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Radio News: U.S. military working on microwave weapon

Dec 07, 2017 10:50 pm
Sean Gallagher reports at Ars Technica about the U.S. Air Force's Counter-electronics High-powered Microwave Advanced Missile Project, or CHAMP, which would shoot bursts of microwave energy to disable electronic devices such as computers, communications, and air defense radar systems. NBC News first reported about the project Dec. 4, saying it could help stop North Korean nuclear attacks. But that is not a very effective use of the weapon. It heats up semiconductors so electronics fail. It would probably be most effective in knocking down a swarm of radio-controlled drones. As a weapon, the range is not far, as the CHAMP would need to go off in relatively close proximity to heat up a semiconductor enough so that it fails. And a Faraday cage blocking the radio waves, or reflectors, would stop the heating. So far, the best result for the military was a "2012 test, [where] pulses from the CHAMP cruise missile disabled computers and even the video cameras monitoring them as the missile flew over them," according to Ars Technica. If the weapon is made more powerful and aimed at humans, it could cause burns or cataracts. Gallagher guesses the story leaked now to give North Korea another reason not to attempt a missile attack.