The successful test of a US-directed energy weapon hints at a change in the frequency and impact of future warfare. The new missile proved it can fry an enemy's electronics using radio waves.
On October 16th a team comprised of members of Boeing’s Phantom Works, Raytheon's Ktech and the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Directed Energy Directorate successful conducted a missile test for a weapons system capable of decimating a country’s defences and critically altering the military balance.
The team, led by Boeing and officially known as the Counter-electronics High Powered Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP), held the test at the Utah Test and Training Range. During the hour-long demonstration a cruise missile flew over a target compound and completely disabled the electronic systems of seven targets including a two-storey building by emitting a burst of high powered radio waves.
“This technology marks a new era in modern-day warfare,” CHAMP program manager for Phantom Works, Keith Coleman said. “In the near future, this technology may be used to render an enemy’s electronic and data systems useless even before the first troops or aircraft arrive.”
Though the test simulated how a CHAMP missile could be used to shut down enemy radar in advance of a US air attack, hitting targets with non-kinetic energy, the new weapon is officially categorized as a non-lethal weapons system developed under the Future Combat Systems(FCS), which also include advance robotic systems like autonomous unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs).
CHAMP is a directed energy weapon (DEW) that uses high powered microwaves (HPW) in the megawatt range to overwhelm any electronics systems similar to an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) emitted from the detonation of an atomic bomb but without the kinetic force of a bomb.
Though the US and Russia--and recently revealed Israel--have developed EMP bombs of various design, CHAMP is different in that it uses millimeter wave technology to emit pulsed radiation that can confound sensors at low levels or burn circuitry at higher ones. It’s delivery system is also unique in that it targets in line-of-sight not following ballistic delivery meaning more flexibility and control in a theater of operations.
Also known as a “maser” CHAMP amplifies energy from the radio part of the electromagnetic spectrum, rather than the light portion as a laser does.
“We know this has some capabilities and some impact, we’re really trying to engage the customer to see if there is a way we can actualy get this fielded and implemented sooner than later,” said James Dodd VP of Advanced Boeing Military Aircraft, a Phantom Works division.
Use of CHAMP in military application would become an indispensable command and control asset given the nature of warfare today, where intervention abroad for the US has targeted regimes--not the nation on the whole--in theaters like Libya, Serbia and Iraq.
According to physicist, Dr Doug Beason, the advent of DEWs into security and defense strategy will lead to a revolution in military affairs whereby global, instantaneous strike capabilities will “provide the technological advantage needed to defeat the next generation of adversaries.”
CHAMP will not be operational before the expected ‘red line’ of Iran’s nuclear weaponization development, but military planners had a taste of the future in Utah.
“Today we turned science fiction into science fact,” Coleman declared following the test.