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Contradicting previous reports, a US Army electronic-warfare colonel has apparently confirmed the existence of working non-nuclear electromagnetic pulse (EMP) ordnance - apparently so portable that it is even available in hand-grenade size.

The revelation came at a blogger roundtable (press conference) held in order to introduce the US Army's new electronic-warfare specialist career field. The briefing was reported by the war-hacks at Military.com:

"EMP grenade technology is out there, but I've never had my hands on one," said Col Laurie Buckhout, chief of the newly formed Electronic Warfare Division, Army Operations, Readiness and Mobilization...

The target may be a small building or a village, she said, and so a small jammer could be used, or EMP grenades.

The conventional method of generating an EMP powerful enough to disable electronics over a large area is the detonation of a nuclear weapon. However, militaries worldwide have long wished to have such a capability in less-drastic form. This has led to extensive speculation on pulse bombs powered by conventional explosives, or High Powered Microwave (HPM) raygun-style kit*.

Even the highly advanced US forces hadn't been generally thought to have developed a successful pulse-bomb yet, with most reports indicating that such a capability remains a few years off (as has been the case for decades). Furthermore, the pulse ordnance has usually been seen as large and heavy, in the same league as an aircraft bomb or cruise missile warhead - or in the case of an HPM raygun, of a weapons-pod or aircraft payload size.

Now, however, it appears that in fact the US military has already managed to get the coveted pulse-bomb tech down to grenade size. Colonel Buckhout apparently envisages the Army electronic warfare troopers of tomorrow lobbing a pulse grenade through the window of an enemy command post or similar, so knocking out all their comms.

The existence of pulse bombs one can clip to one's belt would also imply that bigger ones have been made. (US military-sponsored efforts to develop EMP-proof radars might lend this some credence, it wasn't for the agency involved.) It would seem that the unstoppable droid assassins, prowling aerial hunter-killers etc of the future have been stymied before they even properly got their boots on got booted up.

Nonetheless, despite the apparently authoritative nature of the source, we're going to file this one under "unconfirmed".

Read the Military.com report here. ®

*US Justice Department labs say they have built a "small working prototype" portable microwave rifle, potentially able to act as a tracking radar unit, a heat/pain raygun, or a millimetre wave through-clothes nudie perv scanner of the sort which has caused controversy in airport use.

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