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CREATED 09-11-2000

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The efficient attack against modern industrial opponent will require the use of electromagnetic pulse weapons capable of disrupting electronic monitoring, communications, control and information systems in limited area, leaving other structured intact and without radioactive contamination.


The Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) effect was first observed in 1962 when a 1.4 megaton nuclear weapon was detonated in Test Shot Starfish. The Starfish shot was conducted 400 kilometers high above the mid-Pacific and the electromagnetic pulse from it destroyed satellite equipment and blocked high frequency radio communications across the Pacific for 30 minutes.

The effect itself is characterized by the production of a very short and intense shock wave, producing a powerful electromagnetic field whose intensity rapidly decreases with the distance from the pulse source. This field can be made sufficiently strong to produce short-lived transient voltages of thousands of Volts in exposed electrical wires, or conductive tracks on printed circuit boards, therefore causing irreversible damage to a wide range of electrical and electronic devices, particularly telecommunications equipment, computers, radio and/ or radar receivers.


As modern military platforms are dependent on densely packed electronic equipment, an EMP device can render them unusable in an instant. Shielding of their electronics gives limited results in that any cables running out of the equipment behave like antennae, guiding the high voltage transients into the equipment.


EMP warhead technology and production cost levels are low, making them ideal choice for many national armies. There are indications that, for some time, this weapons are in operative use.



1. The operation principle behind one of most advanced versions of EMP devices is that which uses chemical explosion to rapidly compress magnetic field, which was initially produced by a start current, transferring much of energy from the explosion into the magnetic field. At this stage its peak power reaches order of tens of TW, equaling that of ten to a thousand typical lightings.

Typical representative of this kind of devices is called explosively pumped Coaxial Flux Compression Generator (FCG), consisting of cylindrical copper tube filled with a fast high energy explosive, surrounded by a helical coil of heavy wire, typically copper, and structural jacket of a non-magnetic material. Start current can be sourced from platform, condenser or FCG cascade, where a small FCG is used to prime a larger one.

Weapons built this way produce most of the power in the frequency band below 1 MHz, making target focusing difficult.

2. The Vircator is high power microwave source (HPM) whose output power may be tightly focused and it has a much better ability to couple energy into many target types.

It is mechanically simple, small and robust device, capable of producing a very powerful single pulse of radiation, which is, at the moment, ranging from 170 kW to 40 GW, over frequencies spanning the decimetric and centimetric bands.


Main difference between the FCG and HPM weapons is that latter, owing to its frequency range, has ability to directly couple into equipment through ventilation holes, gaps between panels and poorly shielded interfaces, forming a spatial standing wave patterns within the equipment exposing it to potentially high electromagnetic fields.



1. In 1993. it was reported that an electromagnetic warhead, presumably of Vircator type, was fitted to the USAF AGM-86 Air Launched Cruise Missile airframe.

More on AGM-86 at http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/usa/bomber/alcm.htm

AGM-154 JSOW (Joint Stand Off Weapon) glide bomb.2. The Journal of Electronic Defense reported in 1996 USAF Phillips Laboratory at Kirtland awarding a $6.6M HPM SEAD weapon technology demonstration program contract to Hughes Missile Systems Co. It is believed that the devices produced by these program were to become the first operationally fielded HPM electromagnetic bombs for delivery by combat aircraft.

3. During an unclassified briefing in 1995, McDonnell Douglas Corporation released that B-2 bomber shall be equipped with Northrop GAM (GPS Aided Munition), GPS (inertially guided) GBU-29/30 JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition) and AGM-154 JSOW (Joint Stand Off Weapon) glide bombs.

This weapons have glide range up to 70 km providing necessary stand-off distance necessary to repair the launch platform from the EMP of nuclear or conventional origin.

4. On December 15, 1997 Raytheon TI Systems (formerly precision-guided 2000lb GBU-32 JDAM bombTexas Instruments Defense Systems & Electronics) announced that its AGM-154A JSOW has been recommended by the Navy for fleet release. In a report released on October 9th, the Navy's Operational Test and Evaluation Force found JSOW to be operationally effective, operationally suitable and recommended it for fleet release.

5. Today it is known that the B-2's main conventional weapon is the precision-guided 2000lb GBU-32 JDAM (right).



Relative simplicity of the FCG and the Vircator suggests that any nation in possession of engineering drawings and specifications for such weapons, could manufacture them. A two stage FCG could be fabricated for a cost as low as $1.000-2.000. Or less.

With Russia and China, a major players in this field, suffering significant economic difficulties, the threat of electromagnetic bomb proliferation is very real.



YAKHONT anti-ship missileSome time ago, Machine-Building Research and Production Association (MBR&PA) from Moscow (RUSSIA), which has equipped all domestic submarines, and most of the surface vessels with anti-ship missiles up to date, entered a new stage in its history, successfully deploying a fourth generation anti-ship missile system designated YAKHONT. 

Application of an array of unique design solutions and technology-intensive components and, above all, a supersonic ramjet sustainer motor using liquid propellant, capable of operating in a broad range of speeds up to 2.5 Mach at all altitudes, a noise-adaptive radar homing head, and a powerful onboard computer makes this missile unique. It can be deployed at and launched from submerged submarines, surface ships and land vehicles. It is designed to carry warhead weighting around 200 kg suggesting the use of nuclear or EMP payload only. 

There are indications that it was deployed on Kursk submarine (click to separate article) short time prior to its sinking. 


More details regarding EMP weapons technology can be found in the article by renown military analyst, Mr. Carlo Crop at http://www.cs.monash.edu.au/~carlo


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Images  AGM-154A JSOW and GBU-32 JDAM are included by cutesy of USAF.

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