The U.S. Air Force developed microwave weapons that could defend against intercontinental ballistic missile attacks.
Who here is terrified of nuclear weapons?
There’s a question to which I’m pretty sure I know the answer (everyone). Rightfully so, too, as thermonuclear weapons are the most powerful ever devised by humankind. Thermonuclear bombs refer to hydrogen bombs, which are much more powerful than the kind of bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima during World War II.
They’re so powerful, in fact, that they provide a sort of lynchpin in world politics. The most recent and most public example I can think of is North Korea.
North Korea has been testing intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs, by firing them into the Sea of Japan. Of course, they’re firing them after releasing extreme threats from Kim Jong-Un, like, “No one knows when the touch-and-go situation will lead to a nuclear war, but if so, the Japanese archipelago will be engulfed in flames in a moment.”
ICBMs give North Korea a delivery system for nuclear weaponry, which puts plenty of people ill at ease–to say the least.
Which is probably why the history of weaponry is a race between attack and defense. For every weapon, people try to come up with some kind of counter.Who doesn't love the idea of #ICBM defense? #nobodyClick To Tweet
For Russia, that counter is their sophisticated Pole-21 missile defense system. However, the U.S. Military is taking a different approach.
Whereas the Pole-21 system uses cell towers to shut missiles down, the U.S. uses Microwave Weaponry to pinpoint and fry electronics.
But how does that work, and is it an effective option against international attack?
I’m sure the world would like to know the answer.
Defending Against The Threat of ICBMs
Let’s jump right into the first question: How do microwave weapons work?
The simple answer is that they disable electronic systems by bathing them in microwaves.
As Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) explains, “Think about when you put something in your microwave that has metal on it. You know how badly that goes? Imagine directing those microwaves at someone’s electronics.”
As it turns out, the government and the Air Force have been working on weaponized microwaves for over 20 years. The latest iteration of this research is the Counter-electronics High Power Microwave Advanced Missile Project, or CHAMP.
CHAMP can be fitted onto aircraft and deployed within 700 miles of a target. From there, they emit high-power microwaves (HPM) that fry enemy systems. And, don’t forget folks, that enemy missiles are dependent on their systems.
Less advanced versions of this tech have already proven their usefulness with improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in the middle east. The problem, though, is the relatively short range. It’s fine for IEDs, but when you are dealing with airborne weaponry 700 miles just isn’t that far.
The weapon has had numerous tests and is reportedly “capable of flying into a contested area and disabling an adversary’s electronic systems,” according to the U.S. Air Force.
In one test, the weapons performed exactly as expected. That’s according to Mary Lou Robinson, head of weapons development at the Air Force Research Laboratory in Albuquerque. She said, “We had several different target classes in those facilities, and we predicted with almost 100 percent accuracy . . . which systems were going to be affected, which systems failed, and how.”
— NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt (@NBCNightlyNews) December 4, 2017
It seems that, despite the ‘range’ issue, microwave weaponry research is bearing fruit. If it stops a nuclear war, then I think it’s safe to say that it’s good news for everyone.
That said, it isn’t an absolute defense, it’s just a really good one. Which begs the question: What can everyone else do in case an ICBM slips through?
A Future Without ICBMs
If an ICBM gets past defenses, it can do a ton of damage. From huge explosions, to EMPs that can send you back into the stone age, there’s a reason why people refer to these things as ‘world-enders’.
That’s the beauty of Russia’s Pole-21, or Israel’s Iron Dome, I suppose. Whereas microwave weapons need to be deployed via aircraft, those systems provide a static shield.
Of course, if you are looking for something more small-scale, then the private bunker business is better than ever. So far, a bunker provides you with the best chance of survival.
And while surrounding yourself with earth, hardened concrete and steel may be safe, it isn’t necessarily an acceptable option. Unless you’re a hermit, then you’ll love it.
We all love the Fallout video game franchise, but no one wants to actually live in a Vault-Tec vault.
In my opinion, the only solution for nuclear weapons is disarming and dismantling them worldwide. But, since that is unlikely to ever actually happen, I’m relieved to hear about new innovative defenses.
Maybe one day we’ll come up with one that is absolute, and nuclear weapons get left in the dust.