The microwave missiles are designed to be launched from the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress.
The research project is developed in the laboratory of the Kirtland Air Force base in Albuquerque. (Photo credit: U.S. Air Force)
On the outskirts of the city of Albuquerque, in the state of New Mexico, a team of experts from the United States Air Force develops an untraditional weapon that could have a strategic objective: to stop the nuclear missiles of North Korea.
It is not just any weapon, it is a type of electromagnetic weapon that is not harmful to human beings and bases its operation on the same technology as a microwave oven.
And, according to several experts on military issues consulted by BBC World, it could be a sui generis alternative to deactivate Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons effectively and without causing great damage.
It is called Advanced Electromagnetic Interference High Power Microwave (CHAMP) Project and is, in essence, projectiles that emit very high frequency waves capable of “frying” electronic systems.
“Taking into account the state of technology in the modern world, where almost everything works through digital media, this type of missile emits very high frequency microwaves capable of interrupting or leaving electronic equipment inactive,” he explains to BBC World James Fisher, spokesman for the Kirtland base of the Air Force, in Albuquerque, where the project is based.
The base, which was one of the places of support for the Manhattan Project (the US investigation to develop the atomic bomb during World War II), now focuses its research on this new type of weapon based on the electromagnetic spectrum.
“The CHAMP is basically a cruise missile, but no cargo, which can be launched from the air by B-52 bombers, and which has a range of about 1,127 kilometers,” says Fisher.
But its utilities as armament transcend the potential launching of an atomic missile by North Korea.
It is not the first time that the United States has experimented with electromagnetic waves.
Oriana Skylar, a specialist in security issues at Georgetown University (USA), explains to BBC Mundo that the Air Force has researched and used the potential of microwaves as weapons during the last two decades.
In fact, according to the expert, military equipment carrying out electromagnetic bombings were used in Afghanistan and Iraq with the objective of deactivating bombs and drones.
The United States Army used microwave weapons to defuse drones in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
But the fascination of the United States Army with microwaves seems to go back several decades.
A division of the Pentagon, the Defense Advanced Research Projects, was commissioned in the 1960s to analyze the possible effects of microwaves on human behavior.
The “Moscow Signal”, the mysterious microwave bombing of the Soviet Union against the US embassy. that lasted more than two decades during the Cold War
“It all started with a microwave bombing by the government of the Soviet Union against the US embassy in Moscow,” explains Sharon Weinberger, editor-in-chief of Foreign Policy and author of “The imaginaries of war: history untold DARPA, the Pentagon agency that changed the world. ”
Those events, which went down in history as “the signal of Moscow” were the basis for the study of these waves by the Air Force, which even irradiated monkeys to study the possible effects of these on humans.
But if those first tests with animals were a resounding failure, the development of armaments based on this technology has taken new strength in recent years.
The monkeys were used to measure the impact of microwave radiation.
And although microwave missiles launched from bombers have not yet been used in combat, trials conducted with these types of weapons have made the Pentagon “optimistic” of its results.
Although the specialists claim that several tests have been conducted to prove their operation, until now the Department of Defense has only declassified information about one: the first.
It took place in the desert of Utah, in 2012, just three years after the first investigations into this type of weapon were officially launched in the Air Force laboratory at the Kirtland base.
According to Fisher, in October of that year, a B-52 bomber launched a microwave missile over a test area in the desert, an area of more than 4,000 square kilometers.
The Area Force previously arranged electrical equipment in buildings and simulated constructions, and almost all of the devices ceased to be operational after the bombing.
The missile was launched from a B-52 bomber.
“One of the positive sides of this type of armaments is that its objective is to damage electronic systems without directly affecting human beings,” says James Phillip Bleek, specialist at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey. California.
The analyst explains that, although they are based on the same technology as a microwave oven, the difference between the two is that the radiation generated by this type of weapon is shorter in time and greater in intensity than that of a regular oven.
In the latter, the long-term high power has a harmful effect on human tissue, while the speed at which a bombardment with a missile of this type occurs is capable of “burning” an electronic circuit, but would not burn enough. skin.
In fact, according to data from the Kirtland base, the level of radiation emitted by the missile has been tested in more than 13,000 people and only two have required medical attention.