Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

popular mechanics ^ | oct-25-2001 | BY JIM WILSON

Posted on 10/31/2001 11:33:15 PM PST by green team 1999


In the blink of an eye, electromagnetic bombs could throw civilization back 200 years. And terrorists can build them for $400.

Lead illustration by Edwin Herder

The next Pearl Harbor will not announce itself with a searing flash of nuclear light or with the plaintive wails of those dying of Ebola or its genetically engineered twin. You will hear a sharp crack in the distance. By the time you mistakenly identify this sound as an innocent clap of thunder, the civilized world will have become unhinged. Fluorescent lights and television sets will glow eerily bright, despite being turned off. The aroma of ozone mixed with smoldering plastic will seep from outlet covers as electric wires arc and telephone lines melt. Your Palm Pilot and MP3 player will feel warm to the touch, their batteries overloaded. Your computer, and every bit of data on it, will be toast. And then you will notice that the world sounds different too. The background music of civilization, the whirl of internal-combustion engines, will have stopped. Save a few diesels, engines will never start again. You, however, will remain unharmed, as you find yourself thrust backward 200 years, to a time when electricity meant a lightning bolt fracturing the night sky. This is not a hypothetical, son-of-Y2K scenario. It is a realistic assessment of the damage the Pentagon believes could be inflicted by a new generation of weapons--E-bombs.

The first major test of an American electromagnetic bomb is scheduled for next year. Ultimately, the Army hopes to use E-bomb technology to explode artillery shells in midflight. The Navy wants to use the E-bomb's high-power microwave pulses to neutralize antiship missiles. And, the Air Force plans to equip its bombers, strike fighters, cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles with E-bomb capabilities. When fielded, these will be among the most technologically sophisticated weapons the U.S. military establishment has ever built.

There is, however, another part to the E-bomb story, one that military planners are reluctant to discuss. While American versions of these weapons are based on advanced technologies, terrorists could use a less expensive, low-tech approach to create the same destructive power. "Any nation with even a 1940s technology base could make them," says Carlo Kopp, an Australian-based expert on high-tech warfare. "The threat of E-bomb proliferation is very real." POPULAR MECHANICS estimates a basic weapon could be built for $400.

An Old Idea Made New
The theory behind the E-bomb was proposed in 1925 by physicist Arthur H. Compton--not to build weapons, but to study atoms. Compton demonstrated that firing a stream of highly energetic photons into atoms that have a low atomic number causes them to eject a stream of electrons. Physics students know this phenomenon as the Compton Effect. It became a key tool in unlocking the secrets of the atom.

Ironically, this nuclear research led to an unexpected demonstration of the power of the Compton Effect, and spawned a new type of weapon. In 1958, nuclear weapons designers ignited hydrogen bombs high over the Pacific Ocean. The detonations created bursts of gamma rays that, upon striking the oxygen and nitrogen in the atmosphere, released a tsunami of electrons that spread for hundreds of miles. Street lights were blown out in Hawaii and radio navigation was disrupted for 18 hours, as far away as Australia. The United States set out to learn how to "harden" electronics against this electromagnetic pulse (EMP) and develop EMP weapons.

America has remained at the forefront of EMP weapons development. Although much of this work is classified, it's believed that current efforts are based on using high-temperature superconductors to create intense magnetic fields. What worries terrorism experts is an idea the United States studied but discarded--the Flux Compression Generator (FCG).

A Poor Man's E-Bomb
An FCG is an astoundingly simple weapon. It consists of an explosives-packed tube placed inside a slightly larger copper coil, as shown below. The instant before the chemical explosive is detonated, the coil is energized by a bank of capacitors, creating a magnetic field. The explosive charge detonates from the rear forward. As the tube flares outward it touches the edge of the coil, thereby creating a moving short circuit. "The propagating short has the effect of compressing the magnetic field while reducing the inductance of the stator [coil]," says Kopp. "The result is that FCGs will produce a ramping current pulse, which breaks before the final disintegration of the device. Published results suggest ramp times of tens of hundreds of microseconds and peak currents of tens of millions of amps." The pulse that emerges makes a lightning bolt seem like a flashbulb by comparison.

An Air Force spokesman, who describes this effect as similar to a lightning strike, points out that electronics systems can be protected by placing them in metal enclosures called Faraday Cages that divert any impinging electromagnetic energy directly to the ground. Foreign military analysts say this reassuring explanation is incomplete.

The India Connection
The Indian military has studied FCG devices in detail because it fears that Pakistan, with which it has ongoing conflicts, might use E-bombs against the city of Bangalore, a sort of Indian Silicon Valley. An Indian Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis study of E-bombs points to two problems that have been largely overlooked by the West. The first is that very-high-frequency pulses, in the microwave range, can worm their way around vents in Faraday Cages.
The second concern is known as the "late-time EMP effect," and may be the most worrisome aspect of FCG devices. It occurs in the 15 minutes after detonation. During this period, the EMP that surged through electrical systems creates localized magnetic fields. When these magnetic fields collapse, they cause electric surges to travel through the power and telecommunication infrastructure. This string-of-firecrackers effect means that terrorists would not have to drop their homemade E-bombs directly on the targets they wish to destroy. Heavily guarded sites, such as telephone switching centers and electronic funds-transfer exchanges, could be attacked through their electric and telecommunication connections.

Knock out electric power, computers and telecommunication and you've destroyed the foundation of modern society. In the age of Third World-sponsored terrorism, the E-bomb is the great equalizer.

for information and discusion only,not for profit etc,etc.

TOPICS: News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: superweapons

1 posted on 10/31/2001 11:33:15 PM PST by green team 1999
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: green team 1999
Some truth, some bad science.

You don't need a bomb at all to cause devastation. You can take a couple of car batteries, wire them together, then run the electricity through a homemade circuit board that ends up increasing the volts to a few hundred thousand volts - then use that to zap nearby electronics.

What happens is that the small traces of metal on the CPU or motherboard function as antennas, and they pick up so much electricity that they overload the connected components.

Faraday cages do work, and are simple enough to construct, they just take up more space and are a pain to set up.

Oh yeah, the DOD has classified virtually all the research - there is a VC guy that was featured in Forbes that wrote a paper 30+ years ago on how to get around radio jamming - it is still classified.

2 posted on 10/31/2001 11:41:42 PM PST by ikka
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: green team 1999
phenomenon as the Compton Effect
No matter if it is nuclear physics or areas near LA, the Compton Effect is just bad news.
3 posted on 10/31/2001 11:50:22 PM PST by lelio
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: green team 1999
Lightning is a bigger problem, this is all BS. Let me know when someone can recreate a lightning bolt for $400.

Have you noticed in the last few years that there are no mechanics in POPULAR MECHANICS, or science in POPULAR SCIENCE?

4 posted on 10/31/2001 11:51:28 PM PST by John Jamieson
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: green team 1999
Now for something really scary. The Airforce has actually let contracts out for miniture bat and even insect size remote controlled drones that can fly into your bedroom and spy on you. Once they use nano technology to equip these things with 1000 micron nuclear weapons they will have insect size cruisemissles that have the explosive power of one ton of TNT and cost $3.95 each (in quantity of course).

Happy Halloween!

5 posted on 11/01/2001 12:01:12 AM PST by John Jamieson
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: John Jamieson
Have you noticed in the last few years that there are no mechanics in POPULAR MECHANICS, or science in POPULAR SCIENCE?

Yes, and that's just one of the reasons I quit reading them on a regualr basis. Years ago - I mean YEARS - I learned about cars from Tom McCahill, got the basics of wood and metal working from articles, even got some great, simple ideas for projects from "Wordless Workshop".

And while some of the projects were obvioulsy more dream material than reality for most of us - did anyone actually build "The Rabbit" sports car from Science and Mechanics circa 1958 - they were inspiring.

But over time the mags content shifted. In my opinion it was to attract a broader demographic of readership. I choose the term "broader" on purpose because to me the mags became more "woman oriented". That pretty much ended it for me.

Today there are times when I think I get more useful information from an E.A. Carey Pipe catalog than PM or PS.


6 posted on 11/01/2001 1:34:02 AM PST by prisoner6
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: green team 1999
You'll have to hunt for it, but this site:

-Softwar!-- has tons of National Security info-

has had info on military EMP weapons for years!

7 posted on 11/01/2001 1:56:09 AM PST by backhoe
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: green team 1999
radio navigation was disrupted for 18 hours, as far away as Australia.

Yeah, and every 11 years the sun's cyclic sunspot activity increases (such as 1989 in the 22nd cycle, and 2000-2001, in the 23rd cycle), causing the earth's ionosphere to increase temporarily from the charged particles spewed out from the solar flares that kick out electrons from upper regions of the atmosphere. Radio transmission, satellite communications, and sometimes even power grids supposedly can be arrested (for a few hours to 1-2 days) or otherwise adversely affected. Do we often have problems like those? Hmmm.... maybe just some extra beautiful aurora borealis that extended down to lower latitudes last year. (except I still haven't seen any yet!)

Seriously, if this E-bomb were detonated somewhere, wouldn't the air at ground-level, much more dense compared to air above the ionosphere, provide enough molecules to mitigate the effects of the released electrons, just as the ionosphere protects us from the harsh solar wind? It seems that the electromagnetic radiation from a small E-bomb would cause problems only at a local level. (It sounds far more humane than any other type of bomb, and wouldn't kill many people. Isn't that the opposite of what terrorists enjoy doing?)

But, if it really works, then why don't we just use (test) it on Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden? We'll put faraday cages (or just wrap aluminum foil) around our own equipment for protection.
"Testing" such a bomb wouldn't harm too much there, except for all the communications equipment that the rank Chinese keep denying that they build surreptitiously for terrorists.

8 posted on 11/01/2001 2:48:52 AM PST by heleny
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

Comment #9 Removed by Moderator

To: prisoner6
I did build the PM-38 sport boat many years ago. Also built a sailboat from MI when I was 16 (40 years ago). I even have fond memories of finding WWII PS and PM in someone's attic and learning a lot of history. Most of those were marked 5 cents.
10 posted on 11/01/2001 10:28:30 AM PST by John Jamieson
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: green team 1999
The first major test of an American electromagnetic bomb is scheduled for next year.

Iraqi testing ground? The electronics that they do happen to posses are surely ones we'd like them not to possess......

11 posted on 11/01/2001 10:32:22 AM PST by b4its2late
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: green team 1999
The problem is that EMP effects are EXTREMELY unpredictable, unless you're up at the levels where the flux is enough to kill an unprotected person. For an EMP bomb powered by conventional explosives, that also happens to be inside the blast radius. So, yes, your hard drive is destroyed. But, then again, after you've had your body torn in half by the blast wave, you won't CARE about trivia like what condition your hard drive's in...
12 posted on 11/01/2001 10:32:42 AM PST by Poohbah
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: green team 1999
The E-Bomb - A Weapon of Electrical Mass Destruction
13 posted on 11/01/2001 10:36:06 AM PST by NovemberCharlie
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: NovemberCharlie
that is a good link,thanks.
14 posted on 11/01/2001 12:36:29 PM PST by green team 1999
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 13 | View Replies]

Comment #15 Removed by Moderator

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson