posted on Dec, 7 2008 @ 09:20 PM
YES - EMP
The commission found that a single nuclear weapon, delivered by a ballistic missile to an altitude of a few hundred miles over the United States,
would be "capable of causing catastrophe for the nation."
How is that possible? By precipitating a lethal electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack.
In 2000, concerned about EMP technology, Congress created the "Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse
Attack" (the EMP Threat Commission, for short). In its final report, presented in summer 2004, the panel warned that terrorists could indeed execute
such an attack by launching a small nuclear armed missile from a freighter off the coast of the United States.
The ingredients for an EMP attack may be already within reach.
Al-Qaeda is known to have a fleet of freighters.
One of those freighters could easily be outfitted with a short- range ballistic missile capable of getting a nuclear weapon to almost any point in the
airspace above our country.
Thousands of Scud missiles exist around the world, and they are said to cost less than $100,000 to purchase from willing suppliers like North Korea.
(In December 2002, a North Korean ship was intercepted, temporarily, as it prepared to deliver twelve Scud missiles to Yemen.)
North Korea has also declared its willingness to sell nuclear weapons to terrorists.
Iran has demonstrated it has the capability to launch a Scud missile from a vessel at sea.
Ship-launched ballistic missiles have a special advantage. The "return address" of the attacker may be difficult to determine, especially if the
missile is a generic Scud type weapon, found in many countries' arsenals.
But even though all the tools needed for this nightmare scenario could be in the hands of terrorists already, and even though a high altitude EMP
attack could be considered the ultimate "weapon of mass destruction," little has changed in our level of preparedness or even our policy debates.
EMP is still rarely mentioned in discussions of the WMDs we need to worry about.
We need to start worrying.
An Atmospheric Tsunami
A nuclear weapon produces several different effects. The best known are the intense heat and hyperpressures associated with the fireball and the
But a nuclear explosion also generates massive outputs of other kinds of energy. These include the creation of intense streams of x-rays and
gamma-rays. If those are unleashed outside the earth's atmosphere, some of them will interact with the air molecules of the upper atmosphere.
The result is an enormous pulsed current of high energy electrons that will interact, in turn, with the earth's magnetic field.
In an instant, an invisible radio frequency wave is produced — a wave of almost unimaginably immense intensity, approximately a million times as
strong as the most powerful radio signals on the earth. The energy of this pulse would reach everything in line of sight of the detonation. And it
would do so at the speed of light.
The higher the altitude of the weapon's detonation, the larger the affected area would be. At a height of three hundred miles, for example, the
entire continental United States would be exposed, along with parts of Canada and Mexico.
As the fireball expands in space, it would also generate electrical currents on earth — ultra high-speed electromagnetic "shock waves" that would
endanger much of our technological infrastructure. Such high speed currents would disable, temporarily or permanently,
extended electrical conductors, such as the electricity transmission lines that make up our power grid.
any unprotected computers and microchips.
all the systems that depend on electricity and electronics, from medical instruments to military communications.
As the EMP Threat Commission put it: The electromagnetic fields produced by weapons designed and deployed with the intent to produce EMP have a high
likelihood of damaging electrical power systems, electronics, and information systems upon which American society depends. Their effects on dependent
systems and infrastructures could be sufficient to qualify as catastrophic to the nation. [Emphasis added.]
The systems at risk from EMP include:
electronic control, sensor, and protective systems of all kinds
computers and cell phones
cars, boats, airplanes, and trains
the infrastructures for handling electric power, telecommunications, transportation, fuel and energy, banking and finance, emergency services, and
even food and water.
A One Two Three Punch
Following rapidly on this electromagnetic tsunami, there would be a "medium speed component" of EMP. It would cover roughly the same geographic area
as the first, "high- speed" component, though its peak power level would be much less.
This medium-speed component follows the high speed component by merely a fraction of a second. It further damages the electric systems that are
already impaired and exposed by the initial electromagnetic impact.
And finally, there is a third wave of EMP attack, the "slow component" produced by the continuing expansion of the fireball in the earth's magnetic
field. This slow component — a pulse that may last just seconds or minutes — creates disruptive currents in electricity transmission lines,
damaging the surviving electrical supply and distribution systems.
he EMP Threat Today
The EMP Threat Commission conducted a worldwide survey of foreign scientific and military literature to assess the knowledge and intentions of foreign
states regarding an EMP attack. The survey confirmed that both the physics and the military potential of EMP are indeed widely understood in the
The commission survey found that the following nations were knowledgeable about EMP: China, Cuba, Egypt, India, Iran, Saddam Hussein's Iraq, North
Korea, Pakistan, and Russia.
The commission also learned that some foreign military experts regard EMP attack as a form of electronic or information warfare, not primarily as a
form of nuclear war. One of China's leading military theorists has written:
Information war and traditional war have one thing in common, namely that the country which possesses the critical weapons such as atomic bombs
will have "first strike" and "second strike retaliation" capabilities . . . .
As soon as its computer networks come under attack and are destroyed, the country will slip into a state of paralysis and the lives of its
people will grind to a halt.