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[] New Scientist 08.08.02: 'E-Bomb' May See First Combat Use in Iraq,

"E-bomb" may see first combat use in Iraq
17:45 08 August 02

Weapons designed to attack electronic systems and not people could see
their first combat use in any military attack on Iraq.

It is widely believed that the US is planning for an attack that could
overthrow Iraq's leader, Saddam Hussein, who it believes is developing
weapons of mass destruction. The Iraqi president responded publicly for
the first time on Thursday, exhorting Iraqis to be prepared "with all
the force you can to face your enemies".

US intelligence reports indicate that key elements of the Iraqi war
machine are located in heavily-fortified underground facilities or
beneath civilian buildings such as hospitals. This means the role of
non-lethal and precision weapons would be a critical factor in any

High Power Microwave (HPM) devices are designed to destroy electronic
equipment in command, control, communications and computer targets and
are available to the US military. They produce an electromagnetic field
of such intensity that their effect can be far more devastating than a
lighting strike.

Pumped flux

The effect exploited by HPM weapons was accidentally demonstrated in the
1950s when street lights in Hawaii were knocked out by the
electromagnetic pulse produced by high altitude nuclear tests.

One unclassified approach to producing the required pulse is a device
called an Explosive Pumped Flux Generator. In this a charged bank of
capacitors energises a coil wrapped around a copper tube, which itself
contains high explosives.

On detonation, the explosives expand the tube from the back and moves
rapidly forward, forcing the tube to make progressive contact with the
coil and causing a short circuit. This has the effect of crushing the
magnetic field at the same time as reducing the coil's inductance.

The resultant spike lasts tens to hundreds of microseconds and can
produce peak currents of tens of millions of Amps and peak energies of
tens of millions of Joules. By comparison, a typical lighting strike
produces around 30,000 Amps.

Single use

HPM weapons would be single-use and could be delivered on almost any a
cruise missile or unmanned aircraft. Future devices are likely to be

Military planners will be particularly interested in claimed ability of
HPM weapon's to penetrate bunkers buried deep underground by using
service pipes, cables or ducts to transmit the spike.
Insulating equipment from such spikes, for example by using Faraday
cages, is believed to be very difficult and expensive.

Another weapon that targets electronic equipment has already seen use in
the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s. Blackout bombs, such as the formerly
classified BLU-114/B, releases a spider's web of fine carbon filaments
into the air above electrical distribution infrastructures. This causes
short circuits when the filaments touch the ground.

Tomahawk cruise missiles fitted with warheads operating on similar lines
attacked the Iraqi power grid during the 1990 Gulf war.

David Windle

-- High Power Microwave Division, USAF

-- High Power Microwave, FAS

-- Electromagnetic Bombs, Carlo Kopp

-- Blackout bomb, FAS

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