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12/04/2008

An EMP Attack

Last week, Brian T. Kennedy, president of the Claremont Institute and a member of the Independent Working Group on Missile Defense, wrote in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal that one of the real threats we face on the national security front is a Shahab-3 missile exploding a nuclear warhead over the United States, creating an electromagnetic pulse or EMP. 

This is a topic I have covered before in this space so I thought I’d revisit two of those prior columns before delving into Mr. Kennedy’s work. 

Hot Spots, 5/15/03 

Britain’s Defense Ministry had issued a report on future trends and threats and it had this to say on EMP weapons and the ilk. 

“Delayed-lethality and non-lethal weapons such as electromagnetic pulse weapons, radiological and carcinogenic chemical weapons are likely to offer new mass effect threats by 2015.”

“Combat after 2015 may increasingly be shaped by the implications of remote and autonomous systems. It is likely to take place over a wider number of environments more frequently including space, cyberspace and the electromagnetic spectrum.”

Those were but a few of the conclusions reached by the JDCC. The panel also took a look at “shocks.”

“The benefit of strategic futures work is not that it predicts the future, which is unpredictable, or enables organizations to control it. It is about rehearsing possibilities so one is better able to respond if they happen.”

“We need to expect the unexpected. We need to plan to be shocked.” 

Hot Spots, 8/25/05 

Regarding the U.S. Defense Department’s latest white paper on China’s military power: 

Nuclear Weapon / High-Altitude EMP Option

“Some PLA theorists are aware of the electromagnetic effects of using a high-altitude nuclear burst to generate high-altitude electromagnetic pulse (HEMP) and might consider using HEMP as an unconventional attack, believing the United States and other nations would not interpret it as a use of force and as crossing the nuclear threshold. This capability would most likely be used as part of a larger campaign to intimidate, if not decapitate, the Taiwan leadership. HEMP causes a substantial change in the ionization of the upper atmosphere, including the ionosphere and magnetosphere. These effects likely would result in the degradation of important war fighting capabilities, such as key communication links, radar transmissions, and the full spectrum of electro-optic sensors. Additional effects could include severe disruptions to civil electric/power and transportation. These effects cannot easily be localized to Taiwan and would likely affect the mainland, Japan, the Philippines, and commercial shipping and air routes in the region.” 

So, what did Brian Kennedy have to say on the topic? Kennedy was discussing Iran’s missile development and enhancements on its Shahab-3 that is “capable of carrying a lethal payload to Israel or – if launched from a ship – to an American city.” 

“Think about this scenario: An ordinary-looking freighter ship heading toward New York or Los Angeles launches a missile from its hull or from a canister lowered into the sea. It hits a densely populated area. A million people are incinerated. The ship is then sunk. No one claims responsibility. There is no firm evidence as to who sponsored the attack, and thus no one against whom to launch a counterstrike.” 

But then Kennedy writes that if the preceding isn’t bad enough, what if the freighter ship launched a nuclear-armed Shahab-3 off the coast of the U.S. “and the missile explodes 300 miles over Chicago”? The detonation in space creates the EMP. 

“Gamma rays from the explosion, through the Compton Effect, generate three classes of disruptive electromagnetic pulses, which permanently destroy consumer electronics, the electronics in some automobiles and, most importantly, the hundreds of large transformers that distribute power throughout the U.S. All of our lights, refrigerators, water-pumping stations, TVs and radios stop running. We have no communication and no ability to provide food and water to 300 million Americans. 

“This is what is referred to as an EMP attack, and such an attack would effectively throw America back technologically into the early 19th century. It would require the Iranians to be able to produce a warhead as sophisticated as we expect the Russians or the Chinese to possess. But that is certainly attainable. Common sense would suggest that, absent food and water, the number of people who could die of deprivation and as a result of social breakdown might run well into the millions. 

“Let us be clear. A successful EMP attack on the U.S. would have a dramatic effect on the country, to say the least. Even one that only affected part of the country would cripple the economy for years. Dropping nuclear weapons on or retaliating against whoever caused the attack would not help. And an EMP attack is not far-fetched. 

“Twice in the last eight years, in the Caspian Sea, the Iranians have tested their ability to launch ballistic missiles in a way to set off an EMP. The congressionally mandated EMP Commission, with some of America’s finest scientists, has released its findings and issued two separate reports, the most recent in April, describing the devastating effects of such an attack on the U.S.” 

The answer, says Brian Kennedy, is a robust missile-defense system, because “An EMP attack is not one from which America could recover as we did after Pearl Harbor. Such an attack might mean the end of the United States and most likely the Free World.” 

Aside from a missile-defense program, Kennedy concludes that, first, our president needs to acknowledge the problem. 

Hot Spots will return next week.
 
Brian Trumbore
 


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Hot Spots

12/04/2008

An EMP Attack

Last week, Brian T. Kennedy, president of the Claremont Institute and a member of the Independent Working Group on Missile Defense, wrote in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal that one of the real threats we face on the national security front is a Shahab-3 missile exploding a nuclear warhead over the United States, creating an electromagnetic pulse or EMP. 

This is a topic I have covered before in this space so I thought I’d revisit two of those prior columns before delving into Mr. Kennedy’s work. 

Hot Spots, 5/15/03 

Britain’s Defense Ministry had issued a report on future trends and threats and it had this to say on EMP weapons and the ilk. 

“Delayed-lethality and non-lethal weapons such as electromagnetic pulse weapons, radiological and carcinogenic chemical weapons are likely to offer new mass effect threats by 2015.”

“Combat after 2015 may increasingly be shaped by the implications of remote and autonomous systems. It is likely to take place over a wider number of environments more frequently including space, cyberspace and the electromagnetic spectrum.”

Those were but a few of the conclusions reached by the JDCC. The panel also took a look at “shocks.”

“The benefit of strategic futures work is not that it predicts the future, which is unpredictable, or enables organizations to control it. It is about rehearsing possibilities so one is better able to respond if they happen.”

“We need to expect the unexpected. We need to plan to be shocked.” 

Hot Spots, 8/25/05 

Regarding the U.S. Defense Department’s latest white paper on China’s military power: 

Nuclear Weapon / High-Altitude EMP Option

“Some PLA theorists are aware of the electromagnetic effects of using a high-altitude nuclear burst to generate high-altitude electromagnetic pulse (HEMP) and might consider using HEMP as an unconventional attack, believing the United States and other nations would not interpret it as a use of force and as crossing the nuclear threshold. This capability would most likely be used as part of a larger campaign to intimidate, if not decapitate, the Taiwan leadership. HEMP causes a substantial change in the ionization of the upper atmosphere, including the ionosphere and magnetosphere. These effects likely would result in the degradation of important war fighting capabilities, such as key communication links, radar transmissions, and the full spectrum of electro-optic sensors. Additional effects could include severe disruptions to civil electric/power and transportation. These effects cannot easily be localized to Taiwan and would likely affect the mainland, Japan, the Philippines, and commercial shipping and air routes in the region.” 

So, what did Brian Kennedy have to say on the topic? Kennedy was discussing Iran’s missile development and enhancements on its Shahab-3 that is “capable of carrying a lethal payload to Israel or – if launched from a ship – to an American city.” 

“Think about this scenario: An ordinary-looking freighter ship heading toward New York or Los Angeles launches a missile from its hull or from a canister lowered into the sea. It hits a densely populated area. A million people are incinerated. The ship is then sunk. No one claims responsibility. There is no firm evidence as to who sponsored the attack, and thus no one against whom to launch a counterstrike.” 

But then Kennedy writes that if the preceding isn’t bad enough, what if the freighter ship launched a nuclear-armed Shahab-3 off the coast of the U.S. “and the missile explodes 300 miles over Chicago”? The detonation in space creates the EMP. 

“Gamma rays from the explosion, through the Compton Effect, generate three classes of disruptive electromagnetic pulses, which permanently destroy consumer electronics, the electronics in some automobiles and, most importantly, the hundreds of large transformers that distribute power throughout the U.S. All of our lights, refrigerators, water-pumping stations, TVs and radios stop running. We have no communication and no ability to provide food and water to 300 million Americans. 

“This is what is referred to as an EMP attack, and such an attack would effectively throw America back technologically into the early 19th century. It would require the Iranians to be able to produce a warhead as sophisticated as we expect the Russians or the Chinese to possess. But that is certainly attainable. Common sense would suggest that, absent food and water, the number of people who could die of deprivation and as a result of social breakdown might run well into the millions. 

“Let us be clear. A successful EMP attack on the U.S. would have a dramatic effect on the country, to say the least. Even one that only affected part of the country would cripple the economy for years. Dropping nuclear weapons on or retaliating against whoever caused the attack would not help. And an EMP attack is not far-fetched. 

“Twice in the last eight years, in the Caspian Sea, the Iranians have tested their ability to launch ballistic missiles in a way to set off an EMP. The congressionally mandated EMP Commission, with some of America’s finest scientists, has released its findings and issued two separate reports, the most recent in April, describing the devastating effects of such an attack on the U.S.” 

The answer, says Brian Kennedy, is a robust missile-defense system, because “An EMP attack is not one from which America could recover as we did after Pearl Harbor. Such an attack might mean the end of the United States and most likely the Free World.” 

Aside from a missile-defense program, Kennedy concludes that, first, our president needs to acknowledge the problem. 

Hot Spots will return next week.
 
Brian Trumbore