By Debbie Gregory.
While not quite ready for prime time, the Air Force Research Laboratory is looking to develop an air-launched directed-energy weapon capable of incapacitating the nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles utilized by North Korea.
The experimental Counter-electronics High Power Microwave Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP) weapon uses bursts of electromagnetic pulse (EMP) energy to disable electronic systems.
Air Force officials believe that in an emergency, the weapon could be operational.
After testing on October 16 at the Utah Test and Training Range by the Boeing Phantom Works/U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory Directed Energy Directorate team, the Air Force says that the CHAMP works, but that it needs to get extremely close to the target to be effective, and there are still a lot of unknowns.
“In theory, high-powered microwaves will damage electronics, but I am not sure we really know how much power is necessary to disable specific systems that may be complex and hardened?” said Jeffrey Lewis, the Director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.
Though speculation exists surrounding the weapon’s effectiveness against military-hardened electronics, the prospects of its use are bright.
“This technology marks a new era in modern-day warfare,” said Keith Coleman, Boeing Phantom Works’ CHAMP Program Manager. “In the near future, this technology may be used to render an enemy’s electronic and data systems useless even before the first troops or aircraft arrive.”
But it’s possible that the entire conversation is really about securing funding for the CHAMP program.