EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse) ATTACK: Is it a real threat? How vulnerable are we?

Scary stuff if it’s true, especially now that N. Korea and Iran no longer fear the United States and we have a President who is doing his best to leave us defenseless. Judge for yourself.

EMP is an effect created by setting off a nuclear explosion at extremely high altitudes. In striking the upper atmosphere, the explosion’s initial gamma—ray burst creates high—energy electrons (through a phenomenon called ‘Compton scattering’) that become trapped in earth’s magnetic field, generating a pulse of electromagnetic energy.

This pulse can be powerful enough to cover an entire continent, and is extremely dangerous for all types of electronic equipment. Heavy voltage surges in metal objects, including cars and aircraft, can burn out internal electronics and render them inoperable. Power and communications lines act as antennas, generating an induced electric current more powerful than a lightning bolt. Any electronics equipment (and most electrical equipment of any type) hooked up to the power or phone grids would be immediately destroyed, including all types of computing devices and the data they contain. An EMP strike might not, as some claim, force the U.S. back into the 19th century, but it’s not something you’d enjoy living through.

EMP was discovered as a byproduct of the Starfish Prime nuclear test on July 9, 1962. A 1.5 megaton bomb set off 240 miles over the Central Pacific blew up street lights and TV sets in Hawaii 1,000 miles away, created a mock aurora visible even further, and destroyed a number of orbiting satellites, including the Telstar I, the pioneering telecommunications satellite. AMERICAN THINKER


So what about N. Korea? What about Iran?

Brian T. Kennedy, president of the Claremont Institute, offered an ominous warning in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal. Entitled “What a Single Nuclear Warhead Could Do“, it describes exactly why the U.S. needs a space-based missile defense system to protect the country against a particularly deadly form of attack called EMP. What is EMP?

On July 9, 1962, a high-altitude nuclear test named Starfish Prime was conducted by the United States military above Johnston Island in the Pacific Ocean. Its unexpected electromagnetic pulse (EMP) effects caused disruptions in electrical systems and equipment in Honolulu 700 miles away.

The EMP shut down long-distance telephone calls and disabled three satellites in low earth orbit. Radiation resulting from the test later destroyed a total of seven satellites by knocking out their solar arrays or electronics.

A massive current of EMP could be unleashed with catastrophic effect on the United States if a nuclear weapon were detonated high above the earth. The energy of this pulse would disable and possibly destroy any electronic device and power grid in line-of-sight of the detonation.






Any vehicle with an electronic ignition or engine control system could be rendered useless.

The lifeblood of America — food, energy, goods and services — would be gridlocked.

The power grid: knocked out.

The phone system: gone.

Several years ago, an Iranian military journal publicly considered the idea of launching an electromagnetic pulse attack as the key to defeating the world’s lone superpower.

Yet, Copperhead Democrats call the threat of Iran “hype” and “fear”.

Frank Gaffney, author of Warfootingstates “If [EMP] hits the electrical grids of the United States… if it hits electronic devices, computers, chips of various kinds–the things, in other words, that power our society–they’re likely to be severely damaged, if not destroyed.”

This would wreak havoc on the country’s electronic systems, and plunge much–if not all–of the continental U.S. into a pre-industrial state. A blue-ribbon commission created by Congress confirmed this danger in a report submitted in August 2004.

At a height of 300 miles, the entire continental United States would be exposed to EMP attack, along with parts of Canada and Mexico. Congress was warned of Iran’s plans by Peter Pry, a senior staffer with the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse Attack in a hearing of the subcommittee on terrorism, technology and homeland security. 

Pry pointed out the Iranians have been testing mid-air detonations of their Shahab-3 medium-range missile over the Caspian Sea. The missiles were fired from ships.

“A nuclear missile concealed in the hold of a freighter would give Iran or terrorists the capability to perform an EMP attack against the United States homeland without developing an ICBM and with some prospect of remaining anonymous,” said Pry. “Iran’s Shahab-3 medium range missile mentioned earlier is a mobile missile and small enough to be transported in the hold of a freighter. We cannot rule out that Iran, the world’s leading sponsor of international terrorism might provide terrorists with the means to execute an EMP attack against the United States.”

Lowell Wood, acting chairman of the commission, said yesterday that such an attack – by Iran or some other actor – could cripple the U.S. by knocking out electrical power, computers, circuit boards controlling most automobiles and trucks, banking systems, communications and food and water supplies.

“No one can say just how long systems would be down,” he said. “It could be weeks, months or even years.” Wood said he could think of no other reason Iran would be experimenting with high-altitude detonations of missiles besides planning for an EMP attack.

One nuclear weapon. One missile. One motivated maniac.

Those are the realities of the situation, no matter how the Copperhead Democrats try to spin the NIE.