Reports of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack in the United States are reasonable, but we should not begin launching “buy defense” protests just yet.
Since 1990, we have been battling the EMP threat from several sources. Hundreds of pieces of legislation have been introduced in Congress to mitigate this threat, often supported by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). Many of these Bills have been signed into law. None of these Bills have yet to answer one fundamental question: What is EMP?
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We know EMP is a terrestrial emissions weapon that can explode when underground on enemy terrain. It emits an ionizing (high-energy) X-ray pulse at a high speed (a 2cm a second pulse) that explodes within an electron-laden envelope of ionized atoms.
The burst of energy packs a powerful punch over far distances. The EMP events induce a disruptive burst of electrical discharges and pulses that can cut off electrical power, disabling global communications systems, computer data networks, air traffic control systems, financial and industrial controls, among many other functions.
The EMP threat is virtually unstoppable by human countermeasures, as it can cripple military, nuclear and communications systems across the globe. We have been fighting this threat since the Cold War. Until the NAS has published an authoritative article on the nature of EMP and its impact, there are some risks of reducing our security posture by underfunding the technical and technological efforts needed to identify and mitigate its threat.
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• Physics: Are we living in the “collapsing cloud” of electromagnetic energy?
• EMpWeapon Weapons: How such a weapon could be deployed.
• Is a WW II-style weapon an existential threat to our way of life?
• Historical Context: A peek into the early days of nuclear weapons.