October 25, 2012
Boeing Develops A Microwave Missile
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
As it stands, one of the best ways to render a building packed with satellite and communications equipment ineffective is to get someone close enough to throw that one, clearly marked breaker switch. You know the one, it´s in all the movies.
Another, and often more chosen method, is to blow the entire building to smithereens. While effective, destroying entire buildings not only ensures plenty of collateral damage, it also makes it much easier to paint a nation as blood-thirsty savages. Believing there to be a better way, Boeing Phantom Works teamed up with the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory to create the Counter-electronics High-powered Advanced Missile Project, or CHAMP for short.
CHAMP is an experimental missile which replaces common munitions with high-powered microwaves. CHAMP is designed to fly safely over buildings with the aforementioned satellites and communications equipment and fire directed and potent microwave beams at these buildings. Its designed to do this in order to ruin all electronics equipment inside, such as computers, networks and the like.
The Boeing and Air Force team conducted a test in an undisclosed location in Utah on October 16th and found that the CHAMP system worked, well, just like a champ.
“Today we turned science fiction into science fact,” explained CHAMP program manager for Boeing Phantom Works, Keith Coleman in a statement.
"In the near future, this technology may be used to render an enemy's electronic and data systems useless even before the first troops or aircraft arrive.”
CHAMP worked so well that it even shut down the cameras used to monitor a room stocked full with computers. As the microwaves were shot towards the building, every computer in the room instantly went dark, with one machine even going so far as to literally spit out a CD housed in its drive. Seconds later, the camera went dark as well.
During the one-hour test, CHAMP hit a total of 7 targets, rendering all electronics equipment useless after flyover.
Now, after 3 years and $38 million, CHAMP could deploy up to 5 prototype missiles capable of destroying an enemy´s electrical equipment. This latest test is proof the CHAMP team has created a platform which can take out multiple targets with one missile, rather than creating a single-use microwave shooter.
While the implementation is new, the idea is not. Military labs have been dabbling in electromagnetic pulse weapons (or EMP) for years, dating back to 1962. These EMP weapons are designed to target electronics, rather than destroying the people and structures along with them. These early tests involved igniting nuclear weapons at high altitude, leaving the resulting pulses to take care of any electrical equipment. The U.S. military and others have been working to find a way to harness this power without the fuss of detonating a nuclear device in high altitudes.
In a 2009 Wired article, Sharon Weinberger writes about an EMP focused conference, saying many worry an EMP attack against the U.S. could break down our entire electronics infrastructure, all without the accompanying boom and crash to alert citizens that something has gone wrong.
According to James Dodd, the vice president of Advanced Boeing Military Aircraft, there remains a need for the U.S. to devise such a weapon that will help defeat a target without bringing harm to humans.
“We know this has some capabilities and some impact, we´re really trying to engage the customer to see if there is a way we can actually get this fielded and implemented sooner than later,” said Dodd in a statement.