Feeds

Car-stopping electropulse cannon to demo 'next month'

Cig-lighter EMP blaster down to suitcase size, apparently

High performance access to file storage

An old friend familiar to every tech buff and sci-fi fan - namely, the circuitry-addling electropulse blaster - has moved a large step closer to reality, according to reports. A vehicle mounted pulse weapon capable of stopping a (modern) car at 200m is to be demonstrated "next month", apparently.

Flight International has the story, uncovered while following up on a recent US Air Force request for an aircraft weapon capable of "disabling moving ground vehicles while minimising harm to occupants". The USAF is more than capable of stopping such vehicles at present, but its existing methods generally reduce the car or truck and its occupants to a few mangled scraps - not to mention destroying a large section of road and quite likely anything else in the general vicinity.

Just how the Air Force will proceed remains to be seen. However the US Marines have for some years been working with California firm Eureka Aerospace to produce an electromagnetic pulse (EMP, aka High Powered Microwave or HPM) weapon for this sort of task.

Historically, EMPs with serious effects have been produced only as a side effect of nuclear weapons going off. But the advanced militaries of the world have striven for less drastic methods for years - without success thus far, despite endless media reports to the contrary.

Eureka, which has been working on electropulse blasters since it was founded in 2001, hasn't done terribly well thus far. Its initial blaster weighed 200lb and measured six by three feet; despite that it had an effective range of no more than 15 metres. Even worse, it was only capable of stopping fairly modern cars with microprocessor-controlled engines: its pulses weren't strong enough to affect the more basic electronics found in older vehicles.

Understandably, the Marines weren't vastly impressed, and at one point Eureka was compelled to tout the machine for use in police pursuits, to be mounted on the roof of cop-cars and powered by the vehicle's alternator (presumably via the cigarette lighter socket).

Now, however, company chief James Tatoian tells Flight that a new and improved pulse blaster is almost ready. It is said to be able to scramble a car's engine chips from 200m and has now slimmed down to 55lb, though it still requires an antenna 1.2m wide. The new zapgun is apparently to be demo'd for the Marines "next month".

Such a device might be of use to military customers in rural or wilderness areas, unconcerned about the inevitable collateral damage which would result if it were used in modern cities - lifts paralysed, computers scrambled, Wi-Fi allergic teachers up in arms etc etc.

But in a military context, there are already methods for stopping vehicles without harm to the occupants: snipers - often helicopter-borne - have specialised in putting big-bore bullets into moving engine blocks for years. And a .50 slug, unlike an electropulse blast, works on an engine without microprocessor controls - or one whose electronics modules have been wrapped in tinfoil, say. Even better, a bullet won't scramble the possibly intelligence-crammed personal gadgets - sat phones, laptops etc - of anyone riding in the target vehicle.

The car-stopping electropulse blaster, even if it works, would seem to fall under the heading of a solution in search of a problem. But the US Air Force could provide an alternative customer for Eureka should the Marines prove unimpressed. ®

High performance access to file storage

More from The Register

next story
IBM Hursley Park: Where Big Blue buries the past, polishes family jewels
How the internet of things has deep roots in the English countryside
Video games make you NASTY AND VIOLENT
Especially if you are bad at them and keep losing
Russian deputy PM: 'We are coming to the Moon FOREVER'
Plans to annex Earth's satellite with permanent base by 2030
Solar-powered aircraft unveiled for round-the-world flight
It's going to be a slow and sleepy flight for the pilots
LOHAN's Punch and Judy show relaunches Thursday
Weather looking good for second pop at test flights
Honeybee boffin STINGS OWN WEDDING TACKLE... for SCIENCE
Not the worst place to be stung, says one man
India's GPS alternative launches second satellite
Closed satnav system due to have all seven birds aloft by 2016
Curiosity finds not-very-Australian-shaped rock on Mars
File under 'messianic pastries' and move on, people
prev story

Whitepapers

Mainstay ROI - Does application security pay?
In this whitepaper learn how you and your enterprise might benefit from better software security.
Five 3D headsets to be won!
We were so impressed by the Durovis Dive headset we’ve asked the company to give some away to Reg readers.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.