Military

E-Bomb Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


by Dr Carlo Kopp

(c) 2003, Carlo Kopp

1.Who invented the E-bomb?

The technology to build various types of electromagnetic bombs has been around since the 1950s. Early work on flux generator power sources which could be used in such weapons was performed by the Los Alamos National Labs in the US - a byproduct of research into high speed fusing systems for implosion based nuclear weapons. High Power Microwave (HPM) devices have been the subject of research for decades, primarily a byproduct of radar technology. There is no single `inventor' of the E-bomb - it is the result of the confluence of several technologies developed over the last five decades.

2.What is an E-bomb?

E-bomb is short for `Electromagnetic Bomb'. The definition is very broad, but essentially covers all bombs or warheads designed to damage targets with a very intense pulse of electromagnetic energy. The principal distinction is the wavelength of the energy produced by the weapon. Low frequency E-bombs approximate the effects of a close lightning strike, microwave or HPM E-bombs flood the target with a directional field of intense microwave illumination. The the latter is not unlike a microwave oven, but it is extremely short in duration and involves much higher power levels.

3.What effects are produced by an E-bomb?

An E-bomb which is well matched to it intended target set can cause electrical damage over a footprint which might be as large as hundreds of metres in diameter. Victim devices may suffer secondary damage from their power supply. Victim devices may also be `wounded' and experience failure minutes, hours, days or weeks later, from electrical overstress. If the weapon does not generate eneough power to produce permanent damage, it can cause computers to crash, hang or reboot, thus yielding a temporary disruptive effect.

4.What kind of targets are most vulnerable?

High density digital electronics using CMOS and NMOS are most vulnerable since their transistor sizes are smallest and require the least energy to destroy. However, recent radio-frequency electronics especially microwave band hardware can also be vulnerable.

5.How does an E-bomb couple energy into its target?

Low frequency or broadband E-bombs will produce `spikes' or electrical surges in electrical grid wiring and telephone or communications wiring. These propagate until they encounter an attached piece of equipment like a computer, which is exposed to an electrical overload and damaged. Microwave or HPM E-bombs produce electrical standing waves in electrical grid wiring and telephone or communications wiring - the microwave energy then couples into the target device via the cable connector and may cause internal damage. This is termed `backdoor coupling'. Another way in which microwave weapons can effect `backdoor coupling' is via cooling and ventilation grilles, which might act as a `slot antenna' permitting energy to penetrate into an otherwise shielded case. Radio frequency equipment can also be damaged via `frontdoor coupling' effects where the microwave energy penetrates through the victim equipment's antenna.

6.How large is the damage footprint of an E-bomb?

This depends on both the design of the E-bomb and the `hardness' of its target. There are no simple answers to this question, and the magnitude of the footprint against any class of equipment can only be determined by comprehensive testing of an existing weapon.

7.What collateral damage might be produced by an E-bomb?

That depends on the design of the bomb. A bomb which is powered by an explosive device, like a flux generator, might produce some blast and shrapnel/spalling effects consistent with a high velocity explosive charge of several kilograms of weight (even a `small' GBU-12 250 kg laser guided bomb for comparison carries 87 kg of explosive filler which is roughly ten or more times the explosive effect of an E-bomb of similar size). However, a well designed spall absorbing jacket placed around the flux generator in the E-bomb could inhibit much of the mechanical collateral damage produced by the E-bomb. Exposure to microwave radiation from HPM E-bombs may be hazardous at ranges of several metres, but it is unlikely to produce any tissue damage at distances of hundreds of metres or kilometres. Consumer electronics and computers, medical electronics and other non-military electronic hardware within the footprint of the weapon is likely to be electrically destroyed or damaged. The E-bomb therefore qualifies as a `non-lethal weapon' under most conventions.

8.How can E-bombs be deployed?

Guided and unguided aerial bombs, cruise missiles, glide bombs, artillery shells and guided or unguided ballistic missiles could be used to deliver an E-bomb warhead. The larger the delivery weapon, the larger the volume and power rating of the E-bomb carried.

9.Which military forces maintain inventories of E-bombs?

No government has formally disclosed the ownership of an inventory of E-bombs. Leaks to `Aviation Week & Space Technology' suggest that the US Air Force and Royal Air Force have experimented with microwave E-bombs, however neither service has made any public disclosures in briefings. In principle, any nation with a 1950s technology base capable of designing and building nuclear weapons and radars will have the capability to design and build an E-bomb.

10.What is Carlo Kopp's contribution to the E-bomb?

Dr Carlo Kopp wrote several strategy papers during the early and mid 1990s which described the strategic importance of the E-bomb, its possible military effects, applications and side effects, and outlined some of the available design strategies for these weapons. The first of these papers was published by the Royal Australian Air Force in 1993, the largest and most important paper was published by the US Air Force in 1995:

http://www.airpower.maxwell.af.mil/airchronicles/kopp/apjemp.html (Oct, 1996).

Subsequent papers and articles dealt with design techniques and strategies for protecting computer equipment from E-bomb attacks:

http://www.csse.monash.edu.au/~carlo/archive/MILITARY/EBOMB/harden.pdf (previously on http://www.infowar.com/CLASS_3/harden.html-ssi (March, 1997)).

Dr Carlo Kopp has not been involved in the development of any operational E-bomb designs and has not published any new work in the area since 1997.



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