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Aerospace and Defense Channel

Who Turned Out the Lights? – EMP Missiles Become a Reality

December 11, 2012
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Just like the new TV series Revolution, all electronic devices in an area can now be immobilized in the with an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) bomb or missile.  Unlike the TV series though, it is only temporary. The EMP bomb or missile has been a weapon envisioned for many years but for the first time (that we know of) Boeing has demonstrated an EMP bomb with positive real world results. They announced the testing results on Sept.22 followed by a video of the demonstration released on Oct. 22.  It is actually surprising how little coverage this has received since this is a significant achievement.

In the Oct. 22 release, Boeing stated the following:

Boeing and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Directed Energy Directorate, Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., successfully tested the Counter-electronics High-powered Microwave Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP) during a flight over the Utah Test and Training Range that was monitored from Hill Air Force Base.

CHAMP, which renders electronic targets useless, is a non-kinetic alternative to traditional explosive weapons that use the energy of motion to defeat a target.

During the test, the CHAMP missile navigated a pre-programmed flight plan and emitted bursts of high-powered energy, effectively knocking out the target's data and electronic subsystems. CHAMP allows for selective high-frequency radio wave strikes against numerous targets during a single mission.

"This technology marks a new era in modern-day warfare," said Keith Coleman, CHAMP program manager for Boeing Phantom Works. "In the near future, this technology may be used to render an enemy’s electronic and data systems useless even before the first troops or aircraft arrive."

Many have felt that in order to create an EMP weapon, there might be some collateral damage involved from some form of an explosion used to create the pulse.  However, CHAMP is a nonlethal alternative to kinetic weapons that neutralizes electronic targets.  It does not make use any explosive so there is no collateral damage.  Instead, it uses a high-powered microwave (HPM) system to emit bursts of electromagnetic energy. Here is a video demonstrating the testing Boeing performed.

In the Sept. 22 release, it was reported that the CHAMP missile was pointed at a set of simulated targets. This confirmed that the missile could be controlled and timed while using a high-powered microwave system against multiple targets and locations. The software used was identical to the software required for a vehicle with a fully integrated HPM system on board.

The three-year, $38 million joint capability technology demonstration program includes ground and flight demonstrations that focus on technology integration risk reduction and military utility. More tests are scheduled for later this year.

Boeing received the contract in April 2009. As the prime contractor, Boeing provides the airborne platform and serves as the system integrator. Albuquerque, N.M.-based Ktech Corp. -- the primary subcontractor -- supplies the HPM source. Sandia National Laboratories provides the pulse power system under a separate contract with the Air Force Research Laboratory.

I love when science fiction becomes real science, but now they cannot use it in Sci-Fi movies anymore.

Recent Articles by Patrick Hindle, Technical Editor, Microwave Journal

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