Air Force Tests Electronics-Frying Missile

Imagine a weapon sailing over an enemy city or military target and effectively paralyzing all electronics in its wake while causing almost no physical damage? Sci-fi writers and military planners have dreamed of such things for years. The problem is, the electromagnetic pulse often associated with cooking electronic systems is usually generated by the detonation of a nuclear warhead — not exactly a low-collateral damage tool.

It’s no secret that the military has been working on weapons that can knock out enemy electronics without causing physical damage for a looong time. Now the Air Force is one step closer to making such devices a reality. Earlier this year the Air Force successfully test fired the Counter-electronics High-powered Microwave Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP) for the first time.

CHAMP is basically a missile containing a microwave emitter that’s powerful enough to scramble electronic systems that it is aimed at. The ultimate goal of the program is to test the feasibility of installing the system — which would fire off microwave beams of various intensity at specific targets — on a larger vehicle. Or, as CHAMP-maker (ha!) Boeing dramatically says, this test “sets the stage for a new breed of nonlethal but highly effective weapon systems.”

Below is the announcement Boeing just released on the successful missile launch:

The Boeing Company and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory Counter-electronics High-powered Microwave Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP) today announced that they successfully completed the missile’s first flight test earlier this year at the Utah Test and Training Range at Hill Air Force Base.

CHAMP is a nonlethal alternative to kinetic weapons that neutralizes electronic targets. It would allow the military to focus on these targets while minimizing or eliminating collateral damage.

The CHAMP missile pointed at a set of simulated targets, confirming that the missile could be controlled and timed while using a High-powered Microwave (HPM) system against multiple targets and locations. The software used was identical to the software required for a vehicle with a fully integrated HPM system on board.

“It was as close to the real thing as we could get for this test,” said Keith Coleman, CHAMP program manager for Boeing Phantom Works. “This demonstration, which brings together the Air Force Research Laboratory’s directed energy technology and Boeing’s missile design, sets the stage for a new breed of nonlethal but highly effective weapon systems.”

The three-year, $38 million joint capability technology demonstration program includes ground and flight demonstrations that focus on technology integration risk reduction and military utility. More tests are scheduled for later this year.

Boeing received the contract in April 2009. As the prime contractor, Boeing provides the airborne platform and serves as the system integrator. Albuquerque, N.M.-based Ktech Corp. — the primary subcontractor — supplies the HPM source. Sandia National Laboratories provides the pulse power system under a separate contract with the Air Force Research Laboratory.

While CHAMP and other weapons like it sound pretty cool, I’ve got to say, they sound like they can replicate a lot of the key tennets of high-end cyber warfare — disrupting and disabling enemy electronics with little to no kinetic damage.

Here’s the Air Force’s RfP for CHAMP technology:

Champ Solicitation v8 4 Dec 2008 Published

22 Comments on "Air Force Tests Electronics-Frying Missile"

  1. Interesting concept. I wonder how the conops for this works. Would they be timed to arrive just before a B2 bombing mission to improve the success of that mission? I'm worried it's a $1mill solution to disable a $50,000 truck….

  2. Can someone explain to me why the system is being built as a one time use missile and not a reusable vehicle like a UAV or hell, even a manned aircraft? Seems kinda… expensive to do it this way

  3. Don't accidentally switch it on in the hanger.

  4. I am curious to see how it maintains its effectiveness while loitering. How does it direct the waves? Too bad we don't get a picture of the missile.

  5. Sounds good, may be cheap enough to survive budget cuts.

  6. WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE SUPPORTING THIS?

  7. What's amazing is how it manages not to… cook itself… before sizzling up the enemy's systems. Too bad it isn't recoverable. One would assume a mini warhead to perform a self-destruct sequence at the end.

  8. Nonlethal missiles? Finally something that we can use in retaliatory strikes with some liberty without being accused of be baby killers. the only collateral damage I can imagine is people with artificial pacemakers.

  9. All good, until the enemy makes the same thing.

  10. The missile is like a land mower sent in to make passage for a manned vehicle following it so the manned vehicle can penetrate deep into enemy territory.
    It's just another system to enhance potency of stealth technology since stealth is not as it use to be.
    The reason it is placed on a missile is because it'll be prime target for any missiles homing in on radar emissions since microwave is radar waves.

  11. Letsallbefriends | September 23, 2011 at 3:19 am |

    How long does it take to do a lasagne? Angelina must know.

  12. Reminds me on C&C Generals, similar weapon named microwave tank.

  13. It scrambles electronic systems that it's aimed at, but do these remain scrambled or are they "fried" only in the direct presence of the weapon. Definitely could be a huge step in non-lethal warfare.

  14. Big Deal! I heard Raytheon is working on a missile that not only fries the electronics in the AA Radar – It sterilizes the operators!

  15. With Iran deploying naval forces into the Atlantic with long range missile capabilities that may involve delivering EMPs over the US, get this technology to the Navy FAST.

  16. blackavenger45 | September 24, 2011 at 5:32 pm |

    Possibly make this gadget as a detachable pod that can be fitted on a cruise missle or a rocket or a UAV. No matter, I will have to be destroyed after use if it isnt on a UAV so it can be recovered. Next up a really big version that will fit in a 747 or a 380 so we can just fly around them and hose thier electronics for hours on end. The future knows no bounds.

  17. um, how come they don't have that already, those EM missiles? it would be a great addition to the harpoons for example in a ship-to-ship fight… (in the cold war, obviously)

  18. There will be a run on tin foil…..mark my words :)

  19. System uses "waveguides" to direct the RF at a specific target. The RF develops Standing Waves of energy that convert directly to voltage. This happens for any piece of metal, effect varies depending on size and shape. Would be lethal in a hanger situation if you stepped in front of the beam. A waveguide is a hollow antenna that allows RF energy to travel down it's length with low losses. Theory has been around awhile, developing a klystron that developed that level of power and survive for long (high power RF tubes are generally water cooled). It's an interesting approach to defeating back scatter radar systems.

  20. I like this weapon. You can put your enemy back into the stone age with out risking military lives. Give it a range of a balistic missle or Tomahawk cruise missle and your good to go. Flood the air with them to allow for some being shot down.
    Most often the fight is not with the people. It is often the problem of the countries leaders not getting along so they send their people to fight and kill each other while they sit back and live life and sip their beverage and watch it all on some TV screen in a secret room bellow their palace.
    At least with these weapons the people don't get killed, but the problem after that is starvation. So hopefully they just use it over military targets.
    Better yet. Get the leaders together that don't like each other and let them have a "Cage Match" instead of sending the people to fight for them.

  21. This will not work.
    Faraday cage.. DUH!
    Not to mention a trivial to manufacturer metamaterial that will reverse the pulse to the sender.

  22. Globalkooler | December 4, 2012 at 4:19 pm |

    Give this technology to Isreal and they can deal with Iran's Nuke Program & Missle Program and not kill a single person…………..

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