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Agence France Presse March 14, 2003

Sci-fi E-bomb could change Iraq war

The electromagnetic bomb -- which aims to destroy property rather than kill people -- is one of the most secret US research projects but it could make its debut in Iraq.

The bomb, which uses electromagnetic waves to knock out communications systems, is part of a panoply of arms that could be unleashed by the US Defense Department to knock out Saddam Hussein's command centres. It is still not known if it will be used though.

The United States and Britain have both been developing E-bombs which do not use the radiation that kills humans.

General Tommy Franks, the head of the Central Command who would lead an invasion of Iraq, has only vaguely acknowledged the existence of such weapons.

"That is a non-lethal sort of weapon. It may be that under certain circumstances one would see that," Franks told a news conference this month.

The bomb gives off a lightning bolt of microwave energy that can fry computer and telephone networks, cutting off leadership bunkers that are a key target in any modern war.

In the case of Iraq, the aim could be to stop leaders unleashing stocks of hidden chemical and biological arms.

John Pike, a research director for GlobalSecurity.org consultants, said that if the bomb was ready it would be valuable for knocking out Saddam's communications with his troops.

The E-bomb is just one of a new generation of Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) and High Powered Microwave (HMP) Weapons that can be put on cruise missiles.

Microwave weapons do not kill people but can burn skin.

Some experts fear that cheaper versions EMP and HMP arms could fall into the hands of terrorists, putting international communications at threat.

The US military used a graphite weapon that can cause electrical short circuits in the 1991 Gulf War and 1999 Kosovo War. The BLU-114B bomb uses carbon strands to paralyse electrical networks and radio and television stations.


Copyright 2003, Agence France Presse