Home » Weapons » Nukes » North Korea builds EMP munition

North Korea builds EMP munition

by Mike Hoffman on July 20, 2012

North Korea is developing an electromagnetic pulse munition to jam South Korean and U.S. military electronics, according to a Communist Party-controlled journal citing GPS disruptions observed by South Korean aircraft flying near the demilitarized zone separating South and North Korea.

An EMP munition can jam electronic-based weapon systems ranging from fighter jets to hand held GPS units carried by soldiers. An EMP blast occurs when a nuclear weapon is detonated and spews electromagnetic radiation frying electronic systems in the area.

Military Analyst Li Daguang wrote the article for the monthly Bauhinia journal saying the North Korean are specifically targeting the South Korean’s military equipment.

“North Korea has always planned to develop small-scale nuclear warheads. On this foundation, they could develop electromagnetic pulse bombs in order to paralyze the weapons systems of the South Korean military — most of which involve electronic equipment — when necessary,” Daguang wrote.

Militaries can create an EMP blast by detonating a nuclear warhead in the Earth’s atmosphere. However, this is not the only method to cause an electronic blackout. North Korea has completed two nuclear tests. The Communist government has failed to produce a ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead with any sort of accuracy.

Daguang suggests the North Koreans could use the EMP blast to knock out power in South Korea ahead of an invasion of North Korea’s special forces.

“Once North Korea achieves the actual war deployment of EMP weapons, the power of its special forces would doubtlessly be redoubled,” Daguang writes.

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{ 72 comments… read them below or add one }

Pilgrimman July 20, 2012 at 11:25 am

HAHAHAA Oh GOD my sides!

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Mark July 20, 2012 at 11:37 am

Time for miniaturized precision gyroscopes implemented into our smart phones so the jamming with do no good.

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Thunder350 July 20, 2012 at 7:21 pm

How does preventive measures in smart phones have anything to do with a EMP bomb disabling anything with a circuit board in it prior to a invasion?

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DGR July 20, 2012 at 11:37 am

What missile will they use to launch it, the fake ones or the ones that fall apart?

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Russell July 20, 2012 at 2:22 pm

Who said anything about a missile? Why not on a tower or a ballon? It does not have to strike something to operate. Think of the EMP device in Ocean's Eleven. It wasnt a missile.

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EW3 July 20, 2012 at 3:27 pm

EMP is a "line of sight" weapon.
To effect a reasonable area the weapon has to be at high altitude.

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blight_ July 20, 2012 at 4:46 pm

They could use it in mortar shells or rockets on Seoul, or put it into a Scud, if they still have working ones. But to be useful against say, Pusan…

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Russell July 20, 2012 at 6:03 pm

Yeah a large chunk of the frontier is vulnerable to 3 hills. Line of sight. Even 4 cities can be EMP'd from 3 hills, 2 land forces bases, 3 air bases, 1 naval base. All from the top of 3 hills with line of sight to them.

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Russell July 20, 2012 at 6:07 pm

Also it can be at sea level…an emp doesnt have to be at high altitude….you are thinking of the nuclear version that they tested in the 60s. Those are high altitude and had to be fro maximum effect In this case everything they want to hit is not scattered across a continent. It is 100miles wide at it's widest and Seoul is less than 50 miles from the border. All within easy reach of an emp set off from a hill overlooking the border.

Bob July 23, 2012 at 4:16 pm

They will use the Chinese missiles that Bill Clinton gave them the technology to launch while he was under strict orders to keep that technology under wraps but gave it to them anyway.

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Tim July 20, 2012 at 11:44 am

Well… It sounds like someone who is already in a jam trying to get others jammed but didn't realize how he got himself jammed in the first place…

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Dave Barnes July 20, 2012 at 12:20 pm

An EMP weapon is a great idea for the NORKs.
The blast would surely disable most of South Korea and its allies in the theatre.
The NORK Army would have a huge advantage as their equipment is so old that it would a lot less impacted.

Just one minor problem. You can't do an EMP without setting off a nuke. Oops. How would the USA, Russia and China react to a nuke going off?

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Nicky July 20, 2012 at 12:33 pm

That will piss off China faster than Russia and USA being pissed off. Once China finds out about that, They'll take care of it before Russia and USA dose.

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Prodozul July 20, 2012 at 1:46 pm

Three boots in one ass…

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Russell July 20, 2012 at 2:23 pm

Yeah who said you need a nuke? Read a little science.

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Vaporhead July 23, 2012 at 7:25 am

No doubt. Apparently nobody has seen '24' with Jack Bauer. They set a non nuke EMP off in the middle of downtown L.A. and knocked out everything.

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blight_ July 23, 2012 at 8:17 am

To hell with the EMP, the nuke in downtown LA would kill a fair number of people (though miraculously, CTU was unaffected).

Actually, the nuke went off in Valencia, which is probably what saved the metro area from the blast wave. It probably stayed in the valley…hey, wasn't Nagasaki also surrounded by mountains?

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steve July 23, 2012 at 10:55 am

Have you forgotten that North Korea, Russia, and China are coupled as one…. These three countries are don g nothing, but causing an unbalanced friction throughout their sphere of influences??? Communism and Socialism are one of the same, depending on whee it is to blend to other governments???? Never underestimate your enemy, and never underestimate the Communist/Socialists…… which America, and Americans, have doe so often….

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yogiberra111 July 20, 2012 at 12:21 pm

I'll bet this makes Kim Il Sung pulse in his grave.

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Roy Smith July 20, 2012 at 1:06 pm

I really wonder how many of North Korea’s weapons & especially missiles are really “made in China?” China has already let South Korea that they will NEVER allow a Korea reunification. China said that if they have to,they’ll move troops into North Korea to stabilize the country if things really went south & s**t hit the fan. China will never allow what happened to the former Warsaw Pact eastern bloc nations to happen with North Korea. Any EMP weapons that North Korea will no doubt have come from China. China is the hand in the North Korean sock puppet.

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Prodozul July 20, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Wasn't there a document on wikileaks about a meeting between S.Korea and China talking about reunification under S.Korea?

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kim July 20, 2012 at 2:30 pm

Reunification on the Korean Peninsula is nothing like the German reunification, mainly because South Korea has absolutely no interest in shouldering the costs of such an arrangement. While East Germany certainly was poorer than West Germany when the wall came down, the difference between the two Koreas is much larger.

Should North Korea decide to invade South Korea (presumably to unify the two countries but under communist rule), it would have to do so against the wishes of China. China has no interest in a Korea even more difficult to deal with than it already has.

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derpy July 22, 2012 at 5:49 am

Citation for "China has already let South Korea that they will NEVER allow a Korea reunification …"

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F35 July 20, 2012 at 2:06 pm

Who wrote this article? Defensetech is usually really knowledgeable but the writer of this article seems to be confusing an EMP weapon and GPS jamming. These are two completely different things. North Korea has been jamming GPS signals for years and this has NOTHING to do with building an EMP weapon. An EMP weapon does not "jam" anything, it fries and burns up electronics in a single burst, destroying them permaently. I'm shocked to see this crappy misinformation article copy pasted from a major new site on Defensetech.

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Russell July 20, 2012 at 2:26 pm

An EMP with sure as hell knock out all devices that use GPS.

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Russell July 20, 2012 at 2:29 pm

Oh and the electromagnetic disturbance caused by an EMP is similar to the "jamming" of multiple frequencies by an unfriendly military. The radio feed from the GPs satellites can be disrupted if not knocked out so technically yes GPS can be "jammed".

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Tom July 20, 2012 at 2:36 pm

Yes you are right. The article is badly written and would seem to suggest that North Korea is using nuclear blasts to disrupt the GPS of nearby aircraft! There are two entirely different issues here that merit separate articles.

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Over watch July 20, 2012 at 2:40 pm

+1!!!

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mpower6428 July 20, 2012 at 7:57 pm

correct me if im wrong but… arnt western military forces still hardening electronic systems of all types against just this kind of threat…? everything from spark plugs to labtops and radio's. the odd gps and unauthorized i phone aside, they've been doing that since the early 1960's.

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blight_ July 20, 2012 at 8:46 pm

Spark plugs aren't affected by EMP. Transistors, especially modern, highly miniaturized ones are.

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Axehole July 21, 2012 at 12:42 pm

An EMP uses a giant swath of the spectrum and without a doubt will jam/disrupt a GPS signal; especially if they are using redundant ground based GPS pseudolites (pseudo-satellite) towers. I don't know if SK has these installations or not, but the fact remains these are vulnerable to jamming via that method, permanent damage or temporarily is dependent on the scenario.

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Riceball July 20, 2012 at 3:12 pm

I could mistaken here but I was always under the impression that most, if not all, military electronics are hardened against EMPs; is this true or just an urban legend?

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blight_ July 20, 2012 at 4:47 pm

Generally true, but the move to OTS will introduce weaker parts into the supply train. And even then, it's a question of how much hardening will be sufficient against the EMP you face. Against the EMP from a nuke, it would be hard to harden without paying out the nose. But something catalyzed with conventional explosives might be survivable with electronics scrammed off and reactivated afterwards.

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joe July 23, 2012 at 2:49 am

It's true, but it's like calling an MRAP 'bomb-proof' – there is a limit to what any chip can tolerate, and the more miniaturised the item (i.e. portable) the sooner you hit that limit.

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blight_ July 23, 2012 at 8:20 am

Also true. EMP's effects are from thermal expansion, which affects tiny transistors more than older generation, larger ones.

Perhaps self-healing electronics, using something like FPGAs to reform gates on the fly would be the way out, but FPGA's would require an external interface to reprogram them, and they are not optimized, making them less efficient.

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leeretArmy July 20, 2012 at 3:44 pm

You don't need a nuke to create an EMP device popular science discribed a device several years ago that with the exception of the conventional explosives could be made from off the shelf parts from hardware stores. Equipment that is shielded is not that protected up the joules and you can still fry protected equipment. EMP can be the poor mans equalizer.

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blight_ July 20, 2012 at 4:45 pm

Correct, as far as other means beyond nuclear explosions to generate EMPs. Then there's using graphite on power generation systems, but that's another story.

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dubweiser101 July 20, 2012 at 4:18 pm

This new weapon will be just as spectacular as North Korea's last rocket launch was.

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Joe November 18, 2012 at 4:52 am

I saw the show last night at the Agganis in Boston. We paid a decent amuont and had really good seats but the lights were BLINDING! Now that i’m reading all of these comments i am really aggravated that they did not do anything to fix this yet! You can’t even watch the stage because the lights are blinding, i had to watch the tv and the stage was so close! The music and pre-recorded videos were WAY TOO LOUD as well, i can agree with that. I was actually really disappointed this year there was a girl dancing (no clue who she was, she was amazing) but still, no one was ever introduced. I liked how they would introduce who was coming on stage, etc. but they rushed it this year people were coming on stage before the others were even off and i didnt like that. Honestly i thought last years show and the year prior were much better .

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mpower6428 July 20, 2012 at 4:27 pm

wouldnt a hacking offensive be easier and cheaper…?

except that you can count on one hand the number of labtops in NK these days.

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STemplar July 20, 2012 at 5:21 pm

They need to build hot dog stands and ice cream parlors not EMP weapons. The nork leadership should be hung for the state it allows its people to live in.

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blight_ July 20, 2012 at 5:45 pm

More like tractors and farming equipment to boost agricultural productivity, and once agricultural productivity is enough to put you beyond survival farming industry can develop too. The present model is lopsided, in that they assume industry first will modernize the country. Can't modernize when you need to feed the masses.

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Tad July 20, 2012 at 5:49 pm

Now that the cold war is over, and the GWOT in turn is over, we really need an enemy to be afraid of. The Iranians and Syrians just aren't panning out. I'd say EMPs in NK will do nicely. Now please, for all our sakes, donate more money in taxes to help combat this terrifying threat.

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Russell July 20, 2012 at 6:15 pm

Donating implies a choice. Taxes are compulsory so really we have no choice. Pay…or else.

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john moore July 20, 2012 at 6:41 pm

And the UN will continue to plead for food for NK and the West will quietly agree.

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Max July 21, 2012 at 6:56 am

Whatever is that……, South Korea always prepare for whatever need arises. Technologies keep changing, so experts that south korea have something better than north. We only hear from from the north. what about the south.

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Guest July 21, 2012 at 7:12 am

Lots of US conventional EMP test history is on the web. Just GOOGLE:

Enter into Google: EMPRESS EMP

No need to reinvent and speculate.

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Tiger July 21, 2012 at 11:35 am

Too bad they can not use their brain power to invent a way to feed the starving people of North Korea. You can not eat a EMP weapon…..

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Musson July 21, 2012 at 2:27 pm

Meanwhile the US is working on grenade sized EMP weapons to disable vehicles and command centers.

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blight_ July 23, 2012 at 8:25 am

I'm surprised they didn't issue microwave guns to forces in Iraq, to immobilize vehicles.

Then again, the evil terrorists would just use carburetor-equipped vehicles without a powertrain control module…which limits them to a small handful of older and older vehicles.

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Ems July 22, 2012 at 3:27 am

this does not sounds credible, they really need to master nuclear weapons before they can build a low-yield nuke with substantial EMP effects..otherwise it's just a nuke…the effects of which would have way more consequences (ie. rendering an area radioactive and inhabitable by anyone) than EMP pulse itself.

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Jeff July 23, 2012 at 6:07 am

While an EMP is a consequence of a nuclear weapon, generating an EMP blast does not require a nuclear weapon. An EMP blast can be generated simply by taking a charged capacitor of sufficient voltage and exploding it at a quick enough rate.

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blight_ July 23, 2012 at 8:42 am

A Soviet perspective on EMP, derived from testing nuclear-warhead tipped ABM's.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_K_Project

"The worst effects of a Russian high altitude test occurred on 22 October 1962 (during the Cuban missile crisis), in Operation K when a 300 kiloton missile-warhead detonated west of Dzhezkazgan (also called Zhezqazghan) at an altitude of 290 km (180 mi). The Soviet scientists instrumented a 570-kilometer (350 mi) section of telephone line in the area affected by the detonation in order to measure electromagnetic pulse effects.[2]
The EMP fused all of the 570-kilometer monitored overhead telephone line with measured currents of 1500 to 3400 amperes during the 22 October 1962 test.[3] The monitored telephone line was divided into sub-lines of 40 to 80 kilometers (about 25 to 50 miles) in length, separated by repeaters. Each sub-line was protected by fuses and by gas-filled overvoltage protectors. The EMP from the 22 October (K-3) nuclear test caused all of the fuses to blow and all of the overvoltage protectors to fire in all of the sub-lines of the 570 km telephone line.[2] The EMP from the same test started a fire that burned down the Karaganda power plant, and shut down 1,000 km (620 mi) of shallow-buried power cables between Astana (then called Aqmola) and Almaty.[3]"

[3] is
http://nuclearweaponarchive.org/News/Loborev.txt

[2] is
http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpl/freeabs_all.jsp?re

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tribulationtime July 23, 2012 at 9:12 am

Three lines:
1 SK $ US is more High-Tech (NK is not tech at all) so in theory bigger damage will be.
2 Any Any Any nuclear explosion produce EMP, details aside is not necesary a dedicated atomic bomb.
3 2 is knowed from the begining of nuclear race so any major weapon system (ships, planes, tanks) have theirs critical sub-systems protected. Big nuclear sovietic anti-ship missiles are designed to blow a full-carrier group with nuclear warhead, Someone belive that a EMP (from a regular nuke) 20km away can turn off warships?.

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Slonishku July 23, 2012 at 11:38 am

So… writing in English isn't your strong suit then.

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Tribulationtime July 24, 2012 at 4:45 am

No, farsi its a lot diferent of inglish; and iranians have problems in do it. by the way Do you agree with the "right now" protected systems from EMP? because I´m strarting to doub than planes, tanks, etc are protected to full-scale EMP. it easy in theory to put electronics inside a Faraday cage.

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Jeff M July 23, 2012 at 12:42 pm

They've already got a nuke… wtf?

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blight_ July 23, 2012 at 12:49 pm

Yes. It fizzled. Though it means they know how to assemble a nuclear weapon, which is still a point of concern for all nations.

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jms July 23, 2012 at 9:12 pm

Good for them…yeah….???? So…ah… Do the DPRoK invaders plan to escape from on enter into the fallout?

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Matt July 26, 2012 at 8:13 pm

North Korean's with EMPs? Oh no, Kim-Jong Un finally got a copy of Homefront

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Frank July 27, 2012 at 1:18 pm

This article is a real fruit salad. EMP has nothing to do with GPS jamming. An EMP event is going to get the world's attention in all zip codes, not just in the Pacific Rim.

It is not out of the realm of possibility to do a ground burst, so the LV issue and the comments that relate to that may or may not be key.

Not all military equipment is hardened. There are of course systems that are, but we have lots of COTs/MOTs hardware, software and networks that will never by EMP protected.

A fleet at sea may be far more concerned with nuclear fall out patterns than EMP. (this was evidenced during the Japanese Earthquake), and on GPS jamming or denial which can be attained locally or regionally without international collateral political damage….

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AMMO461 August 2, 2012 at 8:15 pm

That's a "surprise…." Too bad our politicians are so fixed on gutting funds for new technology. Our war fighters deserve better. We can be assured the communists have not forgotten their mission.

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carlosg December 11, 2012 at 11:09 pm

Whoops – looks like the NK's have finally got their acts together on the missile part. All they have to do now is stick a couple of nukes on top of their UNHA-3 missile and detonate it over Central US – sending the country back to the stone age (assuming the US is unable to intercept the missile of course)!

But in all seriousness, at the end of the day this is all about getting food aid. The N Korea regime are building these weapons in order to terrify and extort the overly paranoid West into taking on the burden of feeding their population. This then allows the N Korean regime to spend all their resources ithapana@tisco.co.thnto building even more terrifying weapon to blackmail the West in the future if and when the EMP weapon becomes obsolete. It's a good little scheme they have going… and from the looks of it this vicious cycle will likely continue for a long, long time.

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Bryce September 7, 2013 at 11:00 am
Tom July 20, 2012 at 1:22 pm

Good point. Although the range of such devices will be considerably smaller I would imagine South Korea will have the bulk of its land based military equipment on or very close to the border. Guess it depends on the effective range of such a weapon – any guesses? Also wonder if any actual use of a non nuclear emp would be seen as a direct assault by North Korea?

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EW3 July 22, 2012 at 9:35 pm

OK Admin, what word in my reply got it deleted ?

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blight_ July 23, 2012 at 8:18 am

An EMP mortar round into a power plant or a high-voltage substation.

It's all about accurate application of effects into high-value targets, no?

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blight_ July 23, 2012 at 8:23 am

Assessing the results of Starfish Prime, it took a 1.4 Mton nuke to do it, and while systems were shut down in Hawaii the entire grid did not go down. Then again, this was back when electronics were less vulnerable to EMP. It will definitely have serious effects on satellites, as evidenced by the loss of LEO satellites after the test.

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Rodney July 23, 2012 at 9:38 am

Your internet and phones don't work sometimes because of the radio frequencies used by your phones and wireless router which can be interfered with if they are too close to an ACTIVE microwave, I found that having a wireless extension phone sitting next to my wireless router messed with my call reliability so it is definately a frequency issue. But to be an effective EMP type weapon, a microwave would have to stay on and be very targeted I would think while an EMP weapon does permanent damage at the moment of the blast.

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blight_ July 23, 2012 at 9:59 am

Perhaps for the same reasons other militaries would use EMP: reduces physical damage from smoking ruin to inoperable structure that could be repaired by South Korean techs at North Korean gunpoint.

Didn't the US military use graphite or somesuch against power stations in GW1 and GW2?

Edit: BLU-114? Though it appears to only work against uninsulated power lines, and only delayed the Serbs for 24 hours. Then again, these are the Serbs who eventually took out a F-117.

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coolhand77 July 23, 2012 at 1:50 pm

The other factor is, how many other systems on the grid will be effected by the power surge from the EMP before [if] the breakers trip? How many people lose electronics all the time when a line spikes from a lightning strike? An EMP induced surge could be more catastrophic…all depends on the amount of energy pulsed through the line…

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blight_ July 23, 2012 at 3:32 pm

The START treaties were meant to bring down the number of strategic weapons. The original intent to completely disarm was by Ronnie Raygun, American mega-patriot. He even eliminated all IRBMs. Sounds like something Obama would do….!

That said, New START or whatever they're calling the present version of the treaty is focused more on delivery systems than warheads. The warhead numbers are dropping more slowly than those of their delivery systems. And the US and Russia will retain the largest global stockpile of nukes in the world, as will the other members of the nuclear club. Nobody is unilaterally disarming nukes…yet.

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