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Air Force Plots $75 Million Microwave Weapon Push

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  • Air Force Plots $75 Million Microwave Weapon Push

    SOURCE: Wired´s Danger Room Blog
    DATE: JAN 18, 2008
    BY: Noah Shachtman

    Air Force Plots $75 Million Microwave Weapon Push

    The Air Force Research Lab is starting a new, long-term, $60-75 million project to develop high-powered microwave weapons, for both "airborne and mobile ground based systems." That's on top of a "near-term" Air Armament Command effort to use microwaves "as a Counter Electronics payload that would not cause physical damage to buildings or harm to humans."

    For decades, militaries around the world have been playing with microwave weapons that could fry enemy gadgetry -- from wired-up command centers to and hand-held gizmos. But these "e-bombs" come with all sorts of issues. Microwave "friendly fire," for one. "Seemingly intractable cost, size, beam-control and power-generation requirements," as well, according to Aviation Week:

    Quote: Tests of modified air-launched cruise missiles carrying devices to produce explosively generated spikes of energy were considered big disappointments in the early 1990s because of an inability to direct pulses and predict effects. New active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars can jam emitters or possibly cause damage to electronic components with focused beams. But power levels and ranges are limited by aperture size. - End Quote

    The Air Force Research Lab, in its new push for the weapons, says they could be included in "current munition type inventories and/or specifically designed systems for HPM [high-powered microwave] payloads... Delivery method[s] includ[e] fighter and/or bomber type aircraft," according to a contracting notice.

    "For both the ground and aerial HPM systems," the Air Force wants "studies of the effectiveness against targets sets such as centers of gravities and facilities with electronic systems." The service also is looking for "survivability studies" to "ensure the continued nominal operation of the integrated system in the presence of extremes such as, but not limited to, vibration, pressure, and temperature."

    Then it's on to a "demonstration phase," where HPM-makers will "validate military feasibility and worthiness against realistic target sets and collateral effects on subsystems in real world scenarios." Rings a bell somehow...