preparing for either an enemy EMP attack or a natural hit such as a solar storm.
While it is focused on the devastating impact an EMP hit would have on the military, it appears to support a congressional warning that up to 90 percent of the population on the East Coast would die in a year of an attack that would dismantle or interfere with electricity, transportation, food processing, and healthcare.
Consider just some of the warnings in the report from the United States Air Force Air University and the Curtis E. LeMay Center for Doctrine Development and Education.
Citing figures from the Union of Concerned Scientists, the report:
99 nuclear reactors would likely melt down without electricity to cool them.
4.1 million would be displaced from areas around the nuclear plants as the radioactive cloud spread.
Military and commercial jets, such as those built by Airbus, could be degraded. “Alarmingly, aircraft designed to carry large numbers of people and sizable cargo are allowed to operate without certainty about their level of resilience.”
Bases would be cut off, making defense and counter-attacks impossible.
Civil unrest would start in “hours.”
Power and GPS could go dark. “An EMP would cause instantaneous and simultaneous loss of many technologies reliant on electrical power and computer circuit boards, such as cell phones and GPS devices.”
“Failures may include long-term loss of electrical power (due to loss of emergency generators), sewage, fresh water, banking, landlines, cellular service, vehicles.”
18 months or more are required to replace key elements of the electric grid that would be damaged or knocked out.
Figuring out just which country launched an attack would be difficult since certain weapons could be delivered in a satellite.
It also noted the development of the 5G mobile network and how it will run communications and why it must be protected, especially since China is the biggest investor in its development.
“Because control of 5G is roughly equivalent to control of the Internet, open 5G is critical to freedom and free-market economics. Meanwhile, access to the 5G-millimeter wave bandwidth will be critical to operations in all war-fighting domains, in particular, space command & control,” said the white paper.
Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast, the commander of Air Education and Training Command, said, “As electromagnetic technologies fuse in new and often dangerous ways, it’s critical that the military and industry make honest evaluations of present and future conflict states to ensure we’re proactive rather than reactive.”
He also advised for predicting how U.S. foes will try to outsmart any fixes to the electric grid and other targets of an EMP attack.
“French actions before WWII demonstrate that even bold action, such as building the Maginot Line, can be rapidly overcome through imagination. The imagination that defeated the Maginot Line was the German Blitzkrieg which unexpectedly exploited the only gap in the wall. Groundbreaking research like this can help the wider defense community understand not only how take bold action, but how to take the right bold action to prevent catastrophic outcomes,” said the general.
The report said that the government should focus on the issue and declare it a critical issue. What’s more, it called for a central effort to push for EMP prevention and reaction should an attack come.
The report, written by experts Air Force Maj. David Stuckenberg, former CIA Director James Woolsey, and Col. Douglas DeMaio, also called for a national and congressional publicity campaign to alert the nation and governmental leaders to the threat.
“The potential for an adversary to inflict damage on states through EMS attack has grown significantly,” said the 69-page report, which warned, “An EMP attack affects all devices with solid-state electronics and could render inoperative the main grid and backup power systems, such as on-site generators.”
It highlighted the lack of a reaction plan or major focus on an EMP attack, even if just from a solar flare. “In some areas, there is a complete absence of strategy,” said the report. It added, “EMP is a tragedy of the commons as ‘no one’s job jar.’”
ElectroMagnetic Pulse Explained
When a conductor moves through a magnetic field it produces an electrical current.
This useful technology is how generators work at your local power plant.
Likewise, when a moving magnetic field passes a conductor, it creates current.
This phenomenon is called Electro-Magnetic Pulse, or EMP for short.
Sounds technical; seems complicated.
But at first, it doesn’t really sound all that scary.
Sounds like something you’d hear a boring physics professor talk about.
Not a serious national security concern.
But don’t be fooled, it’s real and it is scary.
Because what happens if the magnetic field produced is much stronger when it passes through a wire?
Perhaps a pulse large enough to damage the wire.
A pulse so intense that it could fry the microscopic wiring in small circuitry.
Given a strong enough magnetic field, microelectronics are destroyed by an electrical burst.
By destroyed, I mean entirely burned out.
Destruction of electrical components in this manner is called an EMP attack.
The One Weapon That Can Produce A Massive EMP Attack
One way to create a broad-scale EMP pulse is to detonate a nuclear warhead like a hydrogen bomb.
The energy release of a nuclear blast creates a sizeable electromagnetic pulse. This pulse radiates outward in all directions.
Any electrical wiring in the path of the pulse will burn out.
The nuclear explosion does not have to be very large to generate a dangerous EMP. At least one hazardous for our computer friends, not so much for us.
Unlike the radiation from a nuclear explosion, an EMP is not dangerous to people. Unless you have a pacemaker installed.
But it will destroy most unshielded electrical components.
A nuclear EMP pulse is fairly complex and is often broken into three component pulses:
An E1 pulse occurs when gamma radiation from a detonation ionizes atoms in the upper atmosphere.
The E1 pulse is the fastest component of nuclear EMP. It’s brief but intense.
As the E1 pulse moves through the earth magnetic field, it creates microwaves. These microwaves strike the surface with an intense surge of power.
It induces high voltages in electrical conductors. Thus causing significant damage by electrical breakdown voltages.
The E1 pulse can destroy computers and communication equipment.
The E2 pulse is comparable to the pulse created during lightning strikes.
Fortunately, our national infrastructure is (for the most part) already prepared for an E2 pulse.
The E3 component is different from both E1 and E2. E3 is a much slower pulse.
The E3 component has similarities to a geomagnetic storm caused by a solar flare.
Like a solar flare, E3 can produce powerful currents. Intense enough to damage power lines and transformers (i.e., critical infrastructure).
Introducing High Altitude Detonations
An EMP pulse travels line of sight. So it can cover a vast area if the nuclear detonation occurs high in the atmosphere.
Most nuclear military weapons are not intended for high altitude detonations. Because high altitude detonations do little damage to the enemy and less fallout.
However, at high altitudes, the EMP would travel towards everything in its line of sight. Covering thousands of square miles!
It’s true that an EMP diminishes with distance. But it may still be strong enough at thousands of miles to fry most microelectronics.
Making the nuclear EMP a near perfect weapon for a terrorist and rogue nations.
Here’s an interesting question.
If you were a terrorist organization and could only lay your hands on one nuclear weapon. Would you want to blow up one city? Or detonate it high enough to wipe out the electrical systems for thousands of cities?
Aside from nuclear weapons, there are EMP-generating devices. These are called “explosively pumped flux compression generators.”
These use electromagnetic physics to generate large pulses of electromagnetic energy.
The basic idea is to generate an electromagnetic pulse in a coil surrounding a metal core. While at the same time compressing the coil into the core using explosives.
This change in core geometry causes a compression of the electromagnetic field.
EMP’s (whether nuclear or flux compression) has the potential to change the world.
James E Windsor, Overpasses News Desk
December 3rd, 2018