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 that could be inflicted by a new generation of weapons–E-bombs. Anyone who’s been through a prolonged power outage knows that it’s an extremely trying experience. Within an hour of losing electricity, you develop a healthy appreciation of all the electrical devices you rely on in life. A couple hours later, you start pacing around your house. After a few days without lights, electric heat or TV, your stress level shoots through the roof. But in the grand scheme of things, that’s nothing. If an outage hits an entire city, and there aren’t adequate emergency resources, people may die from exposure, companies may suffer huge productivity losses and millions of dollars of food may spoil. If a power outage hit on a much larger scale, it could shut down the electronic networks that keep governments and militaries running. We are utterly dependent on power, and when it’s gone, things get very bad, very fast. An electromagnetic bomb, or e-bomb, is a weapon designed to take advantage of this dependency. But instead of simply cutting off power in an area, an e-bomb would actually destroy most machines that use electricity. Generators would be useless, cars wouldn’t run, and there would be no chance of making a phone call. In a matter of seconds, a big enough e-bomb could thrust an entire city back 200 years or cripple a military unit. 2. BASIC PRINCIPLE-THE EMP EFFECT The Electro Magnetic Pulse (EMP) effect was first observed during the early testing of the theory of electromagnetism. The Electromagnetic Pulse is in effect an electromagnetic shock wave. This pulse of energy produces a powerful electromagnetic field, particularly within the vicinity of the weapon burst. The field can be sufficiently strong to produce short lived transient voltages of thousands of Volts (i.e. kilovolts) on exposed electrical conductors, such as wires, or conductive tracks on printed circuit boards, where exposed. It is this aspect of the EMP effect which is of military significance, as it can result in irreversible damage to a wide range of electrical and electronic equipment, particularly computers and radio or radar receivers. Subject to the electromagnetic hardness of the electronics, a measure of the equipment’s resilience to this effect, and the intensity of the field produced by the weapon, the equipment can be irreversibly damaged or in effect electrically destroyed. The damage inflicted is not unlike that experienced through exposure to close proximity lightning strikes, and may require complete replacement of the equipment, or at least substantial portions thereof. Commercial computer equipment is particularly vulnerable to EMP effects, as it is largely built up of high density Metal Oxide Semiconductor (MOS) devices, which are very sensitive to exposure to high voltage transients. What is significant about MOS devices is that very little energy is required to permanently wound or destroy them, any voltage in typically in excess of tens of Volts can produce an effect termed gate breakdown which effectively destroys the device. Even if the pulse is not powerful enough to produce thermal damage, the power supply in the equipment will readily supply enough energy to complete the destructive process. Wounded devices may still function, but their reliability will be seriously impaired. Shielding electronics by equipment chassis provides only limited protection, as any cables running in and out of the equipment will behave very much like antennae, in effect guiding the high voltage transients into the equipment. Computers used in data processing systems, communications systems, displays, industrial control applications, including road and rail signaling, and those embedded in military equipment, such as signal processors, electronic flight controls and digital engine control systems, are all potentially vulnerable to the EMP effect. Other electronic devices and electrical equipment may also be destroyed by the EMP effect. Telecommunications equipment can be highly vulnerable, due to the presence of lengthy copper cables between devices. Receivers of all varieties are particularly sensitive to EMP, as the highly sensitive miniature high frequency transistors and diodes in such equipment are easily destroyed by exposure to high voltage electrical transients. Therefore radar and electronic warfare equipment, satellite, microwave, UHF, VHF, HF and low band communications equipment and television equipment are all potentially vulnerable to the EMP effect. It is significant that modern military platforms are densely packed with electronic equipment, and unless these platforms are well hardened, an EMP device can substantially reduce their function or render them unusable.


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