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High Powered Microwave Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP)

The Counter-electronics High Power Microwave Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP) is an unmanned system capable of flying into a contested area and disabling an adversarys electronic systems. It employs a high power radio frequency technology, which was developed over the past two decades in the Air Force Research Laboratory and tested through a Joint Capability Technology Demonstration(JCTD) program.

Combatant commanders expressed the need for military options on the battlefield that will keep troops far from enemy fire while achieving the desired effect of containment and control of the area. One possible method employs directed energy against the variety of electronic systems that our enemies use in military and asymmetrical warfare applications. The Air Force Research Laboratory, Directed Energy Directorate's High Power Microwave Division, is developing a multi-shot and multi-target aerial, high-power microwave (HPM) demonstration system to Deny, Disrupt, Degrade, and Destroy an adversary's electronic systems.

CHAMP offers a proven capability that allows the Air Force to defeat electronic systems in an enemy structure without employing kinetic weapons like bullets or explosives. As such, CHAMP completely avoids damage to infrastructure and danger to life. The CHAMP system is highly adaptable and can be deployed from a variety of platforms, depending on mission needs.

Using the results from the highly successful Counter-Electronics High Power Microwave Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP) Joint Capabilities Technology Demonstration, there is research investigating size, weight and power updates for a more effective, more capable weapon delivering a broader spectrum of microwave effects on a smaller platform. In addition, the Air Force is refurbishing the two remaining CHAMP platforms and investigating options for them to be used by the warfighter to address the vehicle survivability, environment suitability, range, reliability, and maintainability issues highlighted by the Operational Utility Assessment.

Using systems such as the Active Denial System and the Counter-electronics High Powered Microwave Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP), American forces are potentially able to eliminate threats from crowds, or harmful electronics, while saving civilian lives.

The CHAMP system uses high-peak power microwaves. The peak power lasts for less than half the time it takes to blink, but can disable or destroy electronic circuitry in that short time. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and Occupational Safety and Health Administration have deemed microwaves of low-average power to be non-harmful to people. The difference between what a microwave oven generates high average power and low-average power counter-electronics microwaves is the time factor. For a microwave oven, the high-average power over time has a greater effect on human tissue and can cause damage. A low average-power wave will not be sensed by human tissue, there is insufficient time.

Possible avenues for a CHAMP acquisition strategy are being considered, though no clear path has been provided. In the meantime, AFRL is continuing its efforts to hone the CHAMP capability, working towards improving the size, weight, and power. Though there are no planned demos of HPM systems in the near future, AFRL is deeply engaged in advancing the technology to enable the next generation of HPM-based weapon systems.




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