High energy bolts to be used against Iraq

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High energy bolts to be used against Iraq


The US Air Force is working on developing a man- made bolt of lightning powerful enough to fry sophisticated computer and electronic components in weapons.

Researchers are looking at ways of putting so- called High-Powered Microwave (HPM) beams on aircraft and cruise missiles.

The short, intense burst of energy would be lethal to electronics but have no effect on people.

Aerospace experts have suggested an experimental version of the weapon could be used in a war against Iraq, carried on a cruise missile or unmanned aircraft.

But the secrecy surrounding the use of these weapons would mean it could be some time before details are released to the public.

Millions of watts

"The low-collateral damage aspect of the technology makes high-power microwave weapons useful in a wide variety of missions where avoiding civilian casualties is a major concern," says the US Air Force on its website.


These weapons are particularly attractive as they could be used against suspected chemical or biological facilities in Iraq, without the danger of releasing dangerous toxins into the air.

On its website, the US Air Force says research in HPM weapons is "considerably advanced". But it added that scientists are conducting "critical experiments still needed to assess the feasibility of the technology for operational systems".

Much of the work into developing this next- generation weapon is being done at the High Energy Research and Technology Facility.

The $9m lab is located in a canyon in the Manzano Mountains, part of the remote Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico.

Targeted microwaves

The technology behind HPM is based on that used in household microwave ovens.

But whereas a typical microwave generates less than 1,500 watts of power, the Air Force researchers are working with equipment that can generate millions of watts of power.

An HPM weapon would unleash a powerful electrical pulse that would burn up any electrical equipment, such as computers and communications systems.

"Scientists are exploring equipment and methodologies for generating high-power microwave energy and accurately propagating that energy to a target," says the US Air Force.

"Work is also ongoing on the feasibility and utility of placing compact high-power microwave systems aboard various Air Force platforms."

Aerospace experts say the research is well advanced and an experimental system could be placed on an unmanned drone or a cruise missile.

And US officials have hinted that new developmental weapons technology could be used in an attack on Iraq.
By netchicken: posted on 22-1-2003

More on the lightening bolt, its definitely a weapon ...


A man-made lightning bolt weapon developed in part from research at Livermore and Los Alamos national labs is primed to play a major role in a war against Iraq by zapping the circuitry of everything from jet fighters to TV sets while leaving people unscathed.

If enough of the so-called high-power microwave weapons are used and if the top-secret devices work as planned, Saddam Hussein's military could find itself unable to move or communicate after the opening hours of a U.S.-led assault.

"Kabammy! A huge electronic wave comes along, and sends out a few thousand volts. Wham! Your cell phone or your computer dies," said Roger McCarthy, chairman of Exponent Failure Analysis Associates in Menlo Park, a firm deeply involved in developing futuristic weaponry for the Pentagon.

The weapons pack an incredible, invisible wallop, hundreds of times the electrical current in a lightning bolt. That "directed energy," in principle not unlike the power used more benignly in laser pointers or supermarket scanners, opens a whole new area of warfare, one that for now gives the United States a leg up on potential opponents.

In an age in which militaries rely on sophisticated electronics for everything from starting tanks and planes to using phones to direct operations,

such a weapon could be devastating.


If any of Hussein's suspected chemical or biological weapons depend on electronics to set them off, the new thunderbolt could also disarm them, and defense analysts say the thunderbolt could also disable underground military sites.

"If I was Saddam Hussein, I'd make a major investment in old motorcycles and go back to the era of World War II and use motorcyclists as messengers," said retired Army Lt. Col. Piers Wood of GlobalSecurity.org, a group that tracks new weapons systems.

Although no one outside the military is sure, it's thought the classified new weapon can be mounted on a cruise missile, suspended beneath a helicopter or even put in a more conventional explosive shell.

"These weapons are really about taking the energy of high explosives and converting the wallop into electromagnetic energy to disrupt electronic devices," McCarthy said.

McCarthy estimated that a good-sized version of the weapon would produce thousands of volts and 10 million amps in a microsecond. That's hundred of times the energy generated by lightning.

It's not known how many of the weapons the United States has in its arsenal,

or how powerful they are. But what is known is that for decades, the Pentagon has been interested in what's called "explosively pumped flex compression generators" in military jargon.


The Soviet Union was also researching electromagnetic pulse weaponry during the Cold War. For at least two decades, federal national labs at Livermore and Los Alamos have researched the pulse technology, which has also been applied to nuclear weapons, a Livermore spokesman said.

The lab won't discuss any work it did on the new weapon, which is being built at the Air Force Research Laboratory on Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico. However, during the 1990s Livermore worked on a similar but smaller weapon under a Department of Justice grant that could bring car chases to a sudden halt by disabling vehicles' electronic ignitions and onboard computers. That project stopped because funding ran out.

But unclassified research shows that Livermore scientists have been working in the field of microwave pulses for long years.


Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld won't directly confirm the new weapons' existence, but he was asked recently about the possibility of using such long- rumored weapons in Iraq.

"You never know," he said. "The real world intervenes from time to time, and you reach in there and take something out that is still in a developmental stage -- and you might use it."

That's what the Rumsfeld-led Pentagon did in Afghanistan, when it introduced the unmanned Predator flying bomb. It can circle for long hours, controlled from thousands of miles away, until it finds an appropriate target.

McCarthy said the Russian military has claimed that the United States already used microwave weapons in Kosovo in the 1990s to disrupt Yugoslav communications. But that can't be confirmed.

One big problem with the high-powered microwave weapon is that America's potential enemies will eventually get their hands on similar weapons. The question then is "hardening" everything that contains electronic circuitry to make them immune from attacks.

In a rare unclassified paper on the weapons, Air Force Col. Eileen Walling wrote in 2000, "In order to protect these systems, shielding and hardening methods must be devised in order to mitigate the undesirable effects from enemy emissions and minimize the risks . . . posed by friendly microwave weapons."

Another concern is possible injury to humans from the vast power of the weapons. The theory is that when the pulse is short, measured in microseconds, and intense and in a part of the radio wave that normally wouldn't hurt flesh, humans in the vicinity won't even notice what happened.

"This weapon is designed to resonate with harder materials in chips and metals. Danger to flesh and blood isn't as great," Wood said.
By netchicken: posted on 19-2-2003

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