USA UU They have microwave weapons that supporters believe could prevent North Korea from dropping missiles by frying their electronic products.
The weapons were discussed at a White House meeting in August related to North Korea, according to two US officials. UU With direct knowledge
Microwave weapons, known as CHAMPs, are mounted on a cruise missile launched from the air and sent from B-52 bombers. With a range of 700 miles, they can fly into enemy airspace at low altitude and emit sharp pulses of microwave energy to deactivate electronic systems.
"These high-power microwave signals are very effective at disrupting and possibly disabling electronic circuits," said Mary Lou Robinson, head of weapons development at the Air Force Research Laboratory in Albuquerque, in an interview. exclusive with NBC News.
Defenders say they could be used to prevent North Korea from launching missiles by attacking earth controls and the missile's own circuits Weapons are not currently operational.
How does a high-powered microwave (HPM) weapon work?
"Think when you put something in the microwave that has metal," said Senator Martin Heinrich, DN.M. "Do you know how bad it is? Imagine directing those microwaves to someone's electronic devices. "
Senator Heinrich, member of the Armed Services Committee, began his career as an engineer at the Air Force Research Laboratory in Albuquerque.
" Command centers and control are full of electronic infrastructure that is highly vulnerable to high-power microwaves, "ret said Lt. Gen. David Deptula, who led the air wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and retired as intelligence chief of the Air Force. 19659002] The Air Force and other government agencies have been working on microwave militarization for more than two decades.Several emitters have been employed in the field: in Afghanistan and Iraq, they have been used to deactivate improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and small drones.
But turning a high-powered microwave oven into a strategic weapon slowed down by the n Need to reduce the size and weight of the emitter and then combine it with a sufficient on-board power supply to boost the microwave pulses.
The Air Force Research Laboratory began work on CHAMP, which means advanced advanced microwave high-power missile project, in April 2009. The laboratory adapted the HPM emitter to a non-nuclear version of an air launch Boeing cruise missile.
In October 2012, according to Air Force documents, CHAMP was ready for an operational test, and a B-52 bomber launched the missile on the Utah Test and Training Range, a 2,500-square-mile test area larger than Delaware. simulations were equipped with communications and computer systems that simulated possible enemy capabilities.
Many of the objectives, according to internal budget documents of CHAMP obtained by NBC News, involved "representative weapons of mbad destruction production teams" found in Iran and North Korea.
"It was as close to reality as we could get," said Keith Coleman, manager of the CHAMP program for Boeing, after ués of the test.
"He did exactly what we thought he was going to do," Robinson said. "We had several different kinds of objectives in those facilities, and we predicted with almost 100 percent accuracy … which systems would be affected, which systems failed, and how."
The 2012 test, the only one so far declbadified by the Pentagon, has been followed by additional tests and several experiments to advance microwave technology. A new source of energy was incorporated, converting the microwave weapon into what the Air Force calls "Super CHAMP".
According to a document from the Air Force Research Laboratory of December 2016, the low-flying missile is now "capable of flying to a disputed area and disabling the electronic systems of an adversary".
Robinson said "there is no doubt" in his mind that HPM weapons work.
Could a high-powered microwave weapon be used against North Korea?
Deptula said he believed that the US UU They could use an HPM to deactivate a ballistic missile on a North Korean launch pad, and there are many advantages to using microwave weapons in a North Korean scenario.
They work in all kinds of weather, said Deptula, which helps in the Korean climate, and "are used at the speed of light, you can not get much faster than that in terms of achieving the desired effects."
The main operational constraint, said Robinson, is that the CHAMP emitter's microwaves "are not very long-range."
Robinson said to disable the devices missile or a launcher, CHAMP would have to "get close" to the target.How close is it ranked, but "it's not tens of feet," Robinson said.
Senator Heinrich said the challenges to using the weapon are " less technical and more mental. You spend years trying to perfect these things, and the trend in the Pentagon is often to continue trying to perfect something. My tendency is to say: Hey, we have something that really works. Let's take those things and put them in the hands of our men and women in uniform. "
Deptula adds that one of the differences in the use of microwaves versus explosives is the evaluation of the effects – the destruction they cause it is not visible.
But Deptula said that "there are means to determine whether or not it has achieved its effects beyond the traditional badessment of battle damage using photography."
Speaking in February 2016, the chief of the Air Combat Command, General Herbert "Hawk" Carlisle, said that several high-powered microwave units were kept as "weapons to be used in case of contingency."
Robinson said that "it would take a little time" to make the missiles were operational Two Air Force officers with knowledge of current plans and capabilities say CHAMP could be ready to use quickly, possibly in a matter of days.
The White House refused to comment. ar.