Archive for the ‘EMP attack’ category

Electricity Suppliers Have Taken Steps to Address Electromagnetic Risks

February 12, 2018

February 12, 2018 by Homeland Security Today

Source Link: Electricity Suppliers Have Taken Steps to Address Electromagnetic Risks3

{Please hurry. – LS}

A GAO report has found that electricity suppliers have taken steps to address electromagnetic risks and more research is still ongoing.

In the case of a severe solar storm or a high-altitude nuclear blast, the electric grid could be severely damaged, causing extensive outages. Government and industry experts agreed that they needed to know more about nuclear risks. Thirteen electricity suppliers were contacted by GAO, and eleven of them had assessed their systems vulnerability to solar storms and expected the impact to be minimal.

Extensive research into the effects of severe geomagnetic disturbance has been carried out and the main risks of potential voltage instability and possible damage to key system components have been identified.

The Department of Energy told GAO that they did not have enough information about the potential effects of a high-altitude electromagnetic pulse that could arise if a nuclear device was detonated. DoE and industry have started to carry out research into the effects of a high-altitude elctromagnetic pulse now. Three suppliers have studied the potential effects on their network and two had had integrated HEMP-resistant features into new control centers. Ten suppliers had started making technological and operational improvements to enhance overall network reliability that also provided some protection against GMD and HEMP risks, such as replacing old transformers or unprotected control centers.

All 13 suppliers have complied with a GMD regulatory standard issued by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) — the federally designated regulatory authority responsible for developing and enforcing reliability standards — to develop operating procedures to mitigate GMD effects.

 

North Korean EMP Attack Would Cause Mass U.S. Starvation, Says Congressional Report

October 23, 2017

North Korean EMP Attack Would Cause Mass U.S. Starvation, Says Congressional Report, Forbes

(Please see also, How the electric grid has been compromised. — DM)

A new congressional report contends that a North Korean electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack on the U.S. would ultimately wipe out 90 percent of the population.

To date, most discussion concerning the North Korean threat has been on whether the rogue state can accurately hit U.S. cities with its ICBMs. But in an EMP attack, such accuracy is not necessary because the pulse radius would be so large, says Peter Vincent Pry, who recently testified about the EMP threat before a congressional Homeland Security subcommittee. His conclusions are that such an EMP attack would wreak havoc across the whole of the continental U.S.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (R) inspecting a launching drill of the medium-and-long range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12 at an undisclosed location. Credit: STR/AFP/Getty Images

Unlike a conventional ICBM which launches and then goes into a suborbital flight before re-entering Earth’s atmosphere, an EMP warhead need not re-enter Earth’s atmosphere before exploding hundreds of kilometers above its target. Super-EMP weapons are designed to produce a high level of gamma rays, which generate the sort of high-frequency electromagnetic pulse that is most damaging to the broadest range of electronics, the report concludes.

And if the EMP device just happens to be part onboard an orbiting satellite, North Korea need only detonate the device remotely via encoded signal. Pry, Chief of Staff of the now de-funded Congressional EMP Commission, told me that at an altitude of 300 kilometers, the resulting electromagnetic pulse would affect all 48 contiguous states.

A warhead fused for an EMP in a satellite or ICBM could work on a timer, via GPS, or using an altimeter, says Pry, a nuclear strategist formerly with the CIA, who has a certificate in nuclear weapons design from the U.S. Air Force nuclear weapons lab. He says North Korea could even rig the warhead to detonate in the event that it was intercepted by our own missile defenses.

The consequences of such a detonation would be dire.

“The U.S. can sustain a population of 320 million people only because of modern technology,” said Pry. “An EMP that blacks-out the electric grid for a year would [decimate] the critical infrastructure necessary to support such a large population.”

In three days, the food supply in local grocery stores would be consumed and the 30-day national food supply in regional warehouses would begin to spoil, says Pry. In one year, he contends that up to 90 percent of the population could perish from starvation, disease, and societal collapse.

After generating gamma-rays that interact with air molecules in Earth’s stratosphere, a so-called fast pulse EMP field of tens of kilovolts would only last a few hundred nanoseconds.

But in the event of such an attack, aircraft electronics would be fried, as well as electronics in air traffic control towers, and navigation systems says Pry. “Airliners would crash killing many of the 500,000 people flying over North America at any given moment,” he said.

Pry says electro-mechanical systems which regulate the flow of gas through pipelines would spark; causing the gas to ignite and result in massive firestorms in cities and large forest fires.

There would be no water; no communications; and mass transportation would be paralyzed, says Pry. In seven days, he contends that reactors in U.S.’ nuclear power plants would essentially melt down, spreading radioactivity across most of the nation.

What could be done to ensure a quick restoration of the grid?

Some 2000 extra-high voltage (EHV) transformers make up the foundation of the U.S. grid, says Pry. But as he notes, since they each weigh hundreds of tons, they are extraordinarily hard to transport. Thus, if most are destroyed, there’s no quick fix.

So, how do we best protect against an EMP?

The U.S. should be prepared to also include limited surgical strikes to destroy North Korea’s ICBMs, says Pry. But he says the best, safest, and least provocative solution is to EMP-harden the electric grid and other critical infrastructures.

But not everyone agrees that North Korea poses a real EMP threat.

“There are legitimate concerns about EMP effects, but a non-tested system by a country with limited missile experience lowers the immediate threat,” James Clay Moltz, a professor of national security affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., told me.

The U.S. should work with China and South Korea on clear warnings against any such North Korean actions, says Moltz. That includes U.S. statements on the right to pre-empt or shoot down any suspected EMP weapons which, he says, would constitute nuclear attacks on the U.S.

“But predictions of mass U.S. casualties and demands for costly defenses against a [North Korean] EMP attack seem unjustified at this time,” said Moltz.

How the electric grid has been compromised

October 23, 2017

How the electric grid has been compromised, Washington Times, Peter Vincent Pry, October 22, 2017

(After an EMP attack has occurred, there will be little or nothing that can be done to avoid or even ameliorate the catastrophic results. Some military electronics have been “hardened,” but there are too many civilian facilities — computers, automobiles, trucks, cell phones, etc — to harden. Human casualties will result, not from radiation but from the inability to get food, medicine and other necessities which trucks will be unable to deliver to stores. The only effective measure would be to prevent EMP attacks by eliminating the facilities which hostile nations and groups would use to cause them. –DM)

Illustration on the risk of EMP attacks on the nation’s power grid by Linas Garsys/The Washington Times

Electromagnetic attack is well known to North Korea. It used a non-nuclear EMP weapon to attack airliners and impose an “electromagnetic blockade” on air traffic to Seoul, South Korea’s capital, disrupting communications and operation of automobiles in several South Korean cities in December 2010; March 2011; and April-May 2012.

Real world failures of electric grids from various causes indicate nuclear EMP attack would have catastrophic consequences. Big blackouts have been caused by small failures cascading into system-wide failures:

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ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Bureaucracies know how to deal with really challenging problems that affect the survival of our country: Kill the messenger.

The Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack terminated on September 30, ironically, the same month North Korea tested an H-bomb it described as “a multifunctional thermonuclear nuke with great destructive power which can be detonated even at high altitudes for superpowerful EMP attack.”

For 17 years, the EMP Commission warned about the existential EMP threat.

Rogue states or terrorists can blackout national electric grids and other life-sustaining critical infrastructures, topple electronic civilization, and kill millions from sea to shining sea, with a single high-altitude nuclear detonation, generating an EMP field covering North America. Natural EMP from a solar superstorm could blackout the whole world. EMP is considered a cyber weapon, not a nuclear weapon, in the military doctrines of Russia, China, North Korea and Iran.

On October 12, before a House Homeland Security Subcommittee chaired by Rep. Scott Perry, the EMP Commission staff delivered a final testimony, lamenting Washington bureaucrats are still oblivious to EMP.

The Department of Defense (DOD), Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Department of Energy (DOE), still largely staffed by Obama-holdovers, did not ask Congress to continue the EMP Commission.

The Secretaries of DOD and DOE ignored repeated requests to meet with the EMP Commission. DOE thinks the EMP threat is unproven and plans to partner with the electric power industry on studying EMP until 2020 and beyond.

DOD is letting DOE waste millions of dollars on unnecessary studies while DOD sits on a mountain of classified studies proving the EMP threat is real — which is why DOD has spent billions EMP hardening military systems.

Experts who have worked on protecting military systems from EMP for decades know how to harden our critical national infrastructure, but electric power organizations such as the Electric Power Research Institute and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation are not asking them for help.

A senior DHS official, speaking anonymously, recently told Fox News that EMP is a “theoretical” threat and lower priority than “real” threats, like cyber-attacks and sabotage.

Yet the empirical basis for the EMP threat to electric grids and civilization is far deeper and broader than for cyber-attacks or sabotage.

We know for certain EMP will damage electronics and cause protracted blackout of unprotected electric grids and other critical infrastructures from:

• The 1962 U.S. STARFISH PRIME high-altitude nuclear test that generated an EMP field over the Hawaiian Islands, over 1,300 kilometers away, causing widespread damage to electronic systems.

• Six Russian high altitude nuclear tests 1961-1962 over Kazakhstan that with a single weapon destroyed electric grids over an area larger than Western Europe.

• 30 years (1962-1992) of U.S. underground nuclear testing. (Contrary to another government “expert” cited by Fox News, underground nuclear tests can tell a lot about the EMP threat from the weapon yield, gamma ray output, and other effects. Indeed, nuclear weapons specialized for EMP, what Russia and China call “Super-EMP” weapons, can be made without testing.)

• Over 50 years of testing using EMP simulators, including tests by the EMP Commission (2001-2008), proving modern semiconductor electronics are far more vulnerable to EMP than 1950-60s era electronics.

Moreover, hard data proving the threat from nuclear EMP is available from natural EMP generated by geomagnetic storms, accidental damage caused by electromagnetic transients, and non-nuclear EMP weapons. All these produce field strengths much less powerful than nuclear EMP.

Electromagnetic attack is well known to North Korea. It used a non-nuclear EMP weapon to attack airliners and impose an “electromagnetic blockade” on air traffic to Seoul, South Korea’s capital, disrupting communications and operation of automobiles in several South Korean cities in December 2010; March 2011; and April-May 2012.

Real world failures of electric grids from various causes indicate nuclear EMP attack would have catastrophic consequences. Big blackouts have been caused by small failures cascading into system-wide failures:

• The Great Northeast Blackout of 2003 — that put 50 million people in the dark for a day, contributed to at least 11 deaths and cost an estimated $6 billion — happened when a power line contacted a tree branch, damaging less than 0.0000001 (0.00001 percent) of the system.

• The New York City Blackout of 1977, that resulted in the arrest of 4,500 looters and injury of 550 police officers, was caused by a lightning strike on a substation that tripped two circuit breakers.

• The Great Northeast Blackout of 1965, that effected 30 million people, happened because a protective relay on a transmission line was improperly set.

• India’s nationwide blackout of July 30-31, 2012 — the largest blackout in history, effecting 670 million people, 9 percent of the world population — was caused by overload of a single high-voltage power line.

In contrast to the above blackouts caused by small-scale failures, nuclear EMP attack would inflict massive widespread damage to electric grids.

A protracted blackout endangering millions will be the inevitable result of the EMP attack described by the North Koreans.

But the EMP Commission won’t be around anymore to help prevent electronic Armageddon.

• Peter Vincent Pry is chief of staff of the congressional EMP Commission and served in the House Armed Services Committee and the CIA.

How to neutralize the North Korea threat

July 11, 2017

How to neutralize the North Korea threat, Washington Times,  Ronald Kessler, July 10, 2017

(Here’s a May 16th video about the capabilities of the technology:

The new technology is similar to EMP but more selective and therefore more accurate. It seems excellent. — DM)

Illustration on way to neutralize the North Korean threat by Alexander Hunter/The Washington Times

They may sound like science fiction, but no doubt Mr. Trump has both HPM and robotic weapons in mind when he says he is contemplating “pretty severe things” to counter the North Korean threat.

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ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Whenever we hear about viable options for stopping North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, the answer is always the same: There are none. Any military strike against that country would result in retaliation against South Korea, we are told.

But what has gone largely unnoticed in the media is that there are viable alternatives to waiting passively until North Korea has the capability of wiping out millions of Americans with nuclear weapons. The first is the U.S. Air Force’s development of missiles that zap electronics with high-power microwaves (HPM).

That capability, which is entirely different from cyberwarfare designed to confuse computers, has been advancing secretly ever since the Air Force successfully tested use of a missile equipped with HPM in 2012.

Called the Counter-Electronics High Power Microwave Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP), the missile was built by Boeing’s Phantom Works for the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory at a cost of $38 million. The Boeing missile emits high power microwaves that fry computer chips so that no electronic devices targeted by the missile can operate.

On Oct. 16, 2012, the CHAMP missile flew over a two-story building on the Utah Test and Firing Range. The building in the west Utah desert was crammed with computers and security and surveillance systems. The microwaves took down the compound’s entire spectrum of electronic systems, including video cameras set up to film the test, without damaging anything else.

“We hit every target we wanted to,” Boeing’s CHAMP Program Manager Keith Colman said in a company press release. “Today we made science fiction into science fact.”

Until the announcement of the successful test, the project had been top secret. When it was announced, only a few trade publications ran the story, and since then, beyond a few mentions, the media have ignored the story. Instead, they have focused on how impossible it is to deal with the North Korea threat.

The beauty of the HPM missile is that its microwave beam can penetrate bunkers where facilities are hidden without harming humans inside. Even if a bunker is buried inside a mountain, HPM penetrates the facilities through its connections to power cables, communication lines and antennas. Thus, HPM can penetrate any underground military facility and fry its electronics.

While North Korea may attempt to shield its equipment, U.S. officials doubt that would be effective against CHAMP.

Most amazing of all, the missile renders inoperable any radar that might detect it as it flies to and from a target. Thus, a country cannot take out CHAMP before it strikes and has no way of knowing why its facilities have suddenly gone dead.

Besides underground bunkers, HPM can quickly disable fighter planes, tanks, ships and missile systems. And it can wipe out facilities for developing and testing nuclear weapons.

Unlike an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) created by detonating a nuclear weapon in the atmosphere, because it is targeted, HPM leaves intact civilian facilities needed to sustain life. Unlike any other existing system like cyber-attacks, CHAMP permanently destroys electronic equipment.

America’s national laboratories operated by the Department of Energy have been working on these capabilities for decades. Equally impressive, one of those laboratories, Sandia National Laboratories, has been developing robots the size of insects that could assassinate the North Korean leader with deadly toxins.

These robotic weapons using nanotechnology employed in surgical operations in hospitals are being developed secretly with funding by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

While President Ford banned assassinations with an executive order, that order was based on the assumption that other world leaders are rational and would refrain from trying to assassinate our president unless we tried to assassinate them. But we are dealing today with terrorist organizations and world leaders who are not rational and do not care if they are killed.

President Trump could reverse Ford’s obsolete executive order with the stroke of a pen. With robotlike weapons using nanotechnology, the CIA could wipe out Kim Jong-un without risking American lives.

They may sound like science fiction, but no doubt Mr. Trump has both HPM and robotic weapons in mind when he says he is contemplating “pretty severe things” to counter the North Korean threat.

While President Obama preached “strategic patience” in dealing with North Korea, Mr. Trump has made it clear he will not stand by while the North Korean leader threatens our survival.

North Korea Nuclear EMP Attack: An Existential Threat

June 2, 2017

North Korea Nuclear EMP Attack: An Existential Threat, 38 North, June 2, 2017

(38 North is not a “click bait” site and tends to be fairly conservative in its analyses. Its conclusion that the threat of an EMP attack is real and that the consequences would be horrific should be credited. Although not mentioned, Iran is also a possible present or future source of an EMP attack. “Hardening the grid,” apparently our current focus, would help, but not very much.

Perhaps America should “test” the effects of EMP attacks by “experimenting” on North Korea and Iran simultaneously. In North Korea, the privileged few who are close to the Kim regime would be affected to a far greater extent than the peasants elsewhere. — DM)

In 2004, two Russian generals, both EMP experts, warned the EMP Commission that the design for Russia’s super-EMP warhead, capable of generating high intensity EMP fields of 200,000 volts per meter, was “accidentally” transferred to North Korea, and that due to “brain drain,” Russian scientists were in North Korea, helping with their missile and nuclear weapon programs. South Korean military intelligence told their press that Russian scientists are in North Korea helping develop an EMP nuclear weapon. In 2013, a Chinese military commentator stated North Korea has super-EMP nuclear weapons.[2]

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Analysts like Jack Liu and Jeffrey Lewis are to be commended for their interest in educating the public about North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs and endeavoring to provide their readers with “informed analysis.” However, in a series of recent articles, both analysts have written off the possibility of a nuclear electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack from North Korea as “unlikely” and “science fiction” because they believe the 10 to 20 kiloton nuclear weapons currently possessed by North Korea are incapable of making an effective EMP attack. This dismisses the consensus view of EMP experts who have advanced degrees in physics and electrical engineering along with several decades of experience in the field—with access to classified data throughout that time—and who have conducted EMP tests on a wide variety of electronic systems, beginning in 1963.

By way of background, the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse Attack was established by Congress in 2001 to advise the Congress, the President, the Department of Defense and other departments and agencies of the US Government on the nuclear EMP threat to military systems and civilian critical infrastructures. The EMP Commission was re-established in 2015 with its charter broadened to include natural EMP from solar storms, all manmade EMP threats, cyber-attack, sabotage and Combined-Arms Cyber Warfare. The EMP Commission charter gives it access to all relevant classified and unclassified data and the power to levy analysis upon the Department of Defense.

In the interest of better informing 38 North readers about the EMP threat, we offer this commentary to correct errors of fact, analysis, and myths about EMP.

Primitive and “Super-EMP” Nuclear Weapons are Both EMP Threats

The EMP Commission finds that even primitive, low-yield nuclear weapons are such a significant EMP threat that rogue states, like North Korea, or terrorists may well prefer using a nuclear weapon for EMP attack instead of destroying a city.[1] In its 2004 report, the Commission cautioned: “Certain types of relatively low-yield nuclear weapons can be employed to generate potentially catastrophic EMP effects over wide geographic areas, and designs for variants of such weapons may have been illicitly trafficked for a quarter-century.”

In 2004, two Russian generals, both EMP experts, warned the EMP Commission that the design for Russia’s super-EMP warhead, capable of generating high intensity EMP fields of 200,000 volts per meter, was “accidentally” transferred to North Korea, and that due to “brain drain,” Russian scientists were in North Korea, helping with their missile and nuclear weapon programs. South Korean military intelligence told their press that Russian scientists are in North Korea helping develop an EMP nuclear weapon. In 2013, a Chinese military commentator stated North Korea has super-EMP nuclear weapons.[2]

Super-EMP weapons are low-yield and designed to produce not a big kinetic explosion, but rather a high level of gamma rays, which generate the high-frequency E1 EMP that is most damaging to the broadest range of electronics. North Korean nuclear tests—including the first in 2006, which was predicted to the EMP Commission two years in advance by the two Russian EMP experts—mostly have yields consistent with the size of a super-EMP weapon. The Russian generals’ accurate prediction of when the North would perform its first nuclear test, and the yield being consistent with a super-EMP weapon, indicates their warning about a North Korean super-EMP weapon should be taken very seriously.

EMP Threat from Satellites

While most analysts are fixated on when in the future North Korea will develop highly reliable intercontinental ballistic missiles, guidance systems, and reentry vehicles capable of striking a US city, the present threat from EMP is largely ignored. An EMP attack does not require an accurate guidance system because the area of effect, having a radius of hundreds or thousands of kilometers, is so large. No reentry vehicle is needed because the warhead is detonated at high-altitude, above the atmosphere. Missile reliability matters little because only one missile has to work to make an EMP attack.

For instance, North Korea could make an EMP attack against the United States by launching a short-range missile off a freighter or submarine or by lofting a warhead to 30 kilometers burst height by balloon. While such lower-altitude EMP attacks would not cover the whole US mainland, as would an attack at higher-altitude (300 kilometers), even a balloon-lofted warhead detonated at 30 kilometers altitude could blackout the Eastern Grid that supports most of the population and generates 75 percent of US electricity.

Moreover, an EMP attack could be made by a North Korean satellite. The design of an EMP or even a super-EMP weapon could be relatively small and lightweight, resembling the US W-79 Enhanced Radiation Warhead nuclear artillery shell of the 1980s, designed in the 1950s. Such a device could fit inside North Korea’s Kwangmyongsong-3 (KMS-3) and Kwangmyongsong-4 (KMS-4) satellites that presently orbit the Earth. The south polar trajectory of KMS-3 and KMS-4 evades US Ballistic Missile Early Warning Radars and National Missile Defenses, resembling a Russian secret weapon developed during the Cold War, called the Fractional Orbital Bombardment System (FOBS) that would have used a nuclear-armed satellite to make a surprise EMP attack on the United States.[3]

Kim Jong Un has threatened to reduce the United States to “ashes” with “nuclear thunderbolts” and threatened to retaliate for US diplomatic and military pressure by “ordering officials and scientists to complete preparations for a satellite launch as soon as possible” amid “the enemies’ harsh sanctions and moves to stifle” the North.[4]

Addressing Misinformation

Recent assessments by Jeffrey Lewis and Jack Liu regarding North Korea’s EMP capabilities have some fundamental flaws.[5]

For starters, in his article, Jeffrey Lewis claimed that “just one string of street lights failed in Honolulu” during the 1962 Starfish Prime high-altitude nuclear test, and that this is proof of EMP’s harmlessness.[6] In fact, the EMP knocked out 36 strings of street lights, caused a telecommunications microwave relay station to fail, burned out HF (high frequency) radio links (used for long-distance communications), set off burglar alarms, and caused other damage. The Hawaiian Islands also did not experience a catastrophic protracted blackout because they were on the far edge of the EMP field contour, where effects are weakest; are surrounded by an ocean, which mitigates EMP effects; and were still in an age dominated by vacuum tube electronics. In addition, the slow pulse (E3) component of the EMP waveform only couples effectively to very long electric power transmission lines present on large continents, but were in short supply in Hawaii.

Starfish Prime was not the only test of this kind. Russia, in 1961-62, also conducted a series of high-altitude nuclear bursts to test EMP effects over Kazakhstan, an industrialized area nearly as large as Western Europe.[7] That test damaged the Kazakh electric grid.[8] Moreover, modern electronics, in part because they are designed to operate at much lower voltages, are much more vulnerable to EMP than the electronics of 1962 exposed to Starfish Prime and the Kazakh nuclear tests. A similar EMP event over the US today would be an existential threat.[9]

In his article, Lewis also suggested that vehicle transportation would continue after an EMP event based on the fact that only 6 of 55 vehicles were shut down by a single simulated EMP test on vehicles.[10] However, the EMP test protocol limited testing vehicles only to upset, not to damage, because the EMP Commission could not afford to repair damaged cars. Even with this limitation, one vehicle was still damaged, indicating that at least 2 percent of vehicles were severely affected by EMP damage. Over 50 years of EMP testing indicates that full field damage to vehicles would probably be much higher than 2 percent. Modern vehicles are even more susceptible to EMP attack because of their much larger complement of electronics than present in the vehicles tested by the Commission more than a decade ago. Furthermore, vehicles cannot run without fuel and gas stations cannot operate without electricity. Gas pumps could also be damaged in an EMP attack.

In an article by Jack Liu, he asserts in a footnote that because EMP from atmospheric nuclear tests in Nevada did not blackout Las Vegas, therefore EMP is no threat. However, the nuclear tests he describes were all endo-atmospheric tests that do not generate appreciable EMP fields beyond a range of about 5 miles. The high-altitude EMP (HEMP) threat of interest requires exo-atmospheric detonation, at 30 kilometers altitude or above, and produces EMP out to ranges of hundreds to thousands of miles.

Liu also miscalculates that “a 20-kiloton bomb detonated at optimum height would have a maximum EMP damage distance of 20 kilometers” in part, because he assumes “15,000 volts/meter or higher” in the E1 EMP component is necessary for damage. This figure is an extreme overestimation of system damage field thresholds. Damage and upset to electronic systems will happen from E1 EMP field strengths far below Liu’s “15,000 volts/meter or higher.” A one meter wire connected to a semiconductor device, such as a mouse cord or interconnection cable, would place hundreds to thousands of volts on microelectronic devices out to ranges of hundreds of miles for low-yield devices. Based on our experience with many EMP tests, semiconductor junctions operate at a few volts, and will experience breakdown at a few volts over their operating point, allowing their power supply to destroy exposed junctions.

Furthermore, Liu ignores system upset as a vulnerability. Digital electronics can be upset by extraneous pulses of a few volts. For unmanned control systems present within the electric power grid, long-haul communication repeater stations, and gas pipelines, an electronic upset is tantamount to permanent damage. Temporary upset of electronics can also have catastrophic consequences for military operations. No electronics should be considered invulnerable to EMP unless hardened or tested to certify survivability. Some highly-critical unprotected electronics have been upset or damaged in simulated EMP tests, not at “15,000 volts/meter or higher,” but at threat levels far below 1,000 volts/meter.

Therefore, even for a low-yield 10-20 kiloton weapon, the EMP field should be considered dangerous for unprotected US systems. The EMP Commission 2004 Report warned against the US military’s increasing use of commercial-off-the-shelf-technology that is not protected against EMP: “Our increasing dependence on advanced electronics systems results in the potential for an increased EMP vulnerability of our technologically advanced forces, and if unaddressed makes EMP employment by an adversary an attractive asymmetric option.”[11] The North Korean missile test on April 29, which apparently detonated at an altitude of 72 kilometers, the optimum height-of-burst for EMP attack by a 10 KT warhead, would create a potentially damaging EMP field spanning an estimated 930 kilometer radius [kilometers radius = 110 (kilometers burst height to the 0.5 Power)], not Liu’s miscalculated 20 kilometer radius.

US Vulnerabilities to EMP

When assessing the potential vulnerability of US military forces and civilian critical infrastructures to EMP, it is necessary to be mindful of the complex interdependencies of these highly-networked systems, because EMP upset and damage of a very small fraction of the total system can cause total system failure.[12]

Real world failures of electric grids from various causes indicate that the Congressional EMP Commission, US Department of Defense, US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), US Department of Homeland Security, and US Defense Threat Reduction Agency are right that a nuclear EMP attack would have catastrophic consequences. Significant and highly-disruptive blackouts have been caused by single-point failures cascading into system-wide failures, originating from damage comprising far less than 1 percent of the total system.[13]

In contrast to blackouts caused by single-point or small-scale failures, a nuclear EMP attack would inflict massive widespread damage to the electric grid, causing millions of failure points. With few exceptions, the US national electric grid is unhardened and untested against nuclear EMP attack. In the event of a nuclear EMP attack on the United States, a widespread protracted blackout is inevitable. This common sense assessment is also supported by the nation’s best computer modeling.[14]

Thus, even if North Korea only has primitive, low-yield nuclear weapons, and if other states or terrorists acquire one or a few such weapons as well as the capability to detonate them at an altitude of 30 kilometers or higher over the United States. As, the EMP Commission warned over a decade ago in its 2004 Report, “the damage level could be sufficient to be catastrophic to the Nation, and our current vulnerability invites attack.”

[1] John S. Foster, Jr., Earl Gjelde, William R. Graham, Robert J. Hermann, Henry M. Kluepfel, Richard L. Lawson, Gordon K. Soper, Lowell L. Wood, Jr., and Joan B. Woodard, Report of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack, Volume. 1: Executive Report (Washington DC: EMP Commission, 2004), 2.

[2] Peter V. Pry, Statement Before the United States Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology, and Homeland Security Hearing on Terrorism and the EMP Threat to Homeland Security: “Foreign Views of Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack,” March 8, 2005, https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CHRG-109shrg21324/pdf/CHRG-109shrg21324.pdf.; Min-sek Kim and Jee-ho Yoo, “Military Source Warns of North’s EMP Bomb” JoonAng Daily, September 2, 2009; Daguang Li, “North Korean Electromagnetic Attack Threatens South Korea’s Information Warfare Capabilities” Tzu Chin, June 1, 2012, 44-45.

[3] Miroslav Gyűrösi, “The Soviet Fractional Orbital Bombardment System Program,” Air Power Australia, January 27, 2014, http://www.ausairpower.net/APA-Sov-FOBS-Program.html.

[4] Alex Lockie, “North Korea threatens ‘nuclear thunderbolts’ as US And China finally work together,” Business Insider, April 14, 2017, http://www.businessinsider.com/north-korea-us-china-nuclear-thunderbolt-cooperation-war-2017-4; “US General: North Korea ‘will’ develop nuclear capabilities to hit America,” Fox News, September 20, 2016, www.foxnews.com/world/2016/09/20/north-korea-says-successfully-ground-tests-new-rocket-engine.html.

[5] Jeffrey Lewis, “Would A North Korean Space Nuke Really Lay Waste to the U.S.?” New Scientist, www.newscientist.com/article/2129618; Lewis quoted in Cheyenne MacDonald, “A North Korean ‘Space Nuke’ Wouldn’t Lay Waste To America” Daily Mail, May 3, 2017, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-4471120/A-North-Korean-space-nuke-WOULDN-T-lay-waste-America.html.; Lewis interviewed by National Public Radio, “The North Korean Electromagnetic Pulse Threat, Or Lack Thereof,” NPR, April 27, 2017, www.npr.org/2017/04/27/525833275.; “NPR hosts laugh hysterically while America remains in the cross hairs of a North Korean nuclear warhead EMP apocalypse,” Natural News, May 1, 2017, www.naturalnews.com/2017-05-01-npr-laughs-hysterically-north-korean-emp-nuclear-attack.html.

[6] Lewis, “Would A North Korean Space Nuke Really Lay Waste to the U.S.?”

[7] High-altitude EMP (HEMP), the phenomenon under discussion, results from the detonation of a nuclear weapon at high-altitude, 30 kilometers or higher. All nuclear weapons, even a primitive Hiroshima-type A-bomb, can produce levels of HEMP damaging to modern electronics over large geographic regions.

[8] According to Electric Infrastructure Security Council, Report: USSR Nuclear EMP Upper Atmosphere Kazakhstan Test 184, (www.eiscouncil.org/APP_Data/upload/a4ce4b06-1a77-44d-83eb-842bb2a56fc6.pdf), citing research by Oak Ridge National Laboratory, a comparable EMP event over the U.S. today “would likely damage about 365 large transformers in the U.S. power grid, leaving about 40 percent of the U.S. population without electrical power for 4 to 10 years.”

[9] Foster, et al., Report of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack, Volume. 1: Executive Report, 4-8.

[10] Lewis, “Would A North Korean Space Nuke Really Lay Waste to the U.S.?”

[11] Ibid., 47.

[12] John S. Foster, Jr., Earl Gjelde, William R. Graham, Robert J. Hermann, Henry M. Kluepfel, Richard L. Lawson, Gordon K. Soper, Lowell L. Wood, Jr., and Joan B. Woodard, Report of the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Attack: Critical National Infrastructures (Washington, D.C.: EMP Commission, April 2008), http://www.empcommission.org/ docs/A2473-EMP_Commission-7MB.pdf.

[13]For example, the Great Northeast Blackout of 2003—that put 50 million people in the dark for a day, contributed to at least 11 deaths, and cost an estimated $6 billion—originated from a single failure point when a powerline contacted a tree branch, damaging less than 0.0000001 (0.00001%) of the total system. The New York City Blackout of 1977, which resulted in the arrest of 4,500 looters and injury of 550 police officers, was caused by a lightning strike on a substation that tripped two circuit breakers. India’s nationwide blackout of 2012—the largest blackout in history, effecting 670 million people, 9% of the world population—was caused by overload of a single high-voltage powerline.

[14]Modeling by the US FERC reportedly assesses that a terrorist attack that destroys just 9 of 2,000 EHV transformers–merely 0.0045 (0.45%) of all EHV transformers in the US national electric grid–would be catastrophic damage, causing a protracted nationwide blackout. Modeling by the Congressional EMP Commission assesses that a terrorist nuclear EMP attack, using a primitive 10-kiloton nuclear weapon, could destroy dozens of EHV transformers, thousands of SCADAS and electronic systems, causing catastrophic collapse and protracted blackout of the US Eastern Grid, putting at risk the lives of millions. For the best unclassified modeling assessment of likely damage to the US national electric grid from nuclear EMP attack see: US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Interagency Report, coordinated with the Department of Defense and Oak Ridge National Laboratory: Electromagnetic Pulse: Effects on the U.S. Power Grid, Executive Summary (2010); FERC Interagency Report by Edward Savage, James Gilbert and William Radasky, The Early-Time (E1) High-Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse (HEMP) and Its Impact on the U.S. Power Grid (Meta-R-320) Metatech Corporation (January 2010); FERC Interagency Report by James Gilbert, John Kappenman, William Radasky, and Edward Savage, The Late-Time (E3) High-Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse (HEMP) and Its Impact on the U.S. Power Grid (Meta-R-321) Metatech Corporation (January 2010).

Can Israel’s new missile shield help it avoid an EMP attack?

January 23, 2017

Can Israel’s new missile shield help it avoid an EMP attack? Center for Security PolicyJakub Gorski, January 23, 2017

Arrow-3 interceptors have exo-atmospheric strike capabilities allowing it to shoot down ICBMs from space. This would allow Arrow-3 to shoot down the Safir. So with Arrow-3 Israel should be able to safeguard itself from an ICBM based EMP attack.

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On January 18 Israel launched the Arrow-3 interceptor, which gives the Israeli Air Force the capability to shoot down missiles from space. Arrow-3 joins Arrow-2, David’s Sling, and Iron Dome as part of the country’s multi-layered anti-ballistic missile shield.

Israel’s new anti-ballistic missile shield is designed to protect the country from Hamas and Hezbollah’s mid-range missiles as well as Iran’s long-range missiles. This upgraded missile defense shield should also be able to protect Israel from an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack.

An EMP is a burst of electromagnetic energy that comes in three waves. The initial burst from an EMP wave is known as E1. It is faster than lighting and will damage control systems necessary for operations of things such as the electric grid. It essentially fries some components of small electric circuitry. The second wave (E2) is as fast and strong as lighting so it can be stopped with lighting protection, but many homes and businesses lack lightning protection. An E3 wave is the slowest, but also has the most energy and is capable of causing high-voltage transformers to melt. HV transformers are a necessary component of sub-stations and enable electricity to be carried across large areas.

An EMP strike can be achieved by detonating a nuclear weapon between 30 and 400 kilometers above the Earth’s surface, according to the Congressional Report on EMP attacks. This is high enough to avoid any physical or radiological damage to people and infrastructure, but low enough for an EMP burst that will shut down electronics in a radius of 600 to 2,000 km.

This is a realistic scenario based on intelligence community projections of Iran’s weapons capabilities. If Iran was to detonate a nuclear bomb in the atmosphere the resulting EMP would cover the whole of Israel. The resulting bursts would shut-down Israel’s vital infrastructure and render technology-dependent army largely inoperable leaving the country open to invasion.

There are thousands of Iranian fighters in Syria and Iraq, including members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, helping to prop-up their governments. A posture of provocative weakness for Israel under these conditions is definitely a driver of destabilization.

The U.S. cannot guarantee that Iran does not have a nuclear weapon. Right now Iran could place such a nuclear weapon on ballistic missiles, but those can be shot down using Israel’s Arrow-2. The system cannot intercept ICBMs, which leaves Israel to an EMP attack from an ICBM missile.

Iran has already demonstrated the ability to fire satellites into space with the Safir rocket. For the Safir to be used as an ICBM its second stage has to be heavily modified and have a reentry vehicle. If Safir were to be used for an EMP attack it would not require a reentry vehicle.

All that would be necessary is for the Safir to have its second stage modified and then fired towards US and Israel.

However, Arrow-3 interceptors have exo-atmospheric strike capabilities allowing it to shoot down ICBMs from space. This would allow Arrow-3 to shoot down the Safir. So with Arrow-3 Israel should be able to safeguard itself from an ICBM based EMP attack.

Security Expert: N. Korea Has Capability To Incapacitate US

April 26, 2016

Security Expert: N. Korea Has Capability To Incapacitate US, Western Journalism, Randy DeSoto, April 25, 2016

A defense expert warns that North Korea now has two satellites orbiting the United States, capable of engaging in an electromagnet pulse attack that would bring the nation to a standstill.

“Peter Vincent Pry told G2 Bulletin that the satellites can be commanded either to de-orbit and hit a target on the ground or explode at a high altitude to create an EMP effect that would knock out the unprotected U.S. national electrical grid system and all life-sustaining critical infrastructures that depend on it,” World Net Daily reported.

“The threat,” Pry said, “continues to race, hare-like, at an alarming rate, compared to the tortoise pace of our preparations.”

The U.S. intelligence community does not know what, if any, payload North Korean satellites KMS-3-2 and KMS 4 contain, according to Pry, but they orbit the country at approximately 300 miles above the earth and from that altitude a detonated low yield hydrogen bomb could incapacitate America.

Additionally, the Washington Examiner reported that the communist nation launched its first submarine based missile over the weekend. “This is something that started as a joke, but has turned into something very serious,” a Pentagon official told the news outlet.

While the launch from the submarine “Gorae” was successful, the flight of the KN-11 missile was failure, with it only traveling a distance of 20 miles. According to the Pentagon official, the rogue regime’s diesel-powered submarines, like the Gorae, pose little threat to the United State because they lack the range to reach the North American coast without being detected.

Nonetheless, the Pentagon is taking the launch seriously. “North Korea’s pursuit of ballistic missile nuclear weapons capabilities continues to pose a significant threat to the United States, to our allies in the region and remains obviously a significant concern, said Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook. “It is just the latest in a series of steps they’ve taken that we think have been counterproductive.”