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Pentagon: Electromagnetic pulse bombs from 2012

Elusive, movie style tech-Yeti finally spotted

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In the end, it's always going to be quite difficult to permanently knock out or fry electronics - especially hardened military electronics - by shining radio waves at them. That old nemesis of the death ray, the inverse-square law, is particularly unfriendly to wide-beam weapons like Kopp's HPM pulse bombs. Getting an e-warhead to a stage where it would have more effect on enemy electronics than an ordinary bomb would be very hard, and it doesn't seem to have happened.

Even David Fulghum admits as much:

The development of HPM weapons has been hobbled for the last 30 years by seemingly intractable cost, size, beam-control and power-generation requirements. Tests of modified air-launched cruise missiles carrying devices to produce explosively generated spikes of energy were considered big disappointments in the early 1990s... [new-generation kit] can jam emitters or possibly cause damage to electronic components with focused beams. But power levels and ranges are limited...

It seems that the American electronic-warfare (EW) researchers these days are focusing more on fooling or spoofing enemy systems by introducing false signals into their kit from the air, using real-world emitters too weak to be considered proper EMP/HPM weapons but still very powerful. This kind of trickery can be of use even against insurgents, as when fiddling with cell or satellite phones. There are also strong rumours suggesting that even quite basic roadside bombs and the like can often be triggered prematurely by American EW planes - not every insurgent remembers to use twisted-pair firing wire, it would seem.

But those who like their proper, exploding movie-plot kit shouldn't depair. There's hope for a no-shit, bomb format pulse weapon yet. Flicking through the presentations (pdf, page 16) at the 2007 Air Armament Symposium in the States, Flight International reporter Stephen Trimble noted this week that Dr John Corley of the US airforce Capabilities Integration directorate expects an HPM bomb programme to kick off from 2012.

Of course, the more tinfoil-wardrobed Pentagon watchers will recognise a cunning disinformation ploy when they see one. ®

*Dr Carlo Kopp's qualifications are beyond cavil. His belief that what Australia really needs right now is a much bigger airforce equipped with the latest, fearsomely expensive American F-22 Raptor stealth superfighter... that, you could argue with.

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