back to article Boeing zaps PCs using CHAMP missile microwave attacks

Boeing has successfully conducted a test of a missile capable of blasting a building's electronics with an energy beam without harming the structure itself. The era of EMP weapons has arrived it seems. The Counter-electronics High-powered Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP) is an air-launched device that uses a high-powered …


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  1. Lance 3

    Coming soon to a battlefield near you....popcorn

    Popcorn will be used as a warning on an attack. First target will be out but subsequent targets got the advance warning. If they could make sure the popcorn gets burned, now we have chemical warfare.

  2. WatAWorld

    Another rock-like weapon developed by those in glass houses.

    Another rock-like weapon developed by those in glass houses.

  3. Thorne

    Take that Wikileaks!


  4. Paul J Turner

    I wonder

    If the pentacene doohickey was employed?

  5. Donald Becker


    I've seen massive EM pulses.

    They were big enough to split 1 meter diameter poles.

    I've heard about a theory that such EM fields can power localized time travel, with a specialized no-longer-available vehicle with a rare exposed corrosion resistant alloy skin. Although it has to be traveling at exactly 88 MPH when the pulse hits.

    Yes these massive pulses don't see to cause the end of civilization as we know it. Specifically, they don't destroy equipment that is designed to withstand EM pulses. So you take out their microwave oven, depriving them of popcorn, but the equipment you would like to destroy likely continues to run.

    1. Ged T
      Thumb Up

      Re: Really?

      I've seem to recall something like that too - I think that no longer available vehicle needed to be able to generate or have on reserve "AT LEAST, Marty..." 1.26 Gigawatts of power....

  6. Paul J Turner

    Re: Really?

    Lightning is kids stuff compared to an EMP.

    It's all about the rise-time of induced voltages in wiring and PCB traces.

    Back in the day stopping such fast rise-time induced voltage pulses from destroying electronics was beyond the clamping devices available, now not so much of a problem with fancy semiconductors.

    The Boeing guy himself said "When that computer went out" not "computers", the computers in the previous shot were said to be in an earlier test, maybe a non-airborne EMP device.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Crowd Control

    I suppose it would be handy in situations where you want to kill a crowd's mobile communications without taking out the network.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      Re: Crowd Control

      "I suppose it would be handy in situations where you want to kill a crowd's mobile communications without taking out the network."

      This will fry *any* electronic equipment in range.

      That *includes* the cell tower electronics, including the RF receiver side. The transmitter side, being used to higher powers *might* survive.

      I think in the US law enforcement just request the telcos to suspend service or use a jammer.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Crowd Control

        Good points about the cell towers. I was assuming they'd be spaced far enough apart, and the range of the effect would be limited so that cell towers would generally be unaffected .Ah well, back to the drawing board.

      2. Marvin the Martian

        Re: Crowd Control

        I was looking at the video with that in mind.

        There's this conic EMP ray of destruction, yet it hits a rectangular building and evenly destroys all inside leaving all outside untouched? I severely doubt it. Collateral damage will include street equipment like traffic lights, BT's green boxes full of switchgear, cars, the more sensitive equipment in a large radius around; and the more robust equipment inside will still work.

        Not sure if a pacemaker is in the more or less robust category.

  8. David 45

    Hardened camera?

    Why did it not knock out the camera videoing the test?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hardened camera?

      perhaps there is an even more secretive project creating defense mechanisms to mitigate against this kind of effect....

      or they just put in in a lead box with a leaded glass aperture.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just the ticket

    It'll turn out very useful when the US gets round to declaring war on people armed with something other than pieces of sharpened fruit.

    1. Gonebirdin
      Thumb Up

      Re: Just the ticket

      Or a pointed stick

    2. Bill Neal

      Re: Just the ticket

      sharpened fruit? That's not really giving the Kalashnikov much credit.

      1. Vic

        Re: Just the ticket

        > That's not really giving the Kalashnikov much credit.

        Ooh, ooh, ooh; want to learn how to defend yourself against Kalashnikovs, do we? Getting all high and mighty, eh? Fresh fruit not good enough for you, eh? Well let me tell you something my lad! When you're walking home tonight and some great homicidal maniac comes after YOU with a bunch of loganberries, don't come cryin' to me!


      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Just the ticket

        Are you talking red Kalashnikovs or yellow?I find the red ones sharpen really nicely, but the yellow ones are definitely better for the post insurgency fruit salad + ice cream.

  10. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Immune Virtual Operating Systems for Attacking Defence Platforms ....

    ...... which are Proven Clone Drones/Phish Phorms

    Hmmm ..... Seems to me like CHAOSystems, with their CodedD XSSXXXX NEUKlearer HyperRadioProActive IT Bases and AIMagical Mystery Turing Machine Programs/Global Operating Device Instruction Sets ........ are a Quantum Defence Leap which renders ....... well, it would not be wrong to say and advise/reveal and speculate, quite surreal virtual and sublime real protection both against and for such Zippy Zapping Phantom Works.

    And that would make Clouds Hosting Advanced Operating Systems both valuable and invaluable and expensive and priceless for those with a need to know of the methodology that feeds and seeds/plants and harvests AIDefinite Future Vision ........ SMARTR HyperVision ..... Virtually Mentored with Remote Monitoring of Advanced Intelligence and CyberIntelAIgents.

    1. thenim

      Re: Immune Virtual Operating Systems for Attacking Defence Platforms ....

      I'm convinced that amanfromMars 1is really a bunch of monkeys typing a combination of words together... I wonder if we are being "researched"...

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Immune Virtual Operating Systems for Attacking Defence Platforms ....

        >I'm convinced that amanfromMars 1is really a bunch of monkeys typing a combination of words together... I wonder if we are being "researched"...

        Really? I always thought he was more William Gibson than gibbons.

        1. Tim Bergel

          Re: Immune Virtual Operating Systems for Attacking Defence Platforms ....

          I'm convinced that amanfrommars1 is software........

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "I'm convinced that amanfromMars 1is ,,,"

        Do not feed the trolls.

        That is all.

  11. Old Man - Grey Fleece

    Selective crowd control

    This must be really encouraging if you have a pacemaker

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Selective crowd control

      Would wire-cored string vests be any use?

      1. Nigel 11

        Re: Selective crowd control

        Chain mail would be. A modern implementation thereof would use a lightweight metal rather than Iron (Aluminium or Titanium alloys). If one wasn't interested in protection from bladed weapons, knitwear made with fine copper wire would suffice (something any self-respecting anarchist's granny could knock up in a few hours).

  12. John Atkins


    Neutron bombs supposedly would kill people, but leave everything else intact. For some reason that was not considered humane-enough warfare.

    1. Nigel 11

      Re: OTOH....

      Wouldn't have worked, either. Inverse squares. There would be a large perimeter within which the people would have suffered a large radiation dose and would know that they'd be dead within a month. For a few days, though, they'd be alive, active, angry. Knowing their inevitable fate they would become pretty much the ultimate suicide warriors.

      I hope it was the inhumanity that was the reason these weapons weren't persued, rather than the above.

    2. S4qFBxkFFg

      Re: OTOH....

      Not really, they were designed to extend the lethal radius against armoured vehicles for tactical nuclear weapons.

      Reason being, a tank is quite a good place to be (in comparison to lots of other alternatives) when nuclear devices are going off nearby, the thick metal armour is good at protecting against the blast and radiation.

      The lethality could of course be increased by increasing the TNT-equivalent tonnage - but the engineers involved were already trying that, so the only way of increasing tonnage was to increase the size of the warhead, which meant you'd need bigger missiles, aircraft, artillery etc.

      They discovered, however, they could increase the amount of neutrons emitted (this previously hadn't been a design goal, so there was room for improvement). The reason neutrons are dangerous to tank crews is that they make material they hit radioactive as well. The tank would then be a piece of dangerous nuclear waste, even if it had protected its occupants from the blast.

      The thing to remember, is that this would still be an honest-to-goodness nuclear weapon, with plenty of explosive power; it certainly wouldn't "leave everything else intact".

      1. Nigel 11

        Re: OTOH....

        So, then you have a radioactive tank containing a tank crew knowing they have less than a month left to live. My comment about ultimate suicide warriors stands, except they are also well-armed and well-protected. Of course, I'm assuming that the opposition would be smart enough to realize that you have to keep your heavy armour dispersed, rather than all gathered together in a small area.

        I think even Ghadaffi knew that. The problem is now solved with laser-guided conventional bombs, rather than nukes. Dunno what they can do to counter that. Better camouflage? Advance planning, plant lots of small forests so there's always tree cover handy? Hey, that's a good idea - make being "green" a military imperative!

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: OTOH....

          >Advance planning, plant lots of small forests so there's always tree cover handy?

          See 'Agent Orange', as used in Laos and Vietnam.

  13. Evil Auditor Silver badge

    CD eject?

    Why an EMP would first open the tray and then catapult a CD out of it remains a mystery to me...

    1. Nigel 11

      Re: CD eject?

      I dunno. Did they say eject in one piece? You ever seen why they stopped making 72X CD drives and backed down to 56X ? I was once on the receiving end of a shower of sharp plastic shrapnel, and (not for the first time) was thankful that I wear spectacles.

  14. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    "We prosecuted every one"

    Question: was he stroking a white cat when he was saying that?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "We prosecuted every one"

      Unless "stroking a white cat" is a and especially subtle euphemism for boner fondling that I haven't previously encountered, probably not. His excitement smacks more of Jeremy Clarkson than Daniel Craig.

      1. Nigel 11

        White cat

        A James Bond reference, surely?

  15. Ged T

    Usage Guidelines

    Just how far back from the target do your own forces need to be, in order for your own forces equipment NOT to suffer the same fate as the intended target...?

    ....Or have Boeing also come up with a convenient range of Microwave EMP hardened electronic equipments, (for 'own forces use only, of course) too?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    how it destroys itself?

    obviously it runs out of fuel over the target, nosedives, and zaps the abovementioned admins, for which the Administration wishes to express its sincere condolences.

  17. Crisp

    Faraday Cage

    Suddenly your multi billion pound weapon is a very expensive paperweight.

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

      Re: Faraday Cage

      Well, yes and no. The Farraday cage protects from the immediate burst but you can still suffer damage to your kit from induced spikes in any conductors penetrating your cage (like copper power cables from the mains). The spike, if big enough, can still jump the airgap in your fusebox and damage systems connected to the mains supply. One of the fun bits of EMP-proofing datacenters is you have to have the backup generators inside an extension of the cage with you or they just provide a big hole for the spike to kick through your cage.

      1. npupp 1

        Re: Faraday Cage

        one could just have a sufficiently thick shielding, although not knowing the intensity or energy (wavelength, I'm a KeV kinda guy) of the radiation who knows how thick it'd need to be (or how much cooling would be required to prevent having molten metal covering valuable electronics) ....

        aren't most servers housed in basements anyways?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Faraday Cage

        "The Farraday cage protects from the immediate burst but you can still suffer damage to your kit from induced spikes in any conductors penetrating your cage "

        But you then go onto talk about EMP-ing datacentres. If people can do that, then surely there's no big hairy deal in proofing your telephone exchanges and military kit, at which point this becomes the ultimate anti-Play Station weapon? Military IT kit used to be Tempest-ed thirty years ago, which was largely about preventing interception, but it wouldn't take much to address the probable mains spiking surely?

        1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

          Re: Faraday Cage

          ".....If people can do that, then surely there's no big hairy deal in proofing your telephone exchanges and military kit...." Yes, but it's a matter of expense. A datacenter can be easily designed to take into account EMP attacks and is usually a one-off expense. Suppose you want to EMP-proof the infrastructure for just London, then that's literally thousands of buildings, telecoms cabinets, underground cabling and overhead lines that need to be shielded. Many of those buildings were not designed for EMP-proofing and will require considerable alterations. Offset that against the cost of a single high-altitude nuke burst (the good old way of making EMP attacks) and you soon realise the cost is the main factor in stopping large-scale EMP-proofing. And then a single high-altitude bomb could knock out most of the electronics in Europe.... The only problem for the attacker with the high-altitude nuke option is it would trigger a retaliatory nuke strike. The missile makes it not only a cheaper attack but also a politically acceptable one, but if you are the defender and have a lot of buildings then the cost is still the same as when you were protecting against the old threat.

          That's not to say the British Government may have allegedly paid 3M to design some truck-sized anti-static bags for slapping over important kit in the field as a last resort....

          /Kaaah-bloooooie, obvioulsy.

      3. MikeSM

        Re: Faraday Cage

        "induced spikes in any conductors penetrating your cage (like copper power cables from the mains)"

        Wouldn't an isolation transformer protect equipment from this?

  18. ehoffman

    Not new...

    There have been reports of U.S. military using such missiles a decade ago... There's even a scientific journal (I don't remember which one) that told how such a missile work. It's basically an explosive cylinder surrounded by a big coil with a tiny air gap between the coil and the cylinder. Upon detonation, a big capacitor is discharged in the coil, creating an intense magnetic field. A few milliseconds later, the explosive is detonated at one end of the cylinder. The explosion travel through the cylinder, expanding (exploding) the cylinder in a linear manner. This shorts the coil from one end to the other end rapidly. The magnetic energy then get concentrated up to the tip of the coil where all the energy is then discharged over a very tiny area. This create a massive microwave electromagnetic pulse that is directed with a special shaped cone toward the target.

    Of course, this is a one-time use, but it can blast many electronics in a narrow cone. The missile explode in mid-air, causing little or no collateral damage.

    1. Nigel 11

      Re: Not new...

      I once read an account of how an electronics engineer fought back against the yob who moved in next door and subjected him to loud music 24 hours/day. He built an EMP generator and repeatedly took out the yob's audio system through the wall. Eventually the yob decided that the place was jinxed and moved out. I guess inverse squares makes it far easier to do that at a range of just a few feet.

      If it was a hoax, it was a well-written one. It was, of course, posted anonymously, since it's illegal to do this.

    2. That Awful Puppy

      Re: Not new...

      Yeah, I've heard reports of such weapons being used during the NATO bombing of Serbia.

      1. Nigel 11

        Re: Not new...

        Maybe they took the opportunity to test EMPs as well.

        What was well-reported was the use of carbon monofilament wires to short-circuit electricity transmission lines. That was extremely effective. it's amazing how much electricity a carbon-fibre wire can pass before it gets hot enough to turn into CO2. The resulting spikes and surges on the electricity grid may well have been mistaken for EMP activity.

        I have no idea what WW3 will be fought with, but I'm sure WW4 will be fought with stones.

        1. SImon Hobson Bronze badge

          Re: Not new...

          It's not so much the current the carbon filament passes, but the track of conductive carbon particles it creates as it disintegrates. Thus you create optimum conditions for the system to "flash over", with the resulting arc creating a plasma path that will keep the arc going until <something> gives in - that something usually being the upstream protection.

          Once you've tripped all the circuits, you give the network operators "something of a headache" sorting out what's tripped for what reason and how to turn it all back on.

          The claimed theory is that it'll trip everything but not cause any damage - so once you've kicked out the nasty guy that's not selling you oil cheaply enough, it can all be switched back on. However, I've heard reports that the process coats the insulators with a fine layer of carbon deposits which then cause flashovers - thus meaning you have to replace all the insulators before the system can be brought back online, ie not the "non-damaging" weapon it's claimed to be.

          For some fun, take a look at the Arcs n Sparks page here :

          In particular, scroll down to "480 volt 3-phase Arc Flash Demonstration" to see how once initiated (in that case with a strand of thin copper wire), an arc can be maintained with a fairly low voltage if there is enough energy behind it.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not new...

      Yeah, it's called an Explosively-Pumped Flux Compression Generator - the Russians and the Americans started playing with them back in the 50's as I recall. Not only is the power from the capacitor converted into magnetic flux, but the explosive chemical energy of the blast is as well to some extent, as it does work compressing the flux as it shorts out the coil. Depending on how you set them up the resulting EMP blast can be omni-directional or focussed - and the big ones can also kill people if they are close enough.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No one here remembers TEMPEST then?

    Fibre optics and faraday cages. Job done. That's the TEMPEST programme in a nutshell. Nominally about eavesdropping prevention, but also extremely convenient for EMP resistance. Three decades or so ago,so it needs to be reinvented round about now.

    Or, alternatively, use valves (vacuum tubes) not semiconductors. Like everyone was astounded to find in that Russian fighter whose name I forget.

    More PR for the US military pork barrel.

    "I have no idea what WW3 will be fought with, but I'm sure WW4 will be fought with stones."

    WW3 is in progress at the moment, the dollar is the weapon, and the Chinese are winning.

    1. emmanuel goldstein

      Re: No one here remembers TEMPEST then?

      "Or, alternatively, use valves (vacuum tubes) not semiconductors. Like everyone was astounded to find in that Russian fighter whose name I forget."

      that reminded me of the astronaut showing his soviet counterpart one of the special ballpoint pens NASA developed, at huge expense, that worked in zero-g. when the cosmonaut looked unimpressed, the american asked how they had solved the problem. "we use a pencil".

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: No one here remembers TEMPEST then?

        Except for using a writing implement that leaves a fine dust of a conductive material inside an enclosed environment with a recirculated atmosphere that also contains mission-critical electrical equipment is really a good idea.

        Crayons might be better.

    2. tim 4

      Re: No one here remembers TEMPEST then?

      i can neither confirm nor deny remembering a project that i am not allowed to confirm or deny having worked on nor ever heard of; even though it's been outed through the freedom of information act....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: No one here remembers TEMPEST then?

        The pen/pencil thing is a hoax. IIRC, the pen company developed it themselves and offered it to NASA at no charge, and writing with pencils is indeed a bad idea. The Russians just had their priorities leaning more towards "fast and cheap" and less towards, "keeps cosmonauts alive". There's some pretty horrible documentation about an incident in which a cosmonaut was forced to fly a capsule he knew was defective; as it re-entered the atmosphere (unscheduled) he was heard on the radio screaming something along the lines of, "You bastards killed me!"

        No ticker tape parade for hin... Unless you count his being the confetti personally...

  20. The last doughnut
    IT Angle

    Dealing with the admin

    That's an easy one. Disc-shaped edible foodstuff laced with poisonous substance, plus associated delivery system. I'm sure Boeing could build it for around a beeellion dollars.

  21. dhcp pump
    Thumb Down


    Most likely to be used on citizens ?,as what modern military doesnt have self healing high grade networks ,not above ground or in emp shielded environs?,with no cabling,or cabling that is not emp susceptible.

    Used within a laser beam and it could be interesting,otherwise not.

  22. Vic

    Did they take out the UPS?

    I notice that all the monitors fall over simultaneously, but one PC seems to survive - until the monitor switches off again, then signal seem sto be lost.

    But there is not a flicker from the lights.

    This looks like they managed to interrupt the power supply, rather than the machines themselves...


  23. JaitcH

    Time to use 100% foil-backed dry wall and chicken wiire + ferrites

    I saw a specification for a high powered pulsed UHF transmitter test 'warehouse'. The main features were that the foil backed dry wall / gypsum panels had to be bonded and areas around the joints and corners covered with 'chicken wire' of certain dimensions. All services, which included water pipes, were also bonded and passed through ferrites.

    If these protections can contain a signal, they can equally protect from such signals, IMO.

    With respect to American military tests, many in the past have been questioned, especially when the senior officer n charge of projects was, later, hired by the contractor. Boeing has had lots of projects prove unsuccessful after detailed Congressional investigation.

    The question what were the attacked buildings constructed from - woos, brick or concrete?

    Hell, Boeing couldn't even build a 'high tech' fence designed to stop illegal immigrants from Mexico.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    looks like this setup would be excellent against civilian-grade hardware. but as previous posters mentioned, probably not as good against anything remotely hardened or shielded.

    suddenly "the Cloud" doesn't sound so good for important data does it? Hopefully no one who's upset the Government happens to house their "cloud" services the same place you do...

    NWO conspiracy theorists get your HERF shielding tinfoil hats ready.

  25. Anonymous Coward

    "uses a high-powered microwave pulse"

    So in addition to everything electrical going pzzzz - it partially cooks all the people as well?

  26. Anonymous Coward

    "The US already uses microwaves as a crowd control device..."


    "Hey! The tacos are done! Screw this protest, man!"

  27. NomNomNom

    Why wouldn't you want to harm the building structure?

  28. Arachnoid

    This would make a good offensive weapon for someone should they take it upon themselves to assault say .........oh a foriegn neuclear powered reactor supposidly used to supply material for weapons research and it were surrounded by early warning radar systems.

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