It's called CHAMP, for the project of advanced high-power microwave missiles Counter-electronics. James Fisher, spokesman for the Air Force Research Laboratory at Kirtland Air Force Base, said it is a high-powered microwave weapon that can be delivered with a cruise missile launched from a US bomber.
Fisher says that the cruise missile with a CHAMP system attached to it would fly into enemy airspace at low altitude and send out strong pulses of electromagnetic energy. The electronic command and control systems of the enemy would be stuck. Analysts say the cruise missile on which it is deployed could then be thrown into the sea.
The Air Force says that CHAMP was not developed specifically to counter the threat from North Korea. But retired General David Deptula, who once directed the intelligence of the US Air Force. UU., He said the applications could be effective against North Korea.
Retired Air Force intelligence officer Col. Cedric Leighton went further, saying that CHAMP could change the rules of the game with North Korea.
"It would be very useful in Korean theater because it would not require the presence of a significant number of ground forces," Leighton said. "It would not require Special Operations forces, and it would not require kinetic bombing attacks … In essence, what could happen is that an attack could happen, and not a single person on the enemy side would lose a life."
Leighton said a CHAMP system could disable a North Korean missile on the launch pad or in flight.
Fisher said that the Air Force tested the CHAMP system in 2012, in a test range in Utah greater than the state of Delaware. The buildings were equipped with communications and other systems similar to those that enemy armies would have.
Mary Lou Robinson, CHAMP's research and development chief at the Air Force Research Laboratory, told NBC News: "He did exactly what we thought he was going to do." Robinson said they had several target classes, and "predicted with almost 100% accuracy" which systems would fail.
While CHAMP keeps the promise of a non-lethal weapon against the North Koreans, skeptics say it has potentially dangerous disadvantages.
"The North Koreans would see many of these missiles flying," says Jeffrey Lewis, associate professor at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute for International Studies in Monterey. "They would try to knock them down – in fact, they're not going to know they're armed with high-powered microwaves instead of, say, conventional explosives or even nuclear weapons."
CHAMP weapons are not currently operational. Neither Fisher, Robinson nor other Air Force officers would say when the weapons could be deployed. But Leighton said in a crisis: "The CHAMP system could be implemented in a matter of days."
Brad Hodges of CNN contributed to this report.